ciee - council on international educational exchange

Arriving in the U.S.

Welcome to the U.S.! Now What?

CIEE is your legal sponsor once you are in the U.S., and we will be here to support you. If you have questions or problems of any kind during your program, call or email us. We’re here to help!

In this section, we’ll help you understand what to expect once you arrive in the U.S.

Immigration and Customs

When you enter the U.S., you will be seen by a U.S. Customs Official. This person is responsible for ensuring that you are authorized to enter the country. Here are the steps you can expect to follow upon arrival:

  • Present the U.S. Customs Official with your travel documents (Passport, J-1 Visa, DS-2019 Form, and the I-94 card you received on the plane). The U.S. Customs Official will take your I-94 card and stamp it. One part of your I-94 card will be stapled to your passport and the other part will be kept by Immigration as a record of your arrival. Make sure you get part of the I-94 back, and if it is not stapled to your passport, make sure that you attach it as soon as possible.
  • The Customs Official may ask you some general questions about your visit, the purpose and duration of your program, and where you will stay during your program. Answer clearly and respectfully, they are routine questions.
  • The Customs Official will ask you to submit digital finger scans and a digital photograph (part of the US-VISIT program, required for most visa holders).
  • You will then go through a baggage checkpoint. You may be asked to open your luggage and allow another U.S. Customs Official to examine your belongings. The purpose of this search is to ensure that you have not brought any restricted items with you into the U.S.
  • Finally, you will present the Customs declaration form that you received on the plane (6059B).

Collect Your Bags

After passing through Immigration and Customs, you will go to the baggage claim area to collect your checked bags. If you waited a long time at Customs, your bags may have already passed through and been placed on the floor of the baggage area. Ask an airline representative for assistance if necessary.

If your luggage is lost or delayed, you should go to the airline desk and file a lost luggage report. You will need to provide an address for the airline to deliver your bags once they are found. Contact CIEE the next business day to report that your luggage was lost and ask about filing an insurance claim. You should also call the airline for an update.

Please be aware that you will need your I-94 card in order to apply for a Social Security Number if you don’t have one already. Also, when your program ends and you depart the U.S., your I-94 card will be taken by a U.S Customs Official as a record that you departed the U.S. at the end of your authorized stay. So you’ll need to keep it safe until the end of your program.

I94 Card

Enter the WYSE Work Abroad Video Contest and you could win US$2,000!

As a member of WYSE Work Abroad, CIEE encourages you to showcase your creative talents by joining WYSE Work Abroad’s “Expand Your Horizons” Video Contest. Submit a 2-3 minute video about your work abroad, volunteer, work and travel, or internship experience, and you could win US $2,000!

Find out more about this exciting contest by visiting the contest microblog site:

The 2011 contest is now closed. Check back in April 2012 for details of the 2012 contest!

Be sure to notify WYSE Work Abroad that you’ve entered the contest by emailing them your name and the title of your video. You must also indicate that you are a CIEE Work & Travel USA participant.

If you have questions, please visit the WYSE Work Abroad website or email them at