After arrival

Days are flying by and you are so close to starting your internship. We are so excited for you to begin your internship journey! Here are some very important after arrival things to remember about as you land in the United States.

Keep calm and welcome to america

At the airport

Once you disembark from the plane, walk over to the US Immigration and Customs line. There will also be officials directing you where to go so this shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

The line will be divided into two parts – US Citizens and Residents (a short line that will quickly disappear) and All Other Passports (a long line which seems like it will never ever end). Make sure you are standing in the right line (the Alien line, as I like to call it) and get your passport, DS-2019, I-94 card and training plan ready. Also get ready to answer questions about the nature of your training, the dates of your training and what kind of company you are going to train with.

Once again, you are not working, you are training. This is a training program, not a job.

Be ready to tell the official about your housing plans and the state/area where you will be living. In a way, it’s like you are back at the US embassy all over again. Keep in mind that the interviewing official has a right to deny you entry into the United States based on your answers and for any suspicious behavior. Please treat this interview very seriously and if you are well-prepared and all your documents are in place, your bureaucratic J1 visa ordeal will be over in a few seconds.

I-94 Card

At the end of your interview, the immigration official will stamp your form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) and staple it into your passport right next to your J1 visa. I can’t stress how important this form is – never lose it and if for some reason it’s not stapled to your passport, please do so as soon as possible.

i94 form


Replacing a lost I-94 is a hassle that you should avoid at all costs and the airport officials will be expecting you to hand this card to them before boarding your plane leaving the US. If you do not have it on you at that time, you may risk getting stranded at the ariport, missing your flight and having issues with future visas to the United States. I think I’ve scared you enough :)

US Customs Declaration (Form 6059B)

Once you are through with the immigration part, walk over to the customs line. Have your Customs Declaration Form ready. Flight attendants give out this form towards the end of your US flight. You must fill it out in large legible printed letters in blue or black ink.

US customs declaration form


Don’t forget to sign the form at the bottom and indicate the total value of all goods you are bringing into the United States.

Non-U.S. Residents are entitled to an exemption of $100.

If you are bringing in gifts, please indicate their approximate retail value. Use the reverse side of the form if additional space is needed to list the items to declare.

US customs declaration form back

Hand your form over to the U.S. Customs officer who will determine duty if the declared total value of items exceeds $100.

How to declare money?

If you are bringing in more than $10,000 in

  • US currency
  • its foreign equivalent
  • or $10,000 or more in any form of  “monetary instruments” such as coins, cash, personal or cashier’s check, traveler’s checks, money orders, stocks or bonds

you must complete the Customs Form 4790, also known as IRS FinCEN Form 105 (Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments).

Customs Form 4790

For detailed step-by-step instructions on how to declare food, commercial merchandise and other items, please refer to the Declaration Form 6059B  instructions page on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

Lost luggage?

Once you are done with the customs, go to the baggage claim area and collect your checked in luggage.

To help find your bags and suitcases, put bright luggage tags on them. In other words, do something to make them easily identifiable.

mine luggage tags

If you were delayed by immigration or customs officials, your bags might have been removed from the baggage carousel and placed on the floor. If you can’t find your luggage, don’t panic. Find your airline representative and ask for assistance.

If your luggage is lost or delayed, file a lost luggage report with your airline company. You will need to provide your airline with the US address so that they deliver your bags. If your housing situation is unclear, provide them with your host company’s work address.

Also, since your luggage was lost and it was technically your airline’s fault, you are entitled to compensation. Please contact us, your visa sponsor or your insurance provider directly to report lost or stolen luggage and file an insurance claim.

Checking In

This is different from the airport check-in and is probably the most important thing you have to do upon your arrival in the United States.

In the J1 internship world, checking in refers to getting in touch with IIUSA as soon as possible to confirm your arrival into the country.

It is extremely important for you to check in with us so that your J1 status record and health insurance gets activated in the State Department’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

Let me scare you some more here: if you do not check in on time, you are technically not supposed to start your internship. In a way, you are breaking the immigration law by not letting us and your visa sponsor know of your arrival. But it gets scarier when get to the insurance part.

What could happen if you didn’t check in

If you don’t let us know of your arrival as soon as possible, your insurance is not active, which means that if you get hurt during this time, you will have to cover all medical expenses in the US out of your own pocket. I will give you two examples from my personal life to illustrate just how much you may need to pay for medical bills in the US if you are not insured (which you technically aren’t if you don’t check in with us).

During my high school exchange program in California, my ear started to hurt. I went to the ear doctor, she looked at my ear and said that it’s nothing serious. She did not prescribe any medications and my ear was indeed fine after a few days. Next week I got a bill for $700 dollars. That’s $700 dollars for a 5-minute visit with a doctor who did not prescribe anything to me and spent a total of 15 seconds looking into my ear. But here is another crazy story.

My husband’s cousin was in a very very bad front collision accident a few years ago. In fact, it was so bad that we all, doctors including, wondered if he will survive. Several surgeries and years later, he is doing just fine but his medical bills have long surpassed the one million dollar mark (most of them them were covered by his family’s insurance company). Do you have a million dollars to spare? Then you better check in with us as soon as you arrive!

Social Security

Although not as vitally important as checking in and activating your J1 status and insurance, getting your social security number is still pretty important if you want to get paid in this country. Someone I know once said that to feel comfortable in America you need three things:

1. Social Security number

2. Drivers License

3. Credit card

Note the order: social security comes in first because without it you can’t get your driver’s license or get credit cards in the United States. Neither can you get paid without it: your host company won’t be able to put you into their payroll system without it. And, since it takes a minimum of 2 weeks to get your Social Security number issued and the Social Security Card mailed to you, you have to file your application during your very first days in the US.