Non-Degree Visiting Students

Below, you will find links to sections of this page. However, we urge you to read the content of this page in its entirety.  Any information you miss can cause significant problems along the way and could even jeopardize your status in the U.S.

Obtain Your Entry Visa

Arriving in the U.S.

Maintaining Lawful Status

Information for Undergraduate Non-Degree Visiting Students

The information for undergraduate non-degree visiting students is the same as that for graduate non-degree visiting students (see below), except for the following: Undergraduate non-degree visiting students can come to the University of Chicago for research during the summer only. The cost of living and tuition and fees are slightly different from those for graduate non-degree visiting students as well.

Information for Graduate Non-Degree Visiting Students

Graduate Non-Degree Visitors are advanced graduate students pursuing a graduate level degree at another academic institution, who are at the research or writing stage, and who temporarily work on their research project with a faculty member at the University of Chicago. Graduate non-degree visiting students are:

  • Considered to be in a full-time student status;
  • Charged the Non-Degree Visitor fee per quarter as well as other mandatory fees;
  • Eligible to participate in laboratory-based research;
  • Not eligible to enroll in courses at the University (thus exempt from the immunization requirements);
  • Not allowed to take on a teaching position with the University; and
  • Given student privileges such as access to the libraries, student housing, athletic facilities, and electronic networks

Graduate non-degree visiting students must comply with all University rules and regulations and are subject to student disciplinary systems. This status is available for no more than four consecutive quarters, including the summer quarter. This status may be extended by up to four consecutive quarters upon recommendation of the faculty sponsor and the area Dean of Students and with the approval of the Executive Vice Provost.

A student who has been offered and has accepted admission to a graduate program at the University of Chicago may join the University as a non-degree visiting student for the summer immediately preceding the beginning of graduate studies with the University. Summer term is understood to extend from the first day after the end of the spring quarter to the last day before the beginning of the autumn quarter.

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International NDVS have several ways to meet the English language requirement of the University of Chicago: 

  • TOEFL speaking score of 18 or better;
  • IELTS speaking score of 6 or better (academic test);
  • PTE speaking score of 50;
  • Having earned a degree in the U.S. or having attended a U.S.; institution of higher learning full-time for at least one year;
  • Passing the University's Academic English Proficiency Assessment with a score of "Basic" or better. Your host department at the University will assist you in making needed arrangements.

The English language requirement may be waived if the applicant is a native of or studied in full-time status for at least one academic year within the last five years in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or English medium universities in Canada or South Africa. Students who studied in English in other countries, for example, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., are not exempt from the English language requirement. 

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Graduate level NDVS expenses consist of tuition and fees for every quarter the NDVS is at the University of Chicago, as well as a quarterly cost of living, the cost of health insurance, and -if applicable- additional costs for dependents (spouse, children) accompanying the NDVS to the U.S.

Your department/division will inform you of the tuition and fee amounts in effect at the time of your visit, and it is important to understand that the tuition and fees for a quarter cannot be prorated, even if you are here for part of a quarter only. The cost of living, however, can be adjusted based on the dates of your visit. Your department/division will be careful to align your visit as closely as possible with the start and end date of the University's quarters so as to avoid extra costs.

To come to the University of Chicago as an NDVS, you require an invitation (admission) from the department/division where you plan to conduct your research. Once such an invitation has been issued and OIA has issued your immigration document (a Form I-20 for F-1 students or Form DS-2019 for J-1 students), you must take several steps to obtain a visa, arrive at the University of Chicago, and complete important steps to maintain your lawful status in the U.S. while here.

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You cannot be an NDVS in B-1/B-2 status or under the Visa Waiver Program (also referred to as ESTA). An NDVS who arrives under either of those statuses is not permitted to begin activity at the University and must travel abroad to obtain the required visa and enter the U.S. in the required status. If you are an international degree-seeking student at another university in the U.S., it is important that you inform your home institution of your plans to come to the University of Chicago ahead of time. If you are an NDVS at another U.S. institution and plan to transfer to the University of Chicago, please let us know this ahead of time, because we must transfer your SEVIS record.

The initial stages of the process unfold between you and your host department/division in the University. This includes gathering information and documents from you and only when a complete file has been assembled by the office of the Dean of Students does the Office of International Affairs (OIA) receive your information. We then issue your immigration document and provide information and guidance on immigration and related matters along the way. Please note that OIA does not admit NDVS, nor can we help you find a host department in the University. If you wish to come to the University of Chicago to conduct research toward your degree, the first point of consultation should be your faculty adviser at your home institution. 

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Important: None of the steps in the process we describe below are optional. Failing to take the required actions as outlined in the checklist can result in difficulties as you enter the U.S. and may jeopardize your lawful status (meaning that you would have to leave again). It is also important to understand that if something is handled incorrectly up front, it cannot be corrected later.

