What to expect when you arrive at Denver International Airport (DIA)

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Are you traveling internationally to Denver? We are excited to see you at Colorado School of English for your classes! This post will help get you ready for your arrival.

A group of people walking towards a sign that reads "the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection welcomes you to the United States! Please have your documents complete and ready to present to an officer".
Welcome to the United States!

When you first arrive at Denver International Airport (DIA) and walk out of the terminals, you will see this sign, pictured above. Make sure you have your passport and any documents ready for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer. You should always pack important documents in your carry-on luggage (like your passport, school documents, contact information of your DSO, Form I-20, acceptance letter, travel permissions, bank statements, etc.) While you're on the airplane, you will be asked to fill out one or more forms, so have those ready as well. You can see more information about declaration forms and other entry forms here. If you're arriving on an F-1 Visa, documents you will need to have ready include:

  • Your passport

  • Your Form I-20 issued by Colorado School of English

  • Your acceptance letter issued by Colorado School of English

  • Financial documents to prove you can support yourself in the US

  • Your SEVIS fee receipt

If you're traveling with F-2 dependents, it's also a good idea to have these documents ready:

  • Marriage certificate, if you're traveling with your spouse

  • Birth certificate(s), if you're traveling with your children

  • Health and immunization records

A picture of two signs. One to the right reads "crews, diplomats, all other visas". The sign on the right reads "lawful permanent residents (green card) and ESTA visa holders, B1, B2 visas."

As you keep walking, you will see these signs pictured above. Follow whichever sign that corresponds to the visa you have. While waiting in line, you won't be allowed to use your cellphone or any electronic device, so make sure to put those away. After waiting in line, you will come into contact with a CBP Officer at one of the numbered booths pictured below. They will ask you to provide your documents. They will ask you some questions about your trip and anything you brought with you. Don't worry, this is all routine; there is nothing to be nervous about! They will also take your fingerprints and your picture. Examples of questions might include, but are not limited to:

  • What school are you studying at?

  • How long are you staying in the US?

  • Where are you staying?

  • Do you have the means to support yourself financially while in the US?

  • Did you bring any fruits or vegetables with you?

A sign which reads "passport control. Have your passport and documents ready". On the bottom it states "no photos, no video, and no laptops".

There is always the possibility that the CBP Officer would like to ask you some more questions, although that's very rare. If that happens, you will be asked to wait in the secondary inspection area, pictured below (Picture 1). In some cases, if you don't have the correct documents with you, the CBP Officer might admit a student and issue a Form I-515A. If a CBP Officer issues you this form, you must notify your DSO as soon as possible so they can help you submit the correct documents in order to maintain your status.


Once you are admitted to the United States, you will be issued an I-94. Paper I-94s are only issued at land borders, so your I-94 will be electronic. To view and print your electronic I-94 you can visit this website.


The next step is to pick up your luggage at baggage claim, pictured below (Picture 2). Just follow the signs! If you need any help finding your luggage, you can ask a DIA employee or a CBP Officer and they will be happy to point you in the right direction.


After you get your bags, you will have to wait in line for for another CBP checkpoint, pictured below (picture 3). At this checkpoint, a CBP Officer will look over your declaration forms. You must declare plants, certain foods, and if you are carrying more than $10,000 of cash with you. You can see a list of prohibited items here. After the declaration, three different things might happen:

  1. The CBP Officer asks you additional questions about your luggage or does a physical inspection of your luggage.

  2. The CBP Officer sends you to the cashier to pay any applicable duties.

  3. The CBP Officer sends you to the terminal.

Once you're sent to the terminal, follow the signs to find the pick-up area or public transportation. Want to see a map of DIA? Click here! If you are looking for public transportation, follow the signs to 'Ground Transportation' and make your way downstairs on the west side of the building to find the A-line Light Rail that will take you directly from DIA to Downtown Denver's Union Station in about 35 minutes for the cost of $10.50. Once you arrive at Union Station, you can connect to the light rail and bus system to take you anywhere you need to go (click here to access schedules and fare information, or download the RTD App to check schedules and even buy tickets directly on your mobile device). If you are looking for a bite to eat or need to run an errand, try the Free Mall Ride (the red bus) that runs along the 16th Street Mall (for free!) and explore Denver's historic downtown.


Congratulations! You are now in Denver! We are excited to meet you on your first day of classes. Ready to apply now? Click here!


Questions? Contact our DSOs: Meghan (StudentServices@englishamerica.com or Natalya (DSO@englishamerica.com)

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