The Office of International Programs has put forward some common questions asked by our students. Each and every question has been categorized based on their type.
About the Office of International Programs (OIP)
OIP is short for Office of International Programs. Our location and ways to reach us are as follows:
We are located in the basement of Lech Walesa Hall (LWH) on the east side of the building, in Rooms 0007, 0008A, B and C. LWH is located on the north side of NEIU's Main Campus on Bryn Mawr at the south end of Central Park Ave.
Our main phone number is (773) 442-4796 and our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interim Director Dr. Cris Toffolo, (773) 442-5493, email@example.com
Claudia Gonzalez, J-1 Coordinator, (773) 442-4799, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie Staaden, F-1 Coordinator, (773) 442-4068, email@example.com
Can I defer my admission?
Students who have been admitted to Northeastern Illinois University but could not attend for a valid reason, such as a rejected visa, can defer their admission for the next semester. Students do not have to submit any application, pay or submit any academic credentials.
Can I get a refund of my application fee?
The application fee is nonrefundable. This is indicated at the time of application and fee submission.
What if my GPA falls below the required minimum?
A minimum of 2.75 GPA is required to be admitted to Northeastern Illinois University. If GPA or English test scores fall below, the application will still be considered. Other aspects of the application may lead the program to determine that they would like to recommend admission.
In some cases, additional approval from the College of Graduate Studies and Research would be needed. Also, the program may recommend admission with Limited Status, meaning that an applicant would have certain grade or course requirements during their first term or year.
I am a legal permanent resident. Do I have to follow the same deadlines as international students?
Legal permanent residents are considered domestic applicants and may follow domestic policies.
My country doesn’t use GPA. How do I know my GPA?
Many countries use grading systems that are different from the 4.0 grading scale. Once your transcript has been evaluated by WES/ECE/ED, you will receive a score that will display your GPA.
I have a copy of my transcripts, but it is not in English? Can I submit that?
Northeastern Illinois University accepts transcripts evaluation only through members of NACES. Students must create an account and their home institution must send out the transcripts to one of these organizations to be evaluated. A copy of the report must be sent to Northeastern Illinois University directly through one of these organizations. All of your transcripts must be translated into English and sent any of these organizations. For further information, visit their website.
What is a “Statement of Purpose”? Why does NEIU ask for it?
NEIU requests each applicant to write a “Statement of Purpose” so we can get to know a bit about you. Please write about the events that have shaped you, the things you are good at, and the parts of yourself that you want to develop. Please also tell us what you want to study and why. Finally, discuss why you think NEIU is a good fit for you.
This is not a test. There is no “correct” answer. We read it along with your transcripts and test scores as a way to determine if we think NEIU can serve your needs well. Therefore, please do NOT copy anyone else’s personal statement and do NOT let anyone else write this document for you (e.g., sometimes recruiting agents offer to write these statements but do NOT let them! Doing so could cause you to be denied admission). You are unique and this document should reflect that fact.
How do I submit the supplemental documents that are required to complete an application?
You should see a button on the application labeled “supplementals,” which is where you can upload your documents. If you don’t see the button, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Do I have to send my original transcripts to NEIU, or to an external evaluation company (e.g., WES, ECE, EP)?
No. Send your original transcripts to the external evaluation company, NOT to NEIU, and request from that company a “course by course” evaluation. You can choose any organization but it should be a member of NACES. Once you have created an account with the organizations they will take your transcripts in any language, so there is no need (in most cases) to have your transcripts translated. They will then send NEIU their evaluation, which we use in place of your transcript. Here are links to the various external evaluation companies that are a member of NACES:
As you are applying please also upload copies of your transcript to the NEIU application site. If you are applying for a bachelor’s, send your secondary school transcripts. If you are applying for a master’s send your bachelor’s (and other master’s if applicable).
If you are applying for our intensive English program (SAELL), no transcripts are required.
I am here on a J-2 visa. Can I study at a U.S. college or university?
Yes, J-2 dependents are eligible for part-time or full-time study at every level of education. In other words, J-2 dependents may study in the U.S. without being required to apply for a student (F-1) visa or change to F-1 status. They may enroll in academic programs as recreational or degree-seeking students. They may enroll either full-time or part-time. You will need your own DS-2019 Form and proof of the funding noted on the DS-2019. J-2 visa holders must have health insurance coverage that meets the minimum amounts required by the U.S. Department of State. There may be benefits to changing your visa status to an F-1 visa. For more information visit Exchange Visitor Program.