The University of Chicago sponsors most NDVS in F-1 international student status. Sponsorship in J-1 status is only offered if the NDVS' funding source, such as the China Scholarship Council, requires J-1 status, or if the NDVS will be accompanied by a dependent spouse in J-2 status who hopes to obtain employment authorization in the U.S. The latter circumstance is exceedingly rare, because obtaining employment authorization takes several months after arrival in the U.S. and most NDVS are not in the U.S. long enough to benefit from such a step.

As an NDVS at the University of Chicago, you are eligible for F-1 status, because the research and related studies toward your degree from your home institution qualify as full-time.  However, it is important to understand that NDVS do not qualify for certain benefits of F-1 student status, such as employment authorization. These are available to degree-seeking students only.

If you are issued a Form DS-2019 for J-1 status, please note that the current version of the form no longer contains a bar code along the upper right side of the form. This is an update to the form and not an error or misprint.  

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Obtain Your Entry Visa

To obtain your entry visa, follow these steps:

Pay the SEVIS Fee: To enter the United States in F-1 or J-1 status under the sponsorship of the University of Chicago, you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport. To apply for your visa, you must first pay any applicable visa fees and the $200 (F-1) or $180 (J-1) SEVIS fee. You will not be eligible to receive a visa until these fees have been paid.

The quickest way to pay the SEVIS fee is to process your payment online with a credit card by going to: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm. The fee can also be paid through Western Union or through the mail. However, it will take longer if you pay by mail rather than online by credit card or through Western Union. For all methods of payment, you will need information from your Form I-20 or DS-2019.

Schedule Your Appointment: Visit the website of the United States consulate or embassy nearest you and carefully study the information about F-1 or J-1 visa application procedures. There you will find information on how to pay the visa fee and schedule your appointment. The lead time for the interview can range from a few days to several weeks.

Please follow the instructions of the embassy or consulate website carefully when going to your visa interview. Important: the embassy or consulate will require you to fill out additional paperwork, e.g. forms DS-160 or DS-156, DS-157 (if applicable) and DS-158. Please refer to the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply to obtain the most recent information.

Bring the Required Documents: When you go to your visa appointment, be sure to bring the following:

  • Passport
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
  • Proof of Funding: The visa officer will ask you to document the sources of funding listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. Appropriate funding documentation could include a letter of award or support, a bank statement, proof of income, etc.
  • Copies of your academic credentials

Dependents: If your dependents will be accompanying you to the U.S., they will need F-2 or J-2 visas, and you should take their passports and individual Forms I-20 or DS-2019 with you to the consulate.  You should be prepared to show proof of marriage to your spouse and proof of parenthood of each child. Your spouse will have to appear in person, and the same may be true of your children, depending on age. Please note that F-2 and J-2 dependents do not have to pay the SEVIS Fee.

If you are coming to the US in J-1 status: As a non-degree visiting student in F-1 status, you are classified as a student in the University's system and the immigration system referst to you as an international student. If you are coming to the U.S. in J-1 status, you are classified as a student in the University's system, but the immigration system refers to you as an Exchange Visitor. J-1 status includes multiple categories, and the University of Chicago sponsors NDVS in J-1 status in the category "student, non-degree."

Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens do not need a visa stamp to enter the United States, but they do have to show a Form I-20 or DS-2019 and proof of SEVIS fee payment at the port of entry when entering the U.S. 

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Arriving in the US

When to Enter: You may enter the U.S. in initial F-1 or J-1 status up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019. While you may be aware of individuals who have succeeded in entering the U.S. sooner than within that 30-day time frame, we urge you not to attempt this. The inspectors at U.S. ports of entry have the authority to refuse you entry into the U.S., which means that you would not be able to leave the airport. Rather, you would have to return to your country at your own expense.

If you find it necessary to visit the U.S. between now and your earliest possible F-1 or J-1 entry date, you may do so with a tourist visa or under the Visa Waiver Program, depending on your home country. This allows you to visit, then return home, and re-enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status within the proper time frame

You should also not enter the U.S. later than 30 days beyond the program start date on your DS-2019 form. If this is not possible, please communicate this to your department as well as OIA as soon as possible.

Port of Entry Inspection: The next step in the process will be to actually enter the U.S., which involves an inspection at the port of entry. Most often, this is the airport where you first land in the U.S., but it could also be a sea port or a land port of entry, depending on your mode of travel.

If you will initially land somewhere else in the U.S. and will then connect to Chicago from there, you should allow plenty of time between your arrival and connecting flight, so you will have sufficient time to go through immigration and customs inspection at the first point of entry to the U.S.

Regardless of where you enter the U.S., be prepared to provide the following documents at the port of entry to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.  Please note: This inspection takes place before you collect your luggage, so you must have these documents on your person, not in your luggage.

  • Passport
  • F-1 or J-1 Visa Stamp (if you are not a Canadian citizen)
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
  • Supporting Financial Documentati

Upon inspection of your documents, you may be sent to "secondary" inspection which is a different station for additional inspection of your documents. This is often done on a random basis and may have nothing to do with your specific circumstances. If there is a question regarding your documents that only OIA can answer, inspectors at the port of entry will attempt to contact us to verify that you should be admitted. Generally speaking, it is important that you remain calm and polite during the process. Even if there are delays and your patience is tested, it will ease the process to be cooperative. It will also help to have the telephone number of our office with you (in a place such as your wallet). It is (773) 702-7752.

