The U.S. government requires that all international applicants provide SAIC with evidence of their ability to pay a full year of tuition and living expenses before a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) may be issued. You will be invited to submit the necessary items through the Terra Dotta Portal via your SAIC email. To apply for your I-20, you will need to submit the following items International Affairs:
- International Student Declaration of Intent
- Statement of Financial Support
- Bank statement showing a full year of available funding
- Copy of your passport biographical page
Once you receive your invitation from SAIC to create your Terra Dotta Portal, please follow the instructions on how to submit your I-20 request. Here is a detailed guide.
If you are admitted to SAIC, you will be contacted by International Affairs for copies of these documents and instructions for their completion. SAIC will issue your I-20 and provide it to you.
If you are currently in F-1 visa status transferring from another institution in the United States you must request that your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record be transferred to SAIC. The SEVIS record may be transferred the day after completing studies at your current school. You should only request to transfer your SEVIS record after being fully admitted to SAIC. To transfer your record to SAIC:
- Complete the Transfer Release Form with your current international advisor. You should provide your current international advisor with a copy of your SAIC Admission Letter.
- Submit the Statement of Financial Support, bank statement and copy of your passport to International Affairs.
- International Affairs will issue your new SAIC I-20 Form.
Your SAIC I-20 will either be mailed to you or given to you in person if you are in Chicago.
Your unexpired F-1 visa may list your old school but will remain valid for travel with an SAIC I-20 if your SEVIS record is transferred to us without a break in study. Please contact our office if you have any questions.
SAIC's school code is CHI214F01058000
Students who will be accompanied by a spouse and/or a child/children must complete the Dependent Supplement Form and provide photocopies of each dependent’s passport to obtain a form I-20 to apply for an F-2 visa. Evidence of additional funding is required as specified on the form.
Visa processing procedures can vary, depending on the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, but all student visa applicants are typically given priority. Information about wait times for scheduling an interview and processing an application is available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
- If you are a new student without an active SEVIS record or I-20: SAIC will issue your form I-20 which you will use to apply for a visa. After you receive your I-20, you must first pay the U.S. government Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee and receive a receipt. Payment may be made online.
- If you are a student at another US institution and you have an active SEVIS record or I-20: First, contact your current institution to transfer your SEVIS record/I-20 to SAIC. Once your current institution has released your SEVIS record, SAIC will issue you a transfer-in I-20. As a SEVIS transfer in student from another U.S. institution, you are exempt from having to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Once you receive your transfer-in I-20 from SAIC, make an appointment at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy if your current visa will expire at the time you reenter the U.S. If you are currently in the U.S. and do not plan to travel, you do not need to apply for a new F-1 visa.
A personal interview with a consular officer is normally required and can last, on average, about three minutes. It is important that you provide proof of permanent residence and strong ties to your home country. Examples of evidence include a family business, family property, membership in a professional organization, or long-term employment that you expect to return to in your home country and may all be presented during the interview.
Tips for your Visa Interview
- Prepare for questions such as:
- Why do you want to study in the United States?
- Why did you choose SAIC?
- How will your degree be used in your home country, and what are your job prospects?
- How will you fund your education at SAIC?
- Review NAFSA’s 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa
- Be truthful and willing to answer direct questions; visa denials typically occur when students fail to prove they do not intend to immigrate to the US
- Prepare for questions such as:
If you are denied a visa you should receive written confirmation as to why you were denied. Denials are not permanent, and you may be reconsidered if you can show further convincing evidence. You are strongly advised to contact International Affairs for assistance if you are denied a visa. You should never enter the United States to begin a degree program in a visa status that does not permit study in a degree program, such as tourist (B-1/B-2) status.
International Affairs recommends that you seek out an EducationUSA office near you for pre-departure orientation and visa application advising or find further details on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda seeking entry as students do not need a visa stamp in their passport to enter the United States. You are exempt from the visa application process, although you are required to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. Payment must be made before you travel.
Present your I-20 Form (Certificate of Eligibility), along with your SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, evidence of adequate funding, and Canadian/Bermudian citizenship at the Port of Entry. You will not be issued a visa but will receive an I-94 Departure card, which with the I-20 gives you permission to stay in the United States. Compliance with all U.S. laws regarding entry applies as it does to all other nationalities. For further information on entry issues see the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Permanent residents (Landed Immigrants) of Canada must apply for a nonimmigrant visa unless you hold a passport of a country that participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Admitted students in B-1, B-2 cannot enroll in a degree program at SAIC. Students in these categories may apply for a change of status, which may take several months. The quickest means of changing status is to leave the United States, apply for a student visa and re-enter in the new status. Contact International Affairs for details if this is your situation.
