On reaching ‘Port of Entry’:
- Your first stop in US is your port of entry. e.g. if you flight is Delhi – London – New York – Richmond, then New York is your port of entry. This is where you will do the immigration formalities.
- You are now in the USA! Once you are out of the plane go straight to the immigration counter – rush for them to beat the queue. It might take 1/2 – 1 hour here. Keep your I-20, passport, admission & aid letters ready. They might ask a few questions like: Is this your first time in the US? Student? F-1 Visa? Which Univ.? They will attach the I-94 card to your passport. Take care not to misplace this card. This card is a proof of your legal stay in US. Now-a-days they don’t attach I-94 card, you can always get the card online once you enter in united states, So don’t worry!
On reaching your final destination:
- Then go to the baggage counter to fetch your luggage. Pick up a cart (you get this at a machine for $1-2) to carry the bags. Then pick up your bags as they come out on the conveyor belt (suitable eye-catching labels help here). We suggest you tie your baggage with rope of a bright color that is visible from a distance. All this is to make your baggage appear distinct.
- Airlines frequently tend to misplace luggage. It is a big possibility that your luggage has more Frequent Flyer Miles than you 😉
- If you don’t get your baggage, inform the inquiry section – you may have to wait 1/2 – 1 hour here.
- Cart your baggage to the nearby customs. If asked tell them that you are a student, F-1 visa, school, dept., coming to US for the first time if asked to open your baggage do so slowly – do not mess up the place. If asked about the masala powder tell them that they are dried Indian spices to make traditional Indian food like curry.
- Note: In most cases, you will not be asked to open your boxes at all & you will be simply waved through.
- Now go & wait at the nearest exit for the guys who are supposed to pick you up. If nobody turns up after some time (say for half an hour) make a collect call (at public phone dial a “0”, get the operator & ask for a collect call). You may purchase a calling card like AT&T from shops in airport. In case there’s no reply, you may call:
- Your Prof
- International Students’ Office
- Admissions Office
- Any Indian guy in the directory
- Go and ask for an announcement to be made over the PA system.
- Get a card, write your name & hold it up.
- Never leave your baggage unattended. Don’t go out of the airport until somebody comes & picks you up. If you have doubts about the guy who comes to pick you up, don’t hesitate to ask for his ID. (All this is of course being a little extra cautious). Make sure you are pleasing while you identify his identity, lest you offend the person who has come to help you.
- Once you reach your friend’s house (or your intended destination), call home & inform them of your reaching safely. If you get your hand on Internet, do type few words of your experience and email it.
In case you are lost or nobody came to pick you up or if you just want to make a call, you can buy a calling card from stores in the airport. They generally come in denominations from $5 to $20. You can use the toll-free number (starts with 1-800, 866, 877 or 888) listed on the card to make calls.