You should expect to go through both U.S. Immigration and U.S. Customs at the U.S. port of entry. You may also be required to go through a pre-inspection procedure at certain airports abroad.

When you give your documents to the INS inspector at your U.S. port of entry or pre-boarding checkpoint, you should initially present only your passport, I-94 card (which was distributed on the airplane), and signed I-20 or IAP-66. Your school ID card and other materials are meant to be used only for "supporting documentation" purposes, if you are asked additional questions or asked to produce additional documentation.

A U.S. immigration official who is presented with more documents than is customarily required might become suspicious, so you are well advised to show only your passport, I-94 and I-20 or IAP-66. Then you have the comfort of knowing that you have additional supporting documentation with you if needed.

Expect close scrutiny of your documents. Answer all questions politely and briefly. Do not offer any information that goes beyond the scope of the question asked you.

In certain cases, if there is some problem with your documents, you may be issued a 30-day entry on your I-94 card and issued a form I-515, usually with instructions to see your international student advisor. Examine your I-94 card carefully as you leave the immigration booth. F-1 students and J-1 students should have their I-94s marked "D/S" which means Duration of Status, along with a stamp indicating the date you entered the United States. If an expiration date is written on the I-94 instead of "D/S," and you are in F or J status, go to your school's international student office as soon as possible.

Anyone who is denied admission at an U.S. port of entry should be very cautious about arguing with the immigration official. You may risk being issued "expedited removal," which now entails a five-year bar on admission to the U.S. If you are denied admission, first try to contact your school's international student office for assistance, but also make it known to the Immigration Official that you are willing to withdraw your application for admission to the country rather than be subject to expedited removal.