Students with other visa statuses (A-2, E-2, L-2, H-4, etc., and undocumented students) are not required to request an I-20 from SAIC, unless you plan to apply for a change in immigration status.
If you would like to apply for a change of status to F-1 student, we recommend you make an appointment with an International Student Advisor. We will review the benefits of F-1 status and walk you through the application process, depending on your current immigration status and current USCIS regulations that govern change of status requests, we may refer you to an immigration attorney. You may also decide to retain an immigration attorney independently to apply for a change of status.
Health Insurance and Vaccines
SAIC requires that all full-time students have insurance coverage while enrolled at SAIC. As such, all SAIC F-1 international students are automatically enrolled in and charged for SAIC’s student health insurance plan. Health insurance coverage for international students’ dependents (spouse/partner and/or children) is available at an additional cost upon request once they arrive in the US. Visit saic.myahpcare.com for more information.
In accordance with the Illinois College Immunization Code, all students who enroll in six or more credit hours per semester must have proof of immunization on file with Health Services. For additional information about immunization requirements, please visit SAIC’s Health Services immunization page.
Arrival and Orientation
Fall 2023 International Student Orientation
Information about International Student Orientation will be posted over the summer.
Chicago O'Hare International Airport is located 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of SAIC’s campus, and there are excellent transportation options from the airport.
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA): The CTA runs a train service between O’Hare and downtown Chicago, with a train station just a few blocks from SAIC’s campus. Take the CTA’s Blue Line train from baggage claim, and exit the train at the Monroe Street Station (Monroe and Dearborn Streets).
- Shuttle: For a shuttle from the airport, visit Airport Express: SAIC Airport Transfer Reservations and select Arrival > One Way. You must provide payment using a credit card and you will receive a confirmation from Airport Express. A 10 percent discount applies for SAIC students. Airport Express also has ticket counters located at O'Hare Airport on the baggage claim level in each terminal.
- Taxi: Only use authorized taxis from the airports. Authorized taxi stands will be clearly marked outside baggage claim areas, with an attendant assisting. Do not accept rides from taxi/limo services that approach you outside the designated taxi stand area/queue.
- Limousines: Private limousine services are also available. Companies that service both O’Hare and Midway airports include A1 Limousine Service and O'Hare-Midway Limousine Service.
When you enter the United States, you will need to clear Customs and Border Protection at your Port of Entry. Go to the US Department of Homeland Security’s website for an outline of the process.
Important Reminder about Electronic I-94 Numbers
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issues electronic I-94 entry records. All traveler information is entered electronically. Paper I-94 entry record cards are no longer issued except in rare circumstances.
If you need an I-94 number to apply for benefits you can visit the CBP website to print out a paper copy of your I-94 to use in the application process. For example, you will need to print a paper I-94 to apply for a Social Security number, driver’s license, state ID, and to complete the I-9 packet which is required to work on campus.
If you were issued a paper I-94 entry record card prior to May 2013, you may continue to use this paper I-94 card up until your next departure. The next time you depart the United States and re-enter, you will be issued an electronic I-94 entry record and will need to print it out yourself. For more information, please visit the CBP website which describes the electronic I-94 card and instructions. Read the I-94 Fact Sheet.
Living in Chicago
Chicago is a vibrant city of more than 2 million people, and you will want to explore the distinct qualities and diversity of its 77 neighborhoods. As is the case for most modern, urban US cities, Chicago presents amazing benefits along with new challenges. Joining the SAIC community offers you the opportunity to experience the advantages of city life in the United States with the support of our many resources. Learn more about Chicago: Our Home & Campus.
Chicago’s climate is characterized by four distinct seasons. Chicago’s position on Lake Michigan combined with the flat landscape make Chicago’s weather unpredictable and at times extreme. Summer is often warm and may be humid, with the hottest temperatures occurring in July and August. The coldest days usually occur in January and February when the temperature can drop below 0F (-20C). Snow, ice, and strong winds are common during a Chicago winter. Fall and spring weather can be rainy and changeable but usually includes many sunny and moderate days. You will need appropriate clothes for these four distinct seasons (e.g., coats, boots, hats, gloves, etc.).
