Since you have been enrolled in a U.S. school during this past spring semester and will be entering with an I-20 form marked “transfer pending,” you may enter the U.S. in F-1 status anytime during the summer. While possession of an F-1 visa and an I-20AB Form give you permission to request entry to the U.S., these documents do not guarantee entry. The final decision as to whether you will be admitted to the U.S. is made at your U.S. port of entry by an inspection officer of the USCBP. As with the consular officer who reviews visa applications, the inspection officer must be convinced of your nonimmigrant intent and your financial sufficiency. The inspection officer will examine your new I-20AB form, your I-20 forms from your previous school, your unexpired passport (which must have at least six months of validity remaining), your valid F-1 visa stamp and, possibly, your evidence of financial support. In practice, USCBP officials sometimes do not request financial documentation; at other times, however, it can be examined quite closely, so you should be prepared to produce it in order to avoid problems at the port of entry.
Students are strongly advised to have the appropriate documents available for presentation to the inspector at the port of entry. In some cases, a student seeking entry to the U.S. without one of the requested documents will be issued a “Form I-515,” granting temporary admission for a thirty-day period, during which time the student must submit the missing documentation. However, due to heightened security concerns, officers at U.S. ports of entry are less likely to issue such a reprieve to students who present themselves for entry without the proper documents. Furthermore, an inspector at a port of entry has absolute discretion to deny your entry to the U.S. and send you home if your documents are not in order. To avoid the possibility of this onerous consequence, you should be certain to have the appropriate documents available for presentation to the inspector at the port of entry.
Finally, even if you have some other kind of valid visa in your passport (e.g. B-2 "visitor/tourist" status) or come from a country whose residents are eligible for a “visa waiver” for tourists, you should be certain to enter the U.S. in F-1 student status during the years when you are pursuing an education at Amherst College. Entering in any other classification would be considered fraudulent entry under false pretenses, since it would misrepresent the primary purpose of your entry, which is to be a student at Amherst College, not a tourist. Entering the United States in a status other than the F-1 student status may prohibit your enrollment at Amherst College, render you ineligible for other benefits of F-1 status, and could subject you to serious penalty, including deportation and a ban to reentry for five years. At a minimum, you would be required to leave the U.S. and reenter on a proper F-1 student visa.
If the officer at the port of entry determines that you are admissible to the United States in F-1 status, he or she will: (1) stamp the upper right corner of the I-20AB form to indicate the date, place and F-1 status of your entry and the duration of your permitted stay; (2) return the I-20AB to you; (3) issue you an I-94 Card, a small white card similarly stamped with the date, place and F-1 status of your entry and the duration of your permitted stay; and (4) electronically enter data about your arrival into your SEVIS record. Occasionally, in the hustle and bustle of a busy airport, inspection officers sometimes inadvertently fail to stamp the I-20 form or to issue the I-94 card. Lack of one or both of these documents (and, especially, the I-94 card) can later prove to be an inconvenient problem for you, time-consuming and expensive to correct, so you should pay close attention to this at the time of your entry. If you get to the end of processing and have not yet received your copy of the I-20 form or the I-94 card – date stamped and notated “F-1” -- a gentle and polite reminder to the inspection officer is recommended. Both the I‑20AB form and the I-94 card - properly stamped and notated “F-1” - are important documents that provide evidence of your having been legally admitted to the United States in F-1 status. You should safeguard these documents as carefully as you do your passport. It is recommended that you staple your I-94 card to a page of your passport, so that it does not slip out and become lost.
As a final step in your processing at the port of entry, you will undergo a new arrival/departure screening procedure, referred to as “US-VISIT,” requiring an inkless fingerprint of your index fingers and a digital photograph of your face.