Most airlines allow only 2 pieces of check-in baggage of specified weight (usually 50 lbs/ 23 kg), 1 cabin bag and 1 personal item (mostly laptop bag/ hand bag), all of specific dimensions. Some airlines allow 3 check-in bags for first-time students alone. Please check with your particular airline to confirm the same. Make sure you do not carry extra baggage and run into trouble. You might be asked to pay extra for that. Also be sure to stick address tags and contact information on at least one side of the baggage. This is to ensure that your bags reach their destination in case they are misplaced. If you are staying at the temporary housing, provide the address of your host. If you are staying elsewhere for the first few days, make sure the address is reliable and that your bags will be safe there.
Things to carry in hand
At all times, please remember to carry your passport and I-20 with you. Do not keep them in the pockets in front of your seats in the flight or leave it unattended while visiting the restroom. Carry a few dollars to buy refreshments or make calls while in transit. Most airports accept USD.
- Passport, I-20 and Admission letter.
- At least two sets of clothing.
- Telephone / Address book.
- Cash / Traveler’s checks.
- Medication for air sickness if you need it.
- Phone numbers of relatives in US, temporary housing hosts, ISA executive committee member details and the University officials in case you need to contact them.
Please be present at the departing airport at least 3 hours prior to departure, since it is your first time. Once you finish checking in your luggage, inquire with the desk for immigration forms. They are also available at the immigration counters. Fill them up and proceed towards immigration. Clear immigration and security check and proceed towards your gate. It is advisable not to book flights that have more than two lay-overs, to cut-down on travel time and tiredness. Make sure that while in transit, you have lay-over periods of at least two hours to be on the safer side. Once you land in the US, you have to clear customs to legally enter US. Please check the section “Immigration & Customs” for further information.
If you will be continuing your journey by air, check in at the appropriate airline counter as soon as you are through with customs. In most airports, you might have to change terminals to board your connecting flight. Please ask the airline representative at the counter about changing terminals. You might have to use the Airport Transport System to do so. These counters are, usually, right outside the customs area. Remember, it is your responsibility to collect your baggage after passing through immigration, clear it through customs, and get it checked in again for the onward connection. Please be sure that you have a transit time of at least 3.5 hours if your port of entry is not Cincinnati.
If your port of entry is a big airport like Chicago O’Hare, Newark or JFK(New York), allow sufficient lay-over time while booking the ticket. These airports are known to be very busy and since many of you might be first time fliers, it is advisable that you have plenty of time to clear customs, check-in and go to your respective gate.
In case your baggage does not arrive on the same flight as you do, do not waste too much time hunting for it. Mention it to the airline representative and give them a forwarding address with phone number where you can be reached. In any event, do not miss your connecting flight. In case your flight came in late or the onward flight is cancelled, it is the responsibility of the airline in which you flew into the country or the airline that cancelled its flight to make arrangements for another flight. If the delay involves an overnight stay, then the airline has to put you up for the night and also pay for your meals. Do not let the airline representative convince you otherwise.
Important Note: Please don’t panic if it so happens that your flight arrives late and the time for the connecting flight is too near (say, within the next 10-15 minutes) for you to make it due to Immigration and Customs delays. Simply follow the same actions outlined above and get your airline to arrange things for you. Don’t be rude, but be firm while dealing with the airline representatives.
Immigration and Customs
You will have to go through customs and immigration at your port of entry, i.e. the first US City where you land. Before the plane lands, the flight attendant will distribute customs declaration forms and immigration forms (you should keep your passport and I-20/DS-2019 with you at all times – do not put any of your immigration papers in your check-in luggage). Fill these out on the plane. You will submit them to the appropriate US Customs authorities after you land. If you have any queries regarding the forms, feel free to ask the flight attendant for assistance. Even if your luggage is booked through to your final destination, it will be off-loaded at your port of entry. After passing through the immigration area, you will collect your baggage and then, with your baggage, pass through customs. A customs inspector will inspect your bags and review the customs form you have filled out on the airplane. Penalties for concealing declarable items can be severe, so be honest and make a full declaration. As far as edibles go, just remember that there should be no fruits, vegetables or anything raw. Pickles, Spices, etc will be allowed in as long as they are packed properly and sealed. Spices are usually classified as non-perishable and dehydrated and you may declare them as such.
Once you reach Cincinnati, either by road or air, please call the seniors who might be assisting you with temporary housing, in case you have signed up for one. The ISA shall request the hosts to be available at home at the time of your arrival but many hosts might be busy in their labs or internships. Please keep change if you would have to call from a public call-phone. If you are unable to contact your host(s), try to tag along with a friend who might have been offered housing at some other place. You can always shift once you reach some safe housing. Feel free to contact the Team ISA if nothing works out and we shall provide further details.