Arriving in the USA


Once participants have a J-1 Visa, they will be ready to travel to the U.S. Although they are not permitted to intern or train before the program start date listed on their DS-2019 Form, participants are permitted to arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days beforehand in order to get settled in before they begin training.

Clearing Customs and Border Protection

Upon arriving, participants will immediately go to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to request admission to the U.S. At the border, they will be entered into a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) database and may also be fingerprinted and photographed. To facilitate their entry, participants should tell the CBP officer that they are J-1 Exchange Visitors and then present their DS-2019 Form and passport with a valid J-1 visa.

Entry to the U.S.

Once CBP’s inspection is complete, the officer will stamp the participant’s passport to record their entry. This stamp will show the place and date of the participant’s admission to the U.S. and the time frame he or she is authorized to stay in the U.S. In most cases, the officer will write the letters “D/S”. This means “Duration of Status,” which includes the program dates listed on the DS-2019 Form, plus 30 days of travel/personal time immediately after the program end date known as the “grace period.” (Note that participants are NOT permitted to intern or train during their grace period; this time frame is for settling one’s affairs and preparing for departure from the U.S.).

Though rare, the CBP officer may write an actual date instead of D/S. This is the date by which the participant is required to leave the U.S., even if it occurs before the program end date. Please notify InterExchange immediately if this occurs.

Problems Crossing the Border

It is rare for J-1 Visa holders to encounter difficulties when crossing the U.S. border. However, if participants are agitated, act suspiciously, or if they are missing any documents, CBP officials may detain them for further questioning. If participants do not have the DS-2019 Form available, they may be detained and may also be flagged in the computer system, thus causing delays on future trips to the U.S. CBP officials may also just deny entry into the U.S. if participants do not have their DS-2019 Form with them upon arrival to the U.S.

The best way to ensure smooth entry to the U.S. is to have all of the appropriate forms completed and ready to present to CBP, be friendly and patient in line and with the CBP official, and answer their questions honestly. If your participant contacts you from the border because they have encountered any difficulties, please contact InterExchange immediately or ask the participant or CBP officer to notify us so that we can assist with finding a resolution.

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

If your participant is coming to the U.S. by air or sea, their arrival record, or I-94, will be recorded electronically by Customs & Border Protection.

Participants will need a copy of this record when applying for important documents like their Social Security number or other forms of identification in the U.S. Participants can access their electronic I-94 record by visiting the CPB’s I-94 website and choosing “Get Most Recent I-94.”

Visitors coming to the U.S. through a land border (most common with Canadian or Mexican participants) will receive a paper I-94 record from the CBP officer at the port of entry. Participants should keep this safe throughout their program, as they will need to turn this in when they depart the U.S. Failure to do so could make future border crossings more difficult, so it is important they do not lose this card.

Informing InterExchange of Participant’s Arrival

Once your participant has arrived in the U.S., they must contact InterExchange within 10 days to register with SEVIS.

Remind your participant to let us know they’ve arrived by submitting this Arrival Form, which will ask them to list their exact arrival date along with their new U.S. contact information.

Next: SEVIS »