Congratulations on Your Admission!
Congratulations on your admission to UIS. You have made some very important decisions already, but there are still many things to do before you leave home. Getting the United States visa, preparing your travel, and getting information about what to do after to arriving in Springfield are some of the activities that you have to perform. The following detailed information is for international students who have been admitted.
- Your Admission Packet
- Obtaining a VISA
- What is SEVIS?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Travel Tips
- Springfield Points of Interest
Upon approval you will be sent an admission packet which includes:
- Acceptance letter: A letter informing you about your acceptance in the undergraduate program of the University of Illinois at Springfield (required at Consulate visa appointment).
- I-20: Immigration document that certifies your admission to the University of Illinois at Springfield. (This document is required to apply for an F-1 student visa at the American Embassy or Consulate.)
- Informative Letter: This contains general information regarding documents, requirements and advice about your arrival
- Health letter: This letter describes the mandatory requirements for immunizations. The attached pre-enrollment health form must be completed by your physician in your country.
- Visa Information: This document describes the procedure of applying for a student visa at the U.S. Consulate. Additional information regarding immigration laws, procedures, SEVIS fee, transportation, traveling, and checklists for your arrival will be included as well.
- Housing Information
- Getting the visa
Students applying for the F-1 visa to study in the United States are now being required to undergo additional scrutiny since September 2001 as rules changed to improve US security. You will be required to have a face-to-face interview and undergo a background check. You will need to bring the I-20 to your interview and all other documents needed, such as the affidavit of financial support etc…
Once you receive the admission package you must apply for a student visa in the United States embassy. A visa allows you to travel to the United States as far as the port of entry (airport or land border crossing) and ask the immigration officer to allow you to enter the country. Only the immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States. He or she decides how long you can stay for any particular visit. Immigration matters are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
There are two categories of U.S. visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant.
Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in the U.S. Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.
How to get a Visa?
Visit the USA Travel State Gov Visa website for official information about U.S. visa policy and procedures. Use this site to learn about the visa application process, understand current requirements, and get updates on recent developments.
Before making an appointment to get a visa, visit your country’s visa consular section of the U.S. Embassy’s website and find out what documentation is required. In addition to the documents required,
DO NOT FORGET TO BRING ALL OF THESE DOCUMENTS TO THE EMBASSY:
- Form I-20
- Evidence of financial resources
- Evidence of student Status
- Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, form I-797
- Name and contact information of your “Designated School Official” (ex: Rick Lane).
10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa
- TIES TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY. Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country. Each person’s situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed your authorized stay in the U.S. previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation if available.
- ENGLISH. Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.
- SPEAK FOR YOURSELF. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
- KNOW THE PROGRAM AND HOW IT FITS YOUR CAREER PLANS. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.
- BE BRIEF. Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point.
- ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION. It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you’re lucky.
- NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL. Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the US as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the U.S.
- EMPLOYMENT. Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the U.S. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities.
- DEPENDENTS REMAINING AT HOME. If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
- MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
What Is SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an automated process for collecting, maintaining and managing information about international foreign students, exchange visitors and their dependents during their stay in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides for the collection of a Congressionally mandated fee to be paid by certain aliens who are seeking status as F–1, F–3, M–1, or M–3 nonimmigrant students or as J–1 nonimmigrant exchange visitors.
Generally, the rule levies a fee of $180.
For students (F-1, F-3, M-1, or M-3) $180
For exchange visitors (J-1) unless participating in: $180
Federally sponsored exchange visitor program (program codes starts with G-1, G-2, or G-3) None
Summer work/travel program $35
Au pair program $35
Camp counselor program $35
Who must pay this fee?
This fee is being levied on aliens seeking F–1, F–3, M–1, M–3, or J–1 nonimmigrant status to cover the costs of administering and maintaining the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
How to pay it?
You can pay SEVIS fee at:
- DHS will issue an official paper receipt (I-797) acknowledging every payment regardless of payment method.
- Express delivery service for the I-797 receipt may be requested at additional cost.
- Anyone who submits an individual fee electronically will be able to print out an electronic receipt immediately at the time of payment for use in advance of the mail delivery of the official paper receipt.
- DO NOT LOSE THE I-797 RECEIPT, IT MUST BE ATTACHED WITH OTHER IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS.
Frequently Asked Questions
When must continuing students (F-1, F-3, M-1, or M-3 non-immigrants that have begun, but not finished, a program) pay the SEVIS fee?
Continuing students must pay the SEVIS fee before:
- Filing an application for reinstatement when they have been out of status for more than 5 months.
- Applying for a new visa or returning to the U.S. after an absence of 5 months or more that did not involve authorized overseas study.
- Filing an application for a change of status except for changes between F-1 and F-3 or between M-1 and M-3.
When must continuing exchange visitors (J-1 Non-immigrants who have begun, but not finished a program) pay the SEVIS fee?
Continuing exchange visitors must pay the SEVIS fee before:
- Filing a reinstatement application after a substantive violation after they have been out of status between 121 and 269 days.
Applying for a change of exchange visitor category unless the new exchange visitor category is fee exempt (federally sponsored programs with program codes that start with G-1, G-2, or G-3).
Your first month in the U.S. will be much more satisfying if you plan ahead. If you have not already done so, visit the U.S. educational advising center in your city, country, or region. Most advising centers offer helpful pre-departure orientations for new international students. They are typically more accessible than the U.S. consulate.
What to bring?
Do not check the following documents in your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States
- Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay;
- SEVIS Form I-20.
