Most MEPI participants coming to Montana State will arrive at the Washington Dulles International Airport directly from overseas; others will first arrive elsewhere in the United States before continuing to Washington. You will process through customs and immigration inspection at whatever airport you first arrive into the United States. This process is carried out by U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection. Before you depart, please carefully examine the following tips for information related to customs and immigration:
- The U.S. Embassy (or another diplomatic mission) is responsible for selecting and purchasing your airline tickets. They will also supply you with your visa and other required documentation to enter the United States. If you have any doubt about these documents or have concerns about your tickets, please contact them immediately.
- Keep all paperwork in one convenient and accessible space, preferably in your carry-on bag. Your paperwork should include your passport, DS-2019 (in a sealed envelope), and information on the institute you are attending (the Welcome Letter, for example). Make sure you also have copies of these documents in a separate suitcase in case your carry-on bag is lost or misplaced.
- Your flights will be long but you will be fed on the plane. You do not need to bring food onto the flights, although you may do so if you wish.
- Be prepared to remain in your seat towards the end of your flight. Moving about will raise the flight crew's suspicion and may lead to a lengthy interview process once on the ground. Also, do not use the restrooms as a private place to pray. Lengthy trips to the restroom may unnecessarily raise the suspicions of the flight crew.
- If you are not arriving directly into Washington, it is extremely important that you deplane quickly, claim your baggage, then proceed directly through customs and inspection, as these matters may take some time. After being admitted into the United States, go directly to your connecting gate so you do not miss your flight. Once there, you may have time to get some food or make a phone call.
- After landing, Homeland Security will likely take your fingerprints and do an iris scan. This is a standard procedure, so you should not feel as though you are being singled out or accused of anything.
- After being fingerprinted, you will proceed through the primary interview process and hand over the sealed DS-2019 envelope to customs. You will receive either a red or yellow folder before proceeding to a secondary interview process. Once there, your documents will be placed in a colored folder on the counter and you will be asked to take a seat. The next process may take a long time. Homeland Security will ask you general questions about the purpose of your visit, the purpose of the institute, and the length of your stay. There is no need to feel nervous or disoriented while answering these questions; this is the normal procedure for persons arriving from countries of the Middle East.
- After the interview, collect your baggage and exit through the "double gray doors." On the other side an MSU staff member will be waiting for you with a sign reading "Montana State University - MEPI 2013".
Finally, an important note from the U.S. goverment organizers of the MEPI program:
“All MEPI Institutes participants are required to travel to the U.S. to arrive no earlier than their program start date, and to depart the U.S. on their program end date. If the program office learns that any participant has failed to depart the U.S. at his/her scheduled time, we will immediately terminate his/her J-1 visa and notify the Department of Homeland Security that s/he may be in the country illegally. This may render the participant ineligible for any future U.S. visas, including long-term study visas. As always, if you or your staff learn that any participant has failed to depart the U.S. at the scheduled time, you are expected to notify my office immediately so we may take the mandated steps. Except in extreme circumstances (such as war), there are no exceptions to this rule, even to visit friends and family.”