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Before Your Flight

It is important that you have all of your travel arrangements finalized before leaving.  Make sure you know your flight itinerary, and have transportation arranged to and from the airport.  Be sure to carry all important phone numbers and contact information for your contacts in Nashville (and in other U.S. cities).  Keep this information separate from your travel documents (I-20 or DS-2019, etc.) and passport.  Your passport and travel documents need to be readily accessible for immigration officials.

It is often helpful to arrive in the U.S. earlier than your official start date.  Then you will have time to find and set up housing and become acquainted with the Nashville area.  Any maps or directions you might need are easily accessible on the web at

Please educate yourself on the frequently updated flight regulations set by the Travel Security Administration (TSA) in the United States or any equivalent in your home country.  Liquids, for example, cannot be carried on in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces. To learn about other such stipulations, visit, or the website of the administration in your own country.

A few items to bring with you

  • Travel documents (passport, visa, I-20/DS-2019) – both original and copies. Keep the originals with you in your personal/carry-on bags – do not place them in your checked baggage.
    • If you have an I-20, print the I-20 PDF from your Academic Objective record in the ISSS Portal. You need to have a paper copy. Make sure to sign your I-20.
    • If you have a DS-2019, you must show the original, signed DS-2019. Copies are not valid for entry.
  • Your driver’s license or international driver’s license
  • A copy of your driving record if you plan on purchasing an automobile in the U.S.
  • A supply of all prescription medications with a description of each written by your doctor. (Special restrictions may exist for traveling with medication. See
  • Immunization/vaccination records for the Student Health Center
  • If you have dependents who will be attending school in the U.S., be sure to bring birth certificates or proof of age and all medical, dental, and academic records for them
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses if you wear glasses/contacts
  •  Clothing
    • On-campus – jeans, shorts, T-shirts/shirts are pretty standard
    • Formal wear – suits & dresses are important to have for formal events/receptions and for interviews
    • Winter wear – sweaters and light jackets; you can purchase a winter coat after arriving
    • Footwear – sneakers, sandals and at least one pair of formal shoes (which can be purchased after arriving)
  • Photographs and maps of your home country (and other sentimental objects from home)
  • Emergency contact information for someone who can be reached back home
  • An mp3 device (iPod) of your favorite music
  • Spending money, since you may not be paid for several weeks after your arrival

PLEASE NOTE – Most household items can be purchased in the U.S. for reasonable prices; therefore it is best to leave these items in your home country (i.e. kitchen items, bed linens, towels, etc.)


All travelers are required to be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to admission to the United States. There are two inspection levels: primary and secondary.

Secondary inspection allows Port of Entry officers access to a full review of your SEVIS record.  Secondary inspection may add a couple of hours to the process. It is important to keep this in mind when making arrangements for connecting flights and airport pickups.

Travelers can prepare themselves by allowing extra time and ensuring they have all required documents in order.  F and J visa holders should have their passport, valid visas, and I-20’s or DS-2019’s.  Students may also wish to carry proof of good academic status, such as transcripts.  Anyone who has had a SEVIS record terminated in the past should consult with ISSS regarding recommended documentation.

A description of secondary inspection can be found at:  DHS recommends that you have the phone number for ISSS with you.  During non-business hours, officials can call the Vanderbilt University Operator, who will contact ISSS staff.   The ISSS number is 615-322-2753 and business hours are Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm.  The VU Operator number is 615-322-7311.

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