*DISCLAIMER: Travel advice is always evolving – so ensure you check with the most update to travel restrictions and advice before any travel decisions.
It is important to only book your flights after you have been accepted to your university and had your visa approved. You should communicate with your coaches and international advisor to determine the start date for classes and pre-season. Typically, your I-20 will have something called the ‘Program Start Date’ and this provides a good indication of when classes may start. Pre-season for many sports can usually start beforehand so it is normal to book flights that seem a lot earlier than when academics begin.
As it currently stands with the pandemic, the airlines have strict policies when it comes to traveling to the USA. Those with an F1 student visa are able to travel to the United States, but any family or friends at this moment in time would not be able to unless they are a United States Citizen or have a visa that is accepted for travel. You can find out more about this HERE.
Each airline has its own policies when it comes to COVID-19, so it is important to contact them if you have any direct questions about the flight itself. Wearing masks as it stands is mandatory in the airport and during the flight. Most airlines are requiring a negative COVID test before traveling, but it is important to contact your airline directly to determine what you need. You can buy these tests at your local pharmacy so important to do this ahead of time.
At customs, you must show your passport with a valid F1 student visa and original I-20 form (a printout of the I-20 should suffice because of covid-19 if your school did not mail it to you). This is where you get access to the US! On the plane to the United States, you must complete a form – a blue form – for the U.S. Customs Service (“Customs”). To fill out this form you of course need your passport, student visa, and your flight ticket.
NOTE: It is important that you write down the address of your university and where you will be staying the first night, so have that to hand.
What to pack
You can pack whatever you feel is necessary for when you go to the USA. Most colleges will provide your training kit for the sport you compete in, so important to ask the coach more about this. Most coaches will also provide a packing list which you can refer to. Packing mostly clothes and shoes is what will make up most of your luggage. Things like towels, bedding and sheets is often a lot cheaper to buy in the USA when you arrive.
Additional things to pack:
- Extra face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- USA Adaptors
- Extension Lead
- Clothing Suitable for the climate in which you will study
- Suitable sports equipment (e.g., football boots or shinpads for a football player)
- Mobile Phone
- Any medication required
- Sun cream if going to a hot state
- All papers/documents/forms (medical paperwork) from your school or insurance papers
Once you land in the US you need to check in advance with your school/coach if someone is picking you up from the airport. In most cases, it is arranged so that International Admissions, the coach, or a team-mate will greet you on arrival.
The first few days may seem quite busy as you will no doubt adapt and become comfortable with your surroundings. We highly recommend (if you do not already) downloading WhatsApp to communicate with family and friends back home and even those in the US.
We hope you settle in quickly and enjoy the journey! It may seem like you have a long time in the USA but it will soon be over before you know it. Work hard, challenge yourself, and have a life-changing experience!