Pre-Arrival: Packing and Travel

Read below for more information on packing for the U.S., what the travel procedures will be for entering the United States, what documents you should have with you when you board the plane, and transportation options from the San Francisco International Airport to USF.

What Clothes and Belongings to Bring

Although California is known for being the “land of golden sunshine,” the city of San Francisco does not have a very warm climate.  The temperature in San Francisco averages between a high of 70 degrees and a low of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 4.5 degrees Celsius).  The summer months (June through August) can be cold and foggy.  You will require a light-weight jacket or coat at all times of the year and a medium- to heavy-weight coat for certain winter months.  You should bring plenty of warm clothing as students who come from warm or tropical climates usually find San Francisco’s temperatures to be rather cool.  Most of the students dress informally for class (jeans and shirts) but dress more formally when they go out to dinner or attend special events.

Do not ship any of your personal belongings to your campus address prior to your arrival: they will be returned if you are not there.  USF will not accept any packages on your behalf and cannot store them for you on campus.  If you wish to ship some of your belongings in advance, you will need to ship them to a private address.  You can obtain information about freight and shipping services through your local travel agents or postal service.  Insure any valuable items that you ship overseas.

Plan to bring with you enough money to cover the expenses. Be careful if you choose to carry cash, and avoid carrying a large sum of cash. Travelers’ checks are a safer way to carry money but not all vendors accept them.

Also, plan ahead when making your banking arrangements for your stay in San Francisco.  You will be required to pay your USF tuition and fees prior to the start of classes. Please note, when you set-up your local bank account in San Francisco, you will not be able to access that money for at least two weeks. Be certain you are able to access money from your home country bank in order to pay your tuition and fees.  You cannot pay your tuition with a credit card. We suggest you discuss the situation with your home country bank prior to your departure.

What Important Documents to Bring

Bring with you to the United States any important documents that relate to your immigration, travel, legal, academic, and medical history:

  • Passport, identification cards, driver’s licenses, etc.
  • Marriage certificate, birth certificates (for you and your dependents if applicable)
  • Proof of health insurance coverage in the United States (if you already have coverage)
  • Information about medical conditions or treatments, prescriptions for medication (including the generic and brand names), and eye glasses
  • Medical and dental records, including certificates of immunizations and vaccinations (especially rubella, rubeola, and tuberculin for you and young children)
  • Any other copies of immigration and travel documents from the past

If possible, obtain English translations of these documents and have the translations certified by a U.S. educational advising center at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Retain photocopies of all original documents for your records.

Forms to Complete on the Flight

Toward the end of your flight, the airline flight attendant will give you a Customs Form.  Please fill this form while you are on the airplane and have it ready with your Passport and I-20 when you depart the plane.  It is forbidden to bring certain items into the United States (for example, fruits, vegetables, drugs, or firearms).  You will be asked to report the value of the things you are bringing in to the United States.  Simply follow the directions on the forms.  If you have questions, ask the flight attendant for clarification.

Immigration and Customs Procedures

 Wait in line in the immigration area until an Immigration Officer is available to process your documents.  Present your Passport, Visa and Certificate of Eligibility to the officer.  After questioning you about your plans in the United States, the officer will process your documents for entry.  You will be required to use an inkless, digital finger scanner to scan two of your fingerprints.  Follow the officer’s instructions by placing your left index finger and then your right index finger on the scanner.  The officer will also take your digital photograph.  These procedures add only seconds to the overall processing time.

The immigration officer will stamp your passport with one entry stamp and all of your documents should be returned to you.  Please check that your passport has been stamped with the date of your arrival and marked “F-1 or J-1” and “D/S”. 

Proceed to the appropriate baggage claim area to pick up your luggage.  Baggage carts are available inside this area.  After this, you will be directed to the Customs Service for inspection of your baggage.  Give the Customs Form to the Customs Official and allow your baggage to be checked.  After your baggage has passed through Customs you will be allowed to exit the airport.

Transportation from the Airport to USF

Look for signs that will direct you to “Ground Transportation.”  Transportation in the form of shuttle buses and taxis will be in this area.  You may ask for help from airport staff or security officers if you need more information about transportation into the city of San Francisco. 

Shuttle Bus Service:  Shuttle buses, or door-to-door vans, leave from the Departures.

Ticketing Level at all terminals approximately every 12 minutes and will drop you off anywhere in the city of San Francisco.  Depending on the number of passengers, door-to-door vans may make multiple stops.  No reservation is necessary but is recommended for passengers arriving after 11:00 pm.   

Taxi Service:  Taxis are also available at the airport but are more expensive.  The cost of a taxi from the airport to the USF campus is approximately $40.  As a courtesy, you should tip the driver 15% of the total cost.  If you share the trip with other people, passengers can divide the bill to pay an equal portion of the fare.  To be sure you have enough cash to pay the taxi driver, ask how much the ride will cost before entering the taxi.  Only U.S. dollars will be accepted as payment.

BART:  Public transportation called BART, or the Bay Area Rapid Transit, is also available from the airport.  Follow the signs from the International terminal to BART.  If your destination is San Francisco, take a Dublin/Pleasanton-bound BART train.  Downtown San Francisco is only half an hour away.  Once you get on the BART go to the Powell Street Station. Here you will get off and transfer onto the 31 bus. This will take you directly to the university. The total ride should cost no more than $10. If you have lots of luggage, you may want to take a shuttle bus service or taxi rather than BART.

Directions to USF

Whichever method of transportation you choose, if you are coming to the USF campus, ask the driver to take you to the following location:

Visitor’s Entrance

University of San Francisco (USF)

Golden Gate Avenue at Roselyn Terrace (Between Parker Avenue and Masonic Avenue)

There will be a small security building at the visitor’s entrance on Golden Gate Avenue.  The attendant will be able to give you directions to your residence hall or any location on campus.