- Clothing: Typical winter clothes should include gloves or mittens, a heavy winter coat, a thick scarf, a hat or earmuffs, thick socks, and snow boots. Layers are important. Temperature varies in Chicago on a day by day basis so the best advice is to check weather each day and be prepared. If you are moving to Chicago from a warm climate, it is advisable to wait until you move to Chicago to buy winter clothing or purchase your winter clothing online rather than in your local stores.
- Public Transportation: Public transportation can be slower in the winter months due to snow, ice, or sleet. When you are taking public transportation, plan accordingly so you can arrive to class on time. You can check the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus and train schedule anytime of the year on the CTA’s website. There are also several apps that can help you track buses and trains so that you know when they are arriving.
- Biking: If you plan on biking during the winter months, check weather conditions before doing so. It can be very challenging to bike during the winter months in Chicago because of the cold temperatures, as well as ice and snow on the ground, however, there is an active winter biking community here in Chicago. When riding a bicycle in the winter, be careful of icy pavement and slow your pace.
Ice: Be careful of ice! After living in Chicago for a winter, you will hear about something called black ice. It isn’t black, it is transparent, and blends in with asphalt and pavements where it is most commonly found. Almost everyone who has lived in Chicago has a story about falling on the ice. When walking on ice, it is suggested that you walk like a penguin, as humorously illustrated here.
The US has a long tradition of religious and spiritual tolerance. With so many ethnic groups represented in Chicago, the city boasts a rich diversity of religions and religious expression.
The SAIC Campus Prayer/Meditation Room is a nondenominational space intended for all members of the SAIC community to use for quiet reflection, meditation, or prayer. The room is located in the MacLean Center, 112 S. Michigan Ave., room B-1-04.
- Jewel: 550 N. State St.
- Mariano’s Fresh Market: 333 E. Benton Pl.
- Trader Joe’s: 44 E. Ontario St.
- Target (limited grocery selection): 1 S. State St.
- Whole Foods Market: 30 W. Huron St.
In addition to U.S.-style grocery stores, Chicago has many grocery stores that stock foods from around the world. Below are just a few of many grocery stores specializing in global cuisine.
- Al Khyam Bakery & Grocery—Middle Eastern. 4738 N Kedzie Ave.
- Boricua Produce—Puerto Rican. 3334 W. Armitage Ave.
- Carniceria Guanajuato—Mexican. 3140 N. California Ave.
- Carnicerías Guanajuato—Mexican. 1436 N. Ashland Ave.
- H Mart—Korean/East Asian. Features a small food court. 711 W Jackson Blvd.
- Joong Boo Market—Korean/Asian. Well known for their dumplings and food court. 3333 N. Kimball Ave.
- J.P. Graziano Grocery Co.—Italian. 901 W. Randolph St.
- Kurowski Sausage Shop–Polish/Eastern European. 2976 N. Milwaukee Ave.
- La Unica Cuban Food Mart—Cuban and Latin American. 1515 W. Devon Ave.
- Lebanese Meat Market–Lebanese/Middle Eastern. Specifically a butcher, not a grocery store. 4657 N Kedzie Ave.
- Makola African Supermarket—African/Caribbean. 1019 W. Wilson Ave #1017.
- Middle East Bakery & Grocery—Middle Eastern. 1512 W. Foster Ave
- Park to Shop Supermarket—Chinese. 2121 S. Archer Ave.
- Patel Brothers—Indian and South Asian. 2610 W. Devon Ave.
- Richwell Market—Chinese. 1835 S. Canal St.
- Rico Fresh Market—Mexican. 3552 W. Armitage Ave.
- Tai Nam Food Market—Vietnamese/Thai/Southeast Asian. 4925 N. Broadway.
- Talard Thai Asian Market—Thai/Southeast Asian. Stocks a selection of homemade Thai desserts/dishes and a food court. 5353 N. Broadway.
- Viet Hoa Plaza—Thai and Southeast Asian. 1051 W. Argyle St.
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA): Chicago’s public transportation system
- Wellness Center: Health Services, Counseling Services, and the Disability and Learning Resource Center
- Visiting SAIC: Useful information for students and families who plan to visit the SAIC campus.
- Explore Chicago: Chicago information and event listings for visitors and tourists.
Divvy Bikes: Chicago’s bicycle sharing system.