Pre-Arrival For International Students

Importance of Name Consistency

To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the U.S., be sure that all of your immigration documents reflect the same name, exactly as it appears in your passport.

Do not use nicknames or shortened names on any of your documents, including your passport, I-20, entry visa stamp, or any additional documents that you acquire after your arrival in the U.S.

Security Clearance Checks

Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants are subject to an additional security clearance procedure before being issued a visa. The additional security clearance involves the U.S. Consulate or Embassy checking the visa applicant’s name against information in various Department of State (DOS) databases.

At the initial visa interview, the applicant should provide clear and concise information about their past activities and future plans while in the U.S. In most cases, the visa is issued within a matter of days or weeks. The U.S. Department of State offers average wait times.

Planning Your Arrival Date

F-1 Students: Immigration regulations allow entry into the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date on the I-20. If you are unable to arrive by your start date, please consider deferring (or delaying) your admission to the next semester. If you are a graduate student, you must first defer your admission with your department. Please notify GEO ( if you plan to defer.

For F-1 students: Plan your arrival date in Chicago so you can:

  • Rest for a few days and recover from jetlag before you begin classes
  • Check-in with the Global Engagement Office (GEO)
  • Find housing (see the housing section later in this document)
  • Attend the International Student Orientation Program
  • Attend your college and/or department orientation program
  • Register for classes

Entering the U.S.

You may want to prepare for your entry into the U.S. by visiting the website of Customs and Border Patrol. Additionally, when you enter the U.S., an immigration officer (at the port of entry) will review your immigration documents (visa, I-20, valid passport).

  • You will be issued an electronic Form I-94, which is an Arrival/Departure card. This is an online record which indicates the length of your authorized stay in the U.S. For F-1 students, this should indicate an authorized stay of D/S (Duration of Status), which allows you to stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your student status. Please check your I-94 online after you enter the United States.
  • You should receive a port of entry stamp, indicating the date in which you entered the country, your immigration status (e.g. F-1) and your authorized length of stay D/S (Duration of status). Please verify this information before you leave the “check-in” area.
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a system called the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT). This system records the entry and exit of all foreign visitors to the U.S. An immigration official scans each visitor’s fingerprints, takes your photograph, and checks them against national security and law enforcement databases.

After you pass through immigration, you’ve officially arrived. Welcome to Chicago and the United States!

The documents you receive at the U.S. port of entry are proof that you entered the United States legally. Please keep all of your immigration documents in a safe place.

If you need assistance while at O’Hare Airport, you may visit the Travelers Immigrant Aid Office located in Terminal 2 across from the Children’s Playground. It is open Monday-Friday 8:30am–9pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am–9pm. In terminals 1, 2 and 3, there are information booths with multilingual personnel who provide assistance. The phone number is 1-(773)894-2427.