- Evidence of financial resources;
- Evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts;
- Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797, and
- Name and contact information for your “Designated School Official, Rick Lane”, including a 24-hour emergency contact number at the school. Bring with you to the United States any important documents that relate to your academic, medical, or legal history.
- ALL INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO BRING HEALTH AND IMMUNIZATION RECORDS.
YOU MUST ALSO BRING PERSONAL DOCUMENTS THAT YOU MIGHT NEED DURING YOUR STAY IN THE U.S. SUCH AS:
- Official transcripts from secondary schools, colleges or universities (“official” means that they must have a stamp, seal, and/or signature.)
- Medical and dental records, including certificates of immunizations and vaccinations
Information and medical conditions or treatments, prescriptions for medication (including the generic and brand names), eyeglasses, and a copy of your Medical Insurance policy if you already have one.
- Marriage certificates (if applicable)
- Birth certificates for children (if applicable)
- If possible, bring one document of identification at least one year old.
Obtain English translations of these documents and have the translations certified by a U.S. educational advising center or a U.S. consulate or embassy. Retain photocopies of all original documents for your records.
Other Things to Bring
Springfield’s climate varies from extremely warm to very cold.
However, in order to keep travel simple, try to bring as little as possible, and to have a comfortable trip; you can purchase cold weather gear after you arrive or bring only one jacket if you are arriving during winter. You are less likely to lose luggage if you follow the baggage limitations of the international airlines.
You may find, however, that bringing certain items from home will help you to feel more comfortable in your new surroundings. Do bring traditional wear and a few artifacts from your country, as there will be opportunities for you to share your traditions and culture during events and programs.
Before the term begins you will pay for local transportation, possibly several nights of lodging off campus, and meals. Once on campus, your expenses will include:
- Tuition and fees for the first term
- Books and supplies
- Housing deposits and rent
- Health insurance premiums
- Clothing appropriate for the Illinois climate
- Household items
- Bicycle (Springfield has very limited and expensive public transportation. Plan on purchasing a bicycle for local transportation around campus and the community.
Do not carry a large sum of cash. Traveler’s checks are a safer way to carry money.
With regard to your financial responsibility, you will be asked at various times during your program of study at UIS to provide evidence of financial support. When you apply for a visa, you are asked to prove your ability to pay. You must be able to continue to provide this information in the event you are required to have a new I-20 issued, you make special requests of the university, or you make application to INS for certain benefits.
Tips while traveling
Arrange for your flight as soon as you know your report date.
Information is enclosed about travel arrangements and accommodations. Do not take a taxi unless you are in Springfield. Ask the cost of the trip before getting into the taxi. Chicago is the most convenient airport to come into for our international students, and Amtrak trains are usually available. If you make arrangements with the International Students Services Office, you could be picked up from the airport and brought to Springfield.
- Once you reach UIS, visit the International Student Office as soon as possible. The ISS office and other UIS offices are open Monday through Friday with office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a lunch break sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Plan ahead, so that you know where to go if you arrive at night or on the weekend.
- You can expect to experience fatigue and other physical symptoms due to long-distance travel and time changes. Be well rested at the start of your trip and take care of details in advance. Eat lightly and drink plenty of water the day before you travel. Prepare for changes in temperature by wearing several layers of clothing that can be removed or added as needed. Keep your passport, travel documents, and money with you at all times. Keep important papers in your carry-on luggage, with photocopies in your other luggage. Label your baggage inside and out with your name and both your home and U.S. addresses and telephone numbers. Use the address and phone numbers of ISS, if necessary. To prevent inconveniences in the case of lost luggage, keep in you carry-on luggage all of the items you would need for one night’s emergency stay in a hotel.
- Toward the end of your flight, the airline personnel will give you several forms to complete for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and U.S. Customs. One of these forms will be an I-94 card. Read the questions on this card carefully before you fill in the blanks and do not lose this card – it is an important INS document, along with your I-20 and passport. It is forbidden to bring certain items into the United States (for example fruits, vegetables, drugs, firearms). You will be asked to report the value of the things you are bringing into the U.S. Simply follow the directions of the forms. If necessary, ask the flight attendant for clarifications.
- Present your passport, visa, I-20, I-94, and evidence of financial support to the U.S. immigration officer at the airport. (Make sure you have your I-94 after this inspection.) After questioning you about your plans in the United States, the immigration officer will decide how long you will be allowed to stay (F-1 visa’s are marked with a D/S, which means duration of status). After this, you will be directed to the Customs Service for inspection of your baggage.
Points of Interest
Springfield is home of one of three campuses of the University of Illinois. Springfield is also the state capital of Illinois and the home of Abraham Lincoln, our nation’s 16th president. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is a unique attraction that details his legacy.
Noted American poet Vachel Lindsay was born and died here.
Springfield is known for the Cozy Dog (corn dog on a stick) and Horseshoe sandwiches, has great restaurants, and is conveniently about 1.5 hours from St. Louis and three hours from Chicago.
With a population of about 111,000, Springfield also boasts a wildlife sanctuary, zoo, memorial gardens, botanical gardens, and the world’s largest carillon.
A lively music scene includes jazz, blues, Community Theater, municipal opera, comedy, and live bands all over town.
Shopping enthusiasts come from all over the area to central Illinois’ largest enclosed shopping facility, White Oaks Mall, and to the specialty shops in Springfield’s downtown historic district.
Regular bus service is provided from the UIS campus to the mall, downtown area, and to other points around the city.