International Students

As one of the world's most prestigious art schools, we have been welcoming international students to campus since our founding in 1866. We greatly value the diversity of opinions that students from across the globe bring to our community. International students come to SAIC to pursue their undergraduate and graduate degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates and even pre-college courses while still in high school.

SAIC defines an international student as a non-US Citizen, or non-US Permanent Green Card Holder. International students usually need an F-1 Student Visa, or J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa to study in the United States.

  • Rankings compiled by U.S. News & World Report consistently place SAIC among the top graduate fine arts programs in the U.S.
  • SAIC has been ranked among the top three schools for Visual Communication Design, Painting and Drawing, Photography, and Sculpture
  • We were named the "most influential art school in the United States" by Columbia University's National Arts Journlism Survey.
  • The Global Language Monitor ranked SAIC as the #5 college in the U.S. This is the highest ever general college ranking for an art school.

Welcoming, Diverse and Culturally Rich

Chicago Bean and Skyline

Chicago, the United States' third largest city, is one of the most important cultural and artistic cities in the world. The School of the Art Institute is located in its vibrant downtown. You will feel right at home in a city that regularly hosts over half a million college students from around the world.

Our campus, comprised of nine buildings, is in the middle of Chicago's tourist district, just steps away from Millennium Park, miles of lakefront, the city's museums, and a luxurious stretch of shopping better known as the Magnificent Mile. 

Like many cities around the world, Chicago has an easy to navigate public transportation system that includes a subway, elevated trains, and buses that will bring you out to experience any of our 77 culturally diverse neighborhoods. Unlike U.S. coastal cities, Chicago is a very affordable place to live.

As you explore, you'll find that our city is very welcoming to young creatives through pop-up spaces, apartment galleries, and artist collectives, which often co-exist with centuries-old cultural institutions and established galleries. And, of course, as the birthplace of the skyscraper, we are known for our architecture. Beyond the arts, Chicago is a foodie's paradise, a music lover's Nirvana, and, if you don't who the Cubs and the Bars are now... you will.

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The Art Institute of Chicago is the school's museum and it holds the third largest collection of art in the world. In 2014, TripAdvisor reviewers ranked the Art Institute of Chicago as the top museum in the world.

International students are reviewed for merit-based scholarships during the admissions process. No additional application is necessary.

International students are eligible to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters, and 40 hours per week during the Summer and Winter sessions, without authorization from our International Affairs office. International students may not be employed off-campus unless authorized by an international student advisor (this includes unpaid and volunteer employment).

Students may review job listings at the careers and internships website, and apply directly to each office.

A listing of international scholarships and informational websites is available on the SAIC International Affairs website under Financial Resources.

Alternative/private loans are available to international students who can secure a co-signer who is a US Citizen or Permanent Resident and is considered creditworthy by the lender. Students may find helpful information on understanding the alternative/private loan process at finaid.org, or edupass.org. Students are encouraged to check with their home country for student loans before applying for alternative/private loans.

Our International Affairs team will help guide you through the immigration process. The two most common types of visas for our students are:

  1. The F-1 Student Visa, which is used by most students.
  2. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa (Student Category), which is designed for non-privately sponsored students, such as those whose funding comes from their government, the Fulbright Commission, or those who are SAIC exchange participants.

Canadian Citizens

While Canadian citizens also enter as F-1 students on SAIC-issued immigration documentation, Canadian students are exempt from the actual visa application process. 

Certificate of Eligibility (I-20)

The US government requires that all international applicants provide SAIC with evidence of your ability to pay a full year of tuition and living expenses before a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) may be issued. To apply for your I-20, you will need to prepare the following documents:

  • Completed immigration and financial matters packet
  • Bank statement showing a full year of available funding
  • Copy of your passport biographical page
  • International declaration of intent

Learn more about immigration and visas on the International Affairs website.

The Office of International Affairs is highly experienced in supporting the needs and interests of students from diverse cultural backgrounds. We will assist you in meeting new friends, connecting to the community, and adjusting to a new culture. Our goal is to help turn Chicago and SAIC into your home.

Services we provide:

  • Orientations for new students held prior to each semester
  • Assistance with visas, pre-arrival and arrival concerns
  • Workshops on topics ranging from immigration regulations to resources for achieving academic, financial, and personal goals
  • Advice on Optional Practical Training after graduation

International Affairs
Phone: 312.629.6830
Fax: 312.629.6831
Email: intaff@saic.edu