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What to expect when you land

The more you prepare before you depart, the easier it will be to get settled when you arrive in the United States. Take full advantage of the internet. Go online and research housing, transportation, geography, and things to do and see.

A useful website rich in information about many cities in the United States. is Not For Tourists. It offers an insider’s view to help you get oriented in the city where you’ll be living. Your host organization can also be a good source of information about the area.

Finding a place to stay while you look for permanent housing

The trip to the United States might be long. You may be tired because of the travel and time difference. Make it easy on yourself, and be prepared with a temporary place to stay.

Hostels, affordable hotels/motels, and universities are all good options for temporary housing. Book a room in advance so you have a place to go when you arrive. Host organizations also can be a good resource for finding short-term housing.

It’s important to arrange for short-term housing before leaving for the United States. Knowing where you’ll be sleeping at night takes a lot of the stress out of traveling. Here are some affordable options most popular with CIEE interns:


Staying at a hostel can be an adventure in itself. Hostels generally offer shared or private rooms with shared bathrooms. Here are some resources:

Hotels and motels

There are many budget chains in the United States. Information and reservation services are readily available online. Some helpful resources include:

Universities and colleges

You may be able to find budget accommodations in student housing, especially during university breaks. Find out if there is a college or university near your host organization, and contact its student housing office.

At the airport

When you land, you’ll pass through Immigration and Customs. The immigration officer will ask to see your passport, DS-2019 form, and J-1 Visa. He/she will photograph you and take a fingerprint.

The customs official will ask for your declaration form (6059B) and about any items you’ve brought with you. Anything that is not for personal use must be declared, and you may have to pay duty on some items. For details and examples, go to the U.S. Customs website.


Plan how you’ll get from the airport to your temporary housing, and from there to your final destination. Transit agencies (bus lines, subway systems, and railroads) publish schedules, maps, and fares online. Your host organization can tell you the best way to reach your destination – or they might even arrange to pick you up.

When you reach your destination

It’s important for you to register in SEVIS as soon as you can after your arrival.

SEVIS registration is required for all J-1 Visa holders. You have 20 days after the start date on your DS-2019 to complete registration. Call CIEE at 1-888-268-6245 to register after you arrive.

SEVIS registration

  • You cannot register for SEVIS until after you’ve landed in the United States
  • When you call to register, have your DS-2019 number, current address in the U.S., and host organization information ready
  • If you’re delayed and will arrive after the deadline, contact your agent 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 evaluations on time, your program may be jeopardized

CIEE is here to help you follow the rules and regulations of your visa. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding SEVIS.

Get a Social Security number. You’ll need this number to get paid, if your internship is a paid one, as well as to open a bank account, and pay taxes. It’s legal for interns to begin their program before a Social Security number is issued, but you must have a receipt of application that you have applied.

Applying for a Social Security number

A couple of days after you’ve registered for SEVIS, visit the local Social Security office; you can find the one nearest you here.

You’ll need to bring the following documents with you:

You can complete the application form in advance to save time. Visit and download form SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card.

When you apply for a Social Security number, you’ll get a receipt. This is an important document that you need to show to your host organization to prove that you’re eligible to participate in your internship. If you’re asked for a Social Security number when you open a bank account or rent an apartment, show this receipt.

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