Arriving in the U.S.

At the Airport

When you land in the U.S., you will pass through immigration and, after that, customs. The immigration officer will ask to see your passport, DS-2019 form, and J-1 visa. He or she will photograph you and take a fingerprint. (This process may or may not be automated using a kiosk.) An I-94 entrance stamp will also be placed in your passport. If you want to view your I-94 online at a later date, please visit the DHS I-94 portal.

Next you will proceed to baggage claim, collect your luggage, and pass through customs. The customs official will ask for your declaration form (6059B) and about any items you have brought with you. You must declare and may have to pay duty on certain items. For more information, please visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Travel tips provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

  • Keep key travel documents with you at all times. It is best to always carry your passport and visa materials on your person–never pack them.
  • Do not forget to declare any food products you are bringing with you.
  • Declare everything you have purchased outside the U.S. that is not for your specific personal use. Remember, advice from friends and shopkeepers about what you must declare is often wrong. You must declare duty-free goods, even if you purchased them in a duty-free store.
  • Do not assume. Find out if the items you plan on bringing to the U.S. are acceptable. There are very specific restrictions on fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, live plants and animals, trademarked goods, and animal trophies to name a few.

Transportation from the Airport

Plan how you will get from the airport to your temporary housing, and from there to your final destination. Transit agencies (bus lines, subway systems, and railroads) publish schedules, maps, and fares online. Your host organization can also tell you the best way to reach your final destination, or might arrange to pick you up. Check with your host organization for more information.

Short-Term Housing

If you do not arrange for long-term housing before you arrive in the U.S., you will need to find short-term housing while you search for an apartment. Hostels, affordable hotels or motels, and universities are all good options for short-term housing. Book your room in advance so you have a place to stay when you first arrive in the U.S.
You will find specific short-term housing resources below.

Staying at a hostel can be an adventure. You get to interact with new people from all over the world. Hostels generally offer shared or private rooms with shared bathrooms. Some options include:

Hostel World
Hostelling International USA
Hostelling International New York*

*Offers a CIEE discount; book online and use the code “CIEE"

Hotels and Motels
Hotels and motels, while more expensive, also offer better amenities and more privacy. To discover your options and compare prices, visit these sites:

Universities and Colleges
Universities and colleges may offer budget accommodations in their student housing. If there is a college or university near your training, contact the student housing office for more information.

When You Reach Your Final Destination

It is important for you to register in SEVIS as soon as you can after your arrival. SEVIS registration is required for all J-1 Visa holders. You have 20 days after the start date on your DS-2019 to complete registration. Call CIEE at 1-888-268-6245 to register after you arrive.