Over the last eighteen months, international travel has become very difficult as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. This virus has impacted every continent in ways we never thought imaginable just two years ago. As a result, things in everyday life for students seeking higher education outside their home country have changed substantially. If you’ve been planning to study in the United States and have been admitted for study, gotten your visa, and are now ready to go, what do you need to know?
Get your documents in order
Now more than ever, be aware of recent changes in guidance for travellers to the United States due to the pandemic, and have your documents in order before you travel. From your I-20, to your passport and F-1 student visa, to your admissions letter, academic and financial documents, everything must reflect who you are and what your institution’s plan is for classes this coming academic year. At present most US colleges are planning for in-person study this fall. So, for new international students should be able to pass through immigration control without many issues. However, if your intended college has recently made the decision to go completely online, you may not be allowed in the country.
Communicate with your university regularly
Our friends at EducationUSA, the U.S. Department of State’s network of educational advising centres in 170 countries, traditionally hold pre-departure orientations for international students before they head to the United States for study. While most of these sessions have still been virtual due to the pandemic, they are still happening and can be great resources for students like yourself trying to make sense of a very confusing time in our world. As you get ready to begin your U.S. study journey, the most important people you need to maintain regular communication with are the international student office staff at your college or university. For many U.S. higher education institutions, the past few months have been ones that have been dramatically disrupted, like much of the world, by this global pandemic. Plans these colleges made in April for how the next academic year would look like for new students may very well have changed. As a result it is essential for you to be aware of what those plans are and know what you should do.
Know the immigration and airline rules
Entering the United States as an international student is a fairly straightforward process in normal times if you’ve taken all the required steps and are well-prepared for this last step of your journey to U.S. study. However, these are not normal times. You must know what the current procedures both for the airlines you may be flying into the United States and the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) division that handles immigration control at the borders. As of earlier this year, all US-bound airlines are requiring all passengers to have had a negative Covid-19 test documented within three days before flying internationally. Even if you have been vaccinated you will still need to show a negative test result.
Moreover, when entering the United States, the officials at CBP who interview each person seeking entry have to ask questions about your intended studies when you present your documents at the immigration checkpoint at the airport. The Department of Homeland Security which oversees CBP has put together important resources in its Study in the States site that discusses the current regulations. Be sure to review this guidance before you leave.
Best of luck with your journey!