MAKING SENSE OF IMMIGRATION
International students are considered non-immigrants or temporary residents in the United States by the U.S. Department of State. Most international visitors who enter the United States to study must do so in F-1 status. Some other visa classifications also allow an individual to pursue studies while they are in the United States (i.e. H-4, L-2, E-2).
Those individuals who are already inside the United States in an immigration status that does not allow them to study (i.e. B-1/B-2 or F-2), must apply for, and be granted, a change of status to F-1 prior to beginning their program of study.
Alternatively, an individual may depart the country and re-enter in F-1 status.
If you have questions about your eligibility to study in a visa status aside from F-1, or the process of applying for a change of status, please contact your campus specific DSO.
STUDYING IN F-1 STATUS
An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a "full course of study" to achieve a specific educational or professional objective at an academic institution in the United States that has been designated by the Department of Homeland Security to offer courses to such students.
To enter the United States in F-1 status, you must be issued a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) generated I-20 by the Designated School Official (DSO) at the school you plan to attend. An I-20 is a certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant (F-1) student status.
Your campus-specific DSO will provide you with the I-20 once you have been admitted, submitted your tuition deposit to the Office of Admission, and submitted required financial documentation and forms to the DSO. When you receive your I-20, be sure to look it over carefully to verify that all the information on the document is correct. If no corrections are needed, sign the document on the bottom of the first page and keep the document in a safe place. You will need this I-20 to apply for your student visa, if one is required.
WHAT IS A VISA?
The majority of international visitors who wish to study in the United States must apply for an F-1 (non-immigrant) student visa. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. Port of Entry and request permission to enter the United States. However, it does not guarantee entry into the United States.
APPLYING FOR A VISA
Canadian students do not need to apply for a visa to enter the United States.
For all other students, you must apply for an F-1 visa to study at The Chicago School. You must first make an appointment for an interview at the U.S. Consulate in your home country. Before your appointment (and in some cases, before you can even make your appointment), you must be issued a SEVIS generated I-20 by The Chicago School.
For more information about the process of applying, visit http://www.usembassy.gov/. For more information about visa processing times, visit http://www.educationusa.info/pages/students/visa.php. Be sure to check these sites regularly for updates since requirements and processing times are subject to change.
IMMIGRATION STATUS vs. VISA
Although your immigration status is often the same as the U.S. visa that you are issued, that is not always the case for international students in F or J status. A visa is what allows an individual to request permission to enter the United States at the Port of Entry, and immigration status describes one's legal eligibility to be in the United States. For example, an international student who is approved to study in the United States in F-1 status and entered the country with a valid visa is said to have a valid F-1 immigration status.
The visa that is granted in the student's passport may, however, expire before the completion of the program. The student does not lose their F-1 immigration status as long as he or she meets criteria for maintaining that status in the United States. However, he or she must apply for a new F-1 visa outside of the country once the student exits the U.S. The visa must be valid in order for the student to gain re-entry into the U.S. at the Port of Entry.
More information about immigration matters will be provided after your admission to The Chicago School, through informational emails, a campus-specific resource guide and an international student orientation.
In the mean time, if you have questions regarding immigration matters please feel free to contact ISS .