VISA FAQ

Visa Document Processing and Forms

The International Students Office (ISO) is responsible for helping international students and their dependents maintain their nonimmigrant visa status. We prepare or assist in preparing certain nonimmigrant documents required by the USCIS for travel, extension of stay, program change, and transfer of schools. Many of these services can be requested at the ISO by filling out the appropriate forms and submitting them to the front desk. Forms are available at the ISO. It may take one to two weeks to process your request, so plan ahead as early as possible to accomplish what you need. It’s always good to have extra time to prepare.

Passport 

Keep your passport valid at least six months into the future at all times. Your country will have an embassy or consulate in the United States that will be able to assist you in renewing your passport if it expires while you are in the U.S.

Visa 

Your visa is your ticket to apply for entry into the United States. Visa validity dates vary from country to country. Do not panic if your visa expires while you are studying. You will only need a new visa to apply for entry into the U.S. if you leave the country. If you return home and need to apply for a new visa please visit http://usembassy.state.gov/ for information on applying for a new visa to re-enter the U.S.

I-94

Your I-94 is the small piece of white card stapled onto your passport upon entering the U.S.. It is the U.S. Arrival/Departure Card and when you entered the U.S., the “Arrival” portion of the card was kept at your port of entry. Your I-94 will have your date and place of entry into the U.S. and the port of entry official will write your visa type (F-1 or J-1) and D/S. D/S means Duration of Status or how long you are eligible to remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your status.

I-20 

Your I-20 is one of the documents you use to apply for your F-1 visa. It indicates the school you are attending, level of education, area of study, expected graduation date and information on how you will finance your education. The I-20 is a U.S. government document generated through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System SEVIS. Your I-20 must reflect your current program of study. If you change your major your I-20 needs to reflect that change. If you will not complete your studies by the expected completion date listed on #5 of the I-20, please speak with an international advisor about applying for an extension.

F-2 Dependents

The ISO is also happy to assist you with any questions that may arise regarding your F-2 dependent’s legal status in the US. Below you can find some basic information regrding the rules and regulations for dependents of our international students. However, for further legal support, we recommend you resort to registered attorneys in the United States.

Dependent Visa Regulations

It is vital that both international students and their dependents understand the federal regulations with which they must comply in order to maintain their visa status for the duration of stay in the US. While F-2 dependents’ status depends on whether or not the F-1 student is maintaining his/her status, there are also several regulations that apply directly to F-2s. Some of the most critical ones are listed below. For more information, please visit USCIS’ website.

Employment

F-2 dependents may not be employed in the U.S.

J-2 dependents may not be employed only if they have applied for and received permission from USCIS.

Study

An F-2 spouse of an F-1 student may not engage in full-time study, and the F-2 child may only engage in full-time study if the study is in grade school or secondary school (kindergarten through twelfth grade). The F-2 spouse or child may otherwise only engage in study that is recreational in nature or done as a hobby.

There is no restriction on study for J-2 dependents.

Enrolling Children in Schools

Illinois state law requires that all children between the ages of five an eighteen attend school. If you are an F-1 student, your child is eligible to enroll in your city or village school district if he/she is five on or before September 1st for kindergarten. Children who are six years old on or before September 1st can begin first grade. Most children begin at the age of five in the public school kindergarten. Public schools available to all children for nothing, except for a small fee, which parents pay to cover the cost of books and supplies. If you have school-age children, contact the local school district. You can arrange a meeting to register your children. Take their passports, health records, and school records when you register them. Private schools and parochial schools can be found in the local yellow pages telephone directory.

F-1 Students Driver’s License

F-1 students can obtain a temporary visitor driver’s license as long as the student’s passport is valid for more than 6 months. The student first need to obtain a letter from the school validating his/her legal status; then go to the Social Security Administration Office to obtain a denial letter for the social security number. With documents prooving the student’s date of birth (passport), identity and status (I-20 or school’s tuition invoice), and record of residency (2 copies, usually letter sent to your address), the student can go to a local DMV office to take the test and get a driver’s license issued. For more information please visit here

Employment

Employment opportunities for international students are limited by regulations of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS). The basic criteria are that students maintain their non-immigrant status, and are in good academic standing. The College of Chicago does not offer on-campus employment to any F-1 students. Off-campus employment is limited to students in colleges and universities who are pursuing academic studies. This excludes English language students.