Reporting your Arrival in Chicago to OIA (Checking in): Please use this online form to report your arrival in Chicago within 72 hours of arriving here. This is a very important step toward maintaining your lawful status in the U.S. If you require assistance with this process, please contact OIA at international-affairs@uchicago.edu or 773.702.7752.

If you fail to report your arrival, your SEVIS record will automatically be invalidated by the SEVIS system. If this happens, you will no longer have legal status in the U.S. and will have to discontinue your program and return home.

Once you have reported your arrival to OIA, please subscribe to intlndvs@lists.uchicago.edu. This lists provides important updates to all international non-degree visiting students in the University.

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Health Insurance: NDVS must meet the health insurance requirements of the University and can either purchase the University Student Health Insurance Plan (USHIP) or another plan that meets the same requirements. For information on those requirements, see the Comparable Coverage Checklist. NDVS in J-1 status must also meet the federally required health insurance. Not carrying this level of health insurance constitutes a violation of J-1 status and could result in the termination of your J-1 status.

If you wish to opt out of (waive) the University's Student Health Insurance Plan, you must hold an insurance policy meeting the requirements in this document: Comparable Coverage Checklist.  The element often missed by international students is highlighted.

Insurance plans used by some University students can be found at https://www.isoa.org and https://www.compassbenefits.com.

Social Security Numbers vs. Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers: International NDVS are not eligible for a Social Security Number but do qualify for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). For more information on ITINs, please visit this page.  

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Maintaining Lawful Status in the U.S.

Individuals in F-1 or J-1 status must follow certain requirements to maintain legal status in the United States:

Form I-20 or DS-2019: This document must be valid at all times. If you will not finish your program of study by the end date indicated on your Form I-20 or DS-2019, contact your department about an extension. OIA must receive a request for an extension at least two weeks before this expiration date.

Passport or Travel Document: You must keep your passport or travel document valid at all times and your passport must be valid for 6 months into the future when you apply for a visa or enter the U.S.

Your Entry Visa Can Expire: An entry visa is stamped in your passport by a U.S. consulate for the purpose of entry into the U.S. Your visa does not determine how long you may stay and, if it expires, must be renewed only if you leave the U.S. and want to reenter in the same status. You do not need a new visa if you will not be leaving the U.S. until your program has ended. Please note that Canadian citizens do not need U.S. entry visas, but do require a valid I-20 or DS-2019. For a more detailed explanation of the distinction between your visa and your status, please see https://internationalaffairs.uchicago.edu/page/visa-vs-status.

Update Your Address with OIA within 10 days of Moving: The University of Chicago is legally required to have your current U.S. residential address on file at any time during your program here. Please be prepared to provide us with your residential (not office or department) address, your e-mail address, and your telephone number in the U.S. when you first report your arrival to our office. If you should move to a new residence during your time here in the United States, you must inform us of the new address within ten days of the move. You should report a change of address or any other changes of this nature through my.UChicago.

Extending Your I-20 or DS-2019 and Grace Period: Under limited circumstances, an extension of your status may be possible. If an extension is necessary, be sure to start arranging it at least 4 weeks before the expiration date of your Form I-20 or DS-2019 by asking your department or institute to extend your program at the University. If your request is approved, your department will send a request for extension to OIA. If you have questions, contact us. Please note that your Form I-20 or DS-2019 cannot be extended after the expiration date has been reached! Once the end date on your Form I-20 or DS-2019 is reached, you must discontinue your program activities here. After the end date on your document, you may remain in the U.S. for a "grace period" of up to 60 days if you are in F-1 status, and for up to 30 days, if you are in J-1 status, but you may not be employed, conduct research, or otherwise engage in academic activities at the University. You may travel within the U.S. but you cannot leave the U.S. and re-enter during your grace period.

If your spouse or child will join you after you arrive in the U.S. and wants to do so in F-2 or J-2 status, you can add them as a dependent. Please see adding a dependent for more information.

For information on transferring your SEVIS record from another institution to the University of Chicago or from the University of Chicago to another institution, please see transfer information.

Please review our travel information in advance of any travel.

Additional information for NDVS in J-1 status:

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Who Can Assist You? Your department will advise you on day-to-day student matters in the University, including your registration as an NDVS in the Registrar's system (even though you are not taking classes here), billing for fees, how to obtain your e-mail address and UChicago ID card, and more. OIA assists you with all immigration and immigration-related matters, such as applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, information how to obtain a drivers license in the U.S., and other matters of a governmental or bureaucratic nature.  We also advise you on a range of concerns having to do with your stay at the University and we can direct you to additional resources. So please do not hesitate to contact OIA if we can provide information or support at any time. If we are not the ones to resolve an issue, we can usually connect you with the office or person who can.

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