Pre-Arrival & New Student Resources

Packing and Travel 

Booked your ticket? Wait, don’t board the plane yet! Make sure to review the sections below on what to pack and what documents to bring on your flight with you to the United States and what to expect at Immigration once you arrive.

  • Weather and Dress: 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 low of 40 degrees and a high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (4.5 to 21.0 degrees Celsius).
    • June through August are usually cold and foggy.
    • September and October are the warmest months.
    • December through May usually bring rain and colder temperatures.

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.

  • Shipping: 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 agencies or postal service. Ensure any valuable items that you ship overseas. Items for your room can be purchased once in the United States.
  • Finances for Living Expenses and Tuition: Plan to bring with you enough money to cover the expenses of your first month, which is likely to be one of the most expensive periods of your stay. You will need to pay for local transportation, meals, and possibly several nights of lodging. If you plan to live off-campus, you should bring enough funds to pay a security deposit and one month’s rent before you move in. Be careful if you choose to carry cash and avoid carrying a large sum of cash, you will need to file a form with Customs and Border Protection if you are bringing currency or monetary instruments exceeding $10,000 USD. Travelers’ checks are a safer way to carry money, but not all vendors accept them. Having a credit card, such as Visa or MasterCard, is recommended. To access money from your home country bank in order to pay your tuition and fees, we suggest you discuss the situation with your home country bank prior to your departure. New students typically select the bank wire transfer that transfers funds directly from their home country bank to USF in order to pay for their tuition and fees during their first semester. Please visit the Billing and Tuition website to view the different payment options.
  • For more information about what to bring for living on-campus, please visit the student housing website, and read about "What is in My Room".
  • 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 and birth certificates (for you and your dependents if applicable)
  • Proof of health insurance coverage in the United States if any (otherwise you will be required to purchase USF student health insurance)
  • 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 Covid-19, rubella, rubeola, and tuberculin for you and your dependents if applicable (USF requires proof of these vaccines, if you do not get them before you arrive, you can get them in the U.S. or during Immunization Clinic Hours by HPS).
  • Any other copies of immigration and travel documents from the past
  • Official transcripts from secondary schools, colleges, or universities 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.

Toward the end of your flight, the airline flight attendant will give you a Customs Form. Please fill this form out while you are on the airplane and have it ready along with your Passport and Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) 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 form. If you have questions, ask the flight attendant for clarification.

  • At Immigration Control
    • 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 your fingerprints. Follow the officer’s instructions by placing each finger on the scanner.
    • The officer will also take your digital photograph. These procedures add only seconds to the overall processing time.
    • Once you have been cleared for entry into the United States, the immigration officer may or may not give you one stamp in your passport, because entry stamped in the passport is no longer required in 2023. 
    • Your passport and Certificate of Eligibility will be returned to you. Please check that all original documents are returned to you. If the immigration officer issues an entry stamp on your passport, make sure that they are stamped in red ink and marked “F-1” or “J-1” and “D/S” for “Duration of Status. If they don’t give a stamp, students will be issued an electronic I-94 arrival record, which you can look up on the CBP I-94 website. If you have any questions about it, please email us at
  • At Baggage Claim and Customs
    • Proceed to the appropriate baggage claim area to pick up your luggage. Baggage carts availability vary depending upon your port of entry.
    • 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.