Leaving and Returning to SAIC


I-20 Travel Signatures

If you plan to travel outside of the United States, you must obtain a travel authorization signature on page two of your I-20 in order to re-enter. Travel authorization signatures are valid for twelve months (six months if you are on OPT). Visit International Affairs TWO TO THREE WEEKS before you travel and bring a copy of your class schedule showing full-time enrollment and your most recent I-20. If you drop off your I-20 at International Affairs by 4:30 p.m., your I-20 will be ready by 12:00 p.m. the next business day unless it needs to be reprinted. I-20s must be reprinted for travel if there are no available travel signature lines on page 2.  Please allow at least 5 business days for it to be reprinted, signed and ready for pick-up. You will receive an email when it is ready. If you come by the office after hours, you can place your I-20 and schedule in the secure After Hours Drop Box located in the reception area of suite 1203 in the Sullivan Center. You will receive an email when your I-20 is ready for pick up.

Leave of Absence (LOA)

If you voluntarily leave SAIC, either during the semester or between semesters, and do not return for the following fall or spring semester, you may request to be placed on a Leave of Absence. This will allow you to return to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) without appealing to the Academic Review Board or reapplying for admission. To take a Leave of Absence, you need to meet with an Academic Advisor for an exit interview and complete the Leave of Absence process. If you are a new student and plan to leave before the end of the add/drop period in your first semester, contact the Admissions office.

Taking a Leave of Absence (LOA)

International students should contact an International Student Advisor to discuss the impact of taking a Leave of Absence (LOA) on your immigration status and related benefits. Please note, if you are physically absent from the United States for more than five months during your LOA, you will need a new I-20 and be required to enroll for two consecutive semesters before you are eligible for CPT or OPT authorization, including for fieldwork and apprentice/student teaching. Once your LOA is processed, your I-20 will be terminated and you will have 15 days to depart the United States.

If you are planning to transfer and enroll at another U.S. institution immediately, a request to transfer your record must be submitted to International Affairs along with an admission letter from the new institution. Please review the information below and contact International Affairs with any questions.

Returning from a Leave of Absence (RLOA)

If you are returning from a voluntary Leave of Absence you will need to contact the Academic Advising Office to schedule an appointment to be reinstated as a student. Once you are reinstated, contact the International Affairs office for advisement on obtaining updated immigration documents. You should start this process at least two to three months before you plan to return to SAIC. Please refer to document below to return to SAIC as an international student. 


Transferring your SEVIS Record (I-20) to Another School

If you leave SAIC to enroll in another full-time educational program, your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record (I-20) will need to be transferred to the new school.

Transferring your SEVIS record has a number of advantages:

  1. You do not have to pay the SEVIS fee again
  2. You will be allowed to remain in the United States or travel in and out of the United States before your program starts
  3. You can continue use your current F-1 visa for travel as long as it has not expired

In order to transfer your SEVIS record, submit a completed transfer form (if required), provided by your new school, and a copy of your admission letter from the new school to International Affairs. For F-1 students, we are required to transfer your record within 60 days of your I-20 end date or within 60 days of your OPT completion. The new school will then be able to create your updated I-20.

Note that as soon as we transfer your record, your OPT employment authorization ends, so you should plan the transfer date carefully if you are still working under OPT.

Departing the United States

Always keep your passport and all other important travel documents in your carry-on luggage when traveling. If you hold a paper I-94 Departure Record, you must surrender this to the airline or border agents upon departure. Paper I-94s are only issued to students who enter at land borders or who do not hold proper documentation when initially entering the United States. Most students have electronic I-94 records and do not need to submit any documents when departing.