Travel to the U.S. and Fairbanks

Traveling to the U.S.

Information on traveling to the U.S., to include documents needed for entry and what you may encounter during the entry process is detailed in this document (PDF)

Important things to remember:

  • When making flight reservations, allow enough time to make connecting flights.  It could take an hour or longer to clear the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints (Two checkpoints:  1) Immigration and 2) U.S. Customs).
  • Do NOT pack your I-20 or DS-2019 in your luggage.  Carry it with you on the plane.
  • When you see the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Immigration officer, hand him or her both your passport and I-20 or DS-2019, together.
  • Make sure your passport is stamped with the correct immigration status before leaving the Customs and Border Protection desk.  It is very difficult to have your immigration record corrected after leaving the desk.  If your entry is reported in the CBP system incorrectly, you may be required to leave the U.S. and re-enter in the correct F-1 or J-1 status.
  • Special note for Canadians:  Do NOT use your NEXUS card if you have one.  While in F-1 or J-1 status, it is best to forget that you have a NEXUS card, if you have one.  Also, do NOT use the NEXUS line for entering the U.S.  You will NOT be granted F-1 or J-1 status.

Helpful links:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection contains information for non-U.S. citizens entering the U.S. including admission into the U.S. and bringing food into the U.S.  Related links from the U.S. Department of Agriculture include information about pet travel, Prohibited and Restricted Items, General List of Approved Food and Plant Products, Import and Export Information and Traveler Alerts and Advisories regarding travel from rural areas.  Information about bringing money into the U.S. and the required reporting for currency and monetary instruments (money - whether USD or other currency) is also available.  Be sure to review the information because failure to report specified items you are bringing with you can result in fines and delays when entering the U.S.  For example failing to declare over $10,000 US (or equivalent) can result in the money being confiscated and additional fines and penalties assessed.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Know Before You Visit  The Info Center Top Travel Inquiries links have the information at the lower part of the pages.  Be sure to scroll down for information about traveling with medication and bringing food to the U.S.

Air travel to and within the U.S.:  What you can and cannot bring on board, in the plane with you, including frequently asked questions about security screening:  Transportation Security Administration

Travel to Fairbanks

We recommend that you fly into Fairbanks International Airport (airport code FAI).  

On specific days during New Student Orientation, the Nanook Shuttle (a UAF sponsored vehicle) will meet you at the airport and take you to campus housing check-in. Please visit the Orientation Travel Information for the specific times and dates that the Nanook Shuttle will be running.  There is no cost for this service. The shuttle will be running a constant loop from the Fairbanks International Airport to UAF during the days when it is running. Generally, they will pick up the first flight of the day and run until the last flight of the day. Be sure to look for a sign with the New Student Orientation logo near the baggage claim area.

If you are a graduate student, you can e-mail your graduate department or supervising professor; it is not unusual for the department to make arrangements for someone to meet a new international student. That said, we cannot guarantee that there will be someone to meet you at the airport — but the sooner you start asking and letting people know your plans, the easier it will be to make arrangements. It is also very easy to take a taxi from the airport to campus.  The ride should cost under $30. Be sure to have enough cash available (in U.S. dollars), in case you need to take a taxi (not all taxis can accept credit cards). If you are living in campus housing, ask the driver to take you to UAF Bartlett Hall (the dorm on the hill) for check-in.

Please note: it is important to make housing arrangements BEFORE arriving in Fairbanks so that you have somewhere to stay on arrival.  See the Housing page for additional information.  If you have applied to live on campus, it may be possible to have accommodations before the official opening of housing.  Please contact the Department of Residence life with questions.  Information is provided in your welcome package.


When to Arrive

You should plan on arriving in Fairbanks no later than the Wednesday or Thursday before the first day of classes in order to attend new student orientation.  The Residence Halls will open at 8:00 a.m. for occupancy on the first day of orientation.  If you will be living on campus, you will need to make separate housing arrangements before that day.  See the information at the end of Travel to Fairbanks.

Local hotels often offer discounts to UAF students who arrive in Fairbanks before the residence halls open. When you contact them, let them know that you are a UAF student who is coming to start school, and that you learned about the discount from Orientation website.

We occasionally receive questions about flying into Anchorage, and driving to Fairbanks. It is 581 kilometers (361 miles) from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to the UAF campus, taking between 6.5 and 7 hours to drive, weather depending. The drive is beautiful, and the trip takes you through Denali National Park, past Mt. McKinley/Denali (the tallest mountain on the North American continent), but going by taxi or railway will most likely cost you more than flying directly to Fairbanks.