Arriving in another country is tremendously exciting – you are going to make new friends, have a good job experience, and have fun discovering a whole new culture! There’s also a lot to think about. CIEE has put together this step-by-step guide to help you keep it all organized.

Remember that if you have questions or problems, you can email or call CIEE at 1-888-268-6245. That’s what we’re here for.

At the Airport & Traveling to Your Job

As you walk out of the gate, follow the signs for arriving passengers. When you have the opportunity, you might want to call your family back home, and your employer (if you arrive during business hours) to let them know you’ve landed safely.

Go To Immigration
At immigration, your passport, DS-2019 form, I-94 number, and J-1 visa will be verified. The official will take a photograph and fingerprint, and ask you questions about your citizenship, the program, and where you will be staying. You will also be asked about the information you’ve provided on your documents. Don’t worry. This is all customary. Most people coming to the United States have to go through immigration.

Retrieve Your Luggage & Go To Customs
Expect officials to open your bags for inspection at the checkpoint, where you will be asked for your Customs declaration form. The Customs official will need to know about items you are bringing with you. Anything you are bringing in that is not for personal use must be declared on your Customs Form. You may have to pay duty on some items. Other items, like agricultural products, are prohibited and will be confiscated. For details, go to the U.S. Customs website.

Locate Ground Transportation & Travel To Your Housing
Your employer may pick you up at the airport and take you straight to your permanent housing. You will have made those arrangements before you leave for the United States.

When You Reach Your Destination

You will need to register with the government, apply for a Social Security number, and open a bank account. Do these as soon as possible.

Registration is required for all J-1 visa holders. You have 10 days after the start date on your DS-2019 to complete registration. Call CIEE at 1-888-268-6245 to register after you arrive.

  • You cannot register until after you’ve landed in the United States.
  • When you call to register, have your DS-2019 number, current address in the United States, and employer information ready.
  • If you are delayed and will arrive after the deadline, contact your CIEE international representative for a replacement DS-2019 form.
  • If you change your address, you must supply your new information to CIEE within 10 days.
  • If you do not register, report a change of contact information, or complete your monthly check-in on time, your program will end and you will have to return home immediately. Do not let that happen!

You need this number to get paid, open a bank account, and pay taxes. Your landlord will also need your Social Security number once you have it.

Apply for a Social Security number five (5) business days after completing your SEVIS registration. Visit the local Social Security office (find the one near you here). You will need to bring the following documents with you:

  • Your DS-2019 form
  • Your passport
  • Your J-1 Visa

When you apply for a Social Security number, you will get a receipt. This is an important document. Show it to your employer to prove that you are eligible to begin work. If you are asked for a Social Security number when you open a bank account or rent an apartment, show this receipt.

A bank account makes living in the United States easier and is a good way to protect your money.

Choose a checking account. Ask about student discounts, and look for banks that have no minimum balances or ATM fees. It is also useful to choose a bank with a branch or ATM near your residence or job.

You will need these documents:

  • Your passport and J-1 Visa
  • Your DS-2019 form
  • Proof of your Social Security application (or your Social Security number if you’ve received it)
  • A letter from your employer confirming employment may also be required

Some employers may offer to deposit your paycheck directly into your bank account. This is a common practice and might save you a trip to the bank. Your salary will appear in your account on each payday.

During Your Stay

Once you are settled in, it is time to meet your neighbors. Then get to know your co-workers at your job. And finally, begin experiencing life in America! Explore your town, find the good places to have fun, eat and relax, and enjoy yourself.

Take Advantage of Cultural Exchange
It is why you are here! There are many things you can do, and remember that the best cultural exchange experiences are often personal and spontaneous but we've put together some ideas to get you started.

Check in with CIEE
You are required to contact CIEE every month, and any time that you change addresses. This is very important. If you fail to do so, you will be sent home.

Be safe, have fun, and remember, we’re here to help! Call us at 1-888-268-6245 if you have questions or need assistance.