Entering the U.S.


If you encounter issues at your U.S. Port-of-Entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where additional information is requested, please contact the ISO Emergency Phone Number. This number is NOT to be used to report a successful entry to the U.S., only if you encounter problems at the port-of-entry.

Requesting a Travel Signature for Form I-20 or Form DS-2019: With the ISO working remotely, it is NOT possible to drop off/pick up your Form I-20 or DS-2019 to request a travel signature. Students will need to request a new Form via iMIT. To request a new Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 with travel signature:
(1) Login to iMIT
(2) Click on the left-hand menu “(F-1 / J-1) Student Services”
(3) Click on and complete the eform “Request Replacement of Form I-20/DS-2019”, and select request reason “Travel Signature”
(4) Be sure to click “Submit” on the eform once you have completed all fields and document uploads to the eform.
Once your new document is completed, ISO can scan/email you an electronic version that you can print/sign and carry with your previous Forms.
If you are applying for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate while abroad, you should receive the paper original document for your travels.
If you want your new document express mailed, follow the instructions to request a shipping label.
Processing time for a new document is 10 business days.

NOTE: New Forms I-20 can be sent to students electronically to download, print, and sign to carry as the new original document as per USDHS and USDOS guidance.
New Forms DS-2019 cannot be sent electronically, and therefore must be express mailed to the student or picked-up in-person at the ISO during Walk-In Office Hours.

Be Prepared at Port of Entry

  • Be sure to carry all of your visa documents on your person, not in your checked baggage.
  • You may have your fingerprints scanned and a digital photograph taken upon entry to the U.S.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) may inspect your phone, tablet, computer, or any/all of your electronic devices. This includes asking for passwords to review social media accounts. More information is available in the USCBP Directive on Border Searches of Electronic Devices.
  • Inspections may occur at USCBP Primary or Secondary Inspection Offices in the airport/port-of-entry; being sent to Secondary Inspection does NOT mean there are any problems with your entry, USCBP has access to review your SEVIS record in Secondary Inspection.
  • Inspection of personal items in luggage or pockets, or other searches, are common.
  • Immigration officials may photocopy documents or record interviews for further review by USCBP or other agencies.

Know Your Rights: What to Do if You are Detained at a Port of Entry (F & J visa holders) – a resource provided by the New England Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

Traveling with Electronic Devices or Data

During travel, either during entry or departure from the U.S., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) officials may ask to review electronic devices that you are carrying. Please see recommendations below about travel with your personal devices or with MIT equipment.

Before traveling carrying MIT research data or equipment, it is very important for you to read:

Please also note the following guidance:

Device Inspection: U.S. Customs officials are authorized to search or retain electronic devices, including digital cameras, cell phones, media players, and disk drives as well as the items listed above, even without probable cause, to look for violation of export control regulations as well as other laws and regulations.

To prepare for this possibility:

  • Don’t carry data you don’t want others to see: medical records, data files from your research, financial information, photos, etc.
  • Don’t carry the only copy of data you can’t afford to lose.
  • Have a “Plan B” if there is data you will need when you reach your destination.
  • Consider taking a minimal device equipped with only ordinary, recognizable software and minimal data so any search can be fast and the consequence of a loss less disruptive.
  • If you do travel with MIT data or equipment, you must follow appropriate information security protections for your data and your electronic devices and obtain proper authorization from your principal investigator.
  • There have been recent reports that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials are questioning international travelers at U.S. airports about research data on electronic devices and/or research materials in carry-on or checked luggage. Please see the above link regarding information on “Travel with MIT data and materials” for guidance on obtaining evidence of travel authorization to help reduce the chance of a prolonged stoppage when traveling internationally.