Traveling To The United States

When you enter the United States you must have the following documents when you enter the U.S.:
  • a passport valid for at least 6 months after your entry into the U.S.
  • a valid F-1 visa (except for Canadian citizens)
  • a valid I-20 (all 3 pages together) 
You should also carry recent proof of financial documentation (bank statements) to show the immigration officer at the port of entry in case this information is requested.

Remember:  getting your F-1 visa does not mean that you have permission to enter the United States.  The immigration officer at the port of entry still has the right to reject your entry into the United States.

Documents to Carry With You

Initial I-20 form

If you are a new F-1 student entering the United States for the first time, or if you have not attended an educational institution in the US for more than 5 months, then you will have an Initial I-20 Form.  It is valid as long as you are entering the United States on or within 30 days of the program start date (as found in Section 5 of the I-20 Form).

The initial I-20 form you used to enter the United States must be the same I-20 form you received from CCS.  Our Community College name (either Spokane Community College or Spokane Falls Community College) will be on the I-20 form.  If it does not match for your first entry into the United States, you may not be allowed to enter the country.

If you decide to attend a different educational institution in the US after your F-1 has been granted, you must go to the embassy or consulate that issued the visa and request an update of your visa from the visa officer.

F-1 Visa

With the exception of Canadian students, all F-1 students entering the United States must have a valid F-1 visa in their passport.  If you are a student transferring from another US educational institution and have a signature on page 3 of your Transfer Pending I-20 form, you still must have a valid visa to be granted entry into the United States.

You may have a valid F-1 visa in your passport from a previous time studying in the United States.  However, if you have been outside of the United States for more than 5 months, the US State Department requires that you renew your F-1 visa at an embassy or consulate before entering the United States again.

I-20 Forms for Transfer Students

If you are transferring from another educational institution in the United States,  then you must have a Transfer Pending I-20 form from Community Colleges of Spokane (either Spokane Falls Community College or Spokane Community College with a signature from a Designated School Official (Trina Allen, Katherine Thompson, Daniel Ferguson, Teresa Gay, or Lisa Avery) on page 3. 

If you have a Transfer Pending I-20 form from Community Colleges of Spokane (either SFCC or SCC), then you should not use the I-20 from any previous schools, as these are no longer valid.  Also, if you are a transfer student whose SEVIS record has been terminated or completed by your previous school, you will need to have a new I-20 form issued by either SFCC or SCC.  If you are outside the United States, CCS will have issued an Initial I-20 on a new SEVIS record.

Visit our webpage, Applicants Transferring from Other US Institutions, for further information to the forms required for transfer students.

At the Port of Entry

At the airport, US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) will inspect all travelers coming to the United States.  You must give the officer your passport and I-20 form for inspection.  In addition, be prepared to provide other documents, such as your bank statement if the officer requests them.  If the officer finds no issues when reviewing the forms, he/she will return the passport and I-20 to you with an entry stamp in your passport.

Prior to April 30, 2013, USCBP issued a paper I-94 card on all flights entering the United States and these were processed by USCBP at all air and seaports in the United States.  After that date, USCBP will no longer issue a paper I-94 card and instead go to an electronic I-94.  However, full roll out of the new process will be completed by May 21, 2013, so you may still be given a paper I-94 between April 30 and May 21, 2013.    Further information about the new process can be found on USCBP's website

Exceptions:  If you enter the United States via a land border from Canada or Mexico, you will continue to receive a paper I-94 card.

If you would still like a paper copy of the I-94 for your records, you may print one from the USCBP website and find further information about the I-94 here.  You may retrieve your electronic I-94 number by visiting

Additional information on arriving in the United States can be found at,