How do I send the letters of recommendation?
Letters of recommendation (which are needed to apply for master’s programs only, not bachelor’s programs) can be submitted either via paper copy or electronically. For electronic submission, you should enter the recommenders’ email addresses into your online application form. Then our system will automatically send a form to your recommenders. Your recommenders each complete the form and uploads their letter and it is sent directly to our system.
For paper submissions: You provide to your recommender the supplement form, which the recommender attaches to their letter and they then mail to us directly.
The majority of applicants use the electronic request process.
What type of evaluation do I ask for from to an external evaluation company (e.g., WES, ECE, EP)?
It must be a course-by-course evaluation showing your overall GPA and the level of degree you completed.
Do I need to submit my financial information to be admitted to NEIU?
No, not for admission. We need financial information in order to generate an I-20 Form that you need in order to apply for a U.S. visa. However, we do recommend that you submit your financial information as soon as possible, because visa wait times are often very long.
If you are already in the U.S. and transferring to NEIU from another U.S. college or university, we still require you to submit financials in order for us to update your I-20 Form.
Scan copies of all financial documents and email them to the Office of International Programs at firstname.lastname@example.org. NOTE: You will be required to submit your original during international orientation, right before classes start.
Can I qualify for the “in-state” tuition rate in Illinois? How can I become an Illinois resident for tuition purposes?
If you’re a dependent (i.e., claimed by your family for tax purposes), your family must live in or move to Illinois. The in-state tuition rate would begin at the start of the next term.
If you’re not a dependent (i.e., you file your own taxes), you must live in Illinois for one full year for non-educational purposes. This means that you can’t attend school during the year you are establishing residency.
If you are enrolling in an Illinois college or university on an F-1 visa you are not eligible for in-state tuition. As long as you hold any type of temporary visa you do not qualify for in-state tuition. However, once you receive federal notification that you have been approved as a permanent resident, you may start the period of establishing residency. For more information visit Illinois Admissions.
International F-1 Students
Where can I find my university ID (UID)?
You can find your UID by logging into the site where you applied. Your UID is also provided on your admission letter (top right).
When will I know if I have been accepted? When will I get an admission decision?
Admission is a long process that can take a month from the time we receive your complete application and all documentation. This is because your application must go to several offices: Admissions, then to the Academics department, and finally to the Office of International Programs (OIP). Typically, graduate admission takes longer. Once you have been admitted, OIP will check your financial documents and issue you an I-20 form. Sending your financial documents directly to OIP when you send the rest of your application can help to speed up the process. However, you are not required to send financial information until you receive your acceptance letter, which will be sent to you first by email. Your official (paper copy) letter of acceptance will be sent to you, along with the I-20 form. These documents can arrive by regular mail but as this can take time, you can pay to have these sent quickly. OIP will email you about this once we have prepared your I-20 form.
How will I receive my I-20?
Northeastern Illinois University will ship the I-20 to students at the address provided on the application form. This will usually take about two to three weeks to reach you, depending on the address you provided. If you wish to have these documents mailed to you express, you can pay extra. OIP will email you about how to do this once we have prepared your I-20 form. Once the I-20 reaches you, you can book an appointment with the U.S. embassy for a visa interview.
How do I submit my English language (TOEFL/IELTS/PTE) and other test scores (e.g., ACT/SAT)?
TOEFL/IELTS score reports must be sent directly from the testing organization to Northeastern Illinois University. NEIU does not accept English test scores in any other way.
When you sign up with the organization be sure to give them the name of Northeastern Illinois University and our address:
5500 North St. Louis Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60625
Attention: Admissions (for bachelor’s programs) or Graduate Admissions (for master’s programs).
Northeastern’s school codes are:
Does the U.S. government send international students back to their country after they conclude their studies?
No. After you complete a degree, you can remain in the U.S. for one year to do Optional Practical Training (OPT). This can be a paid or unpaid job. If you earned a degree in a STEM field (in Science – e.g., chemistry or biology; Technology – e.g., computer science; Engineering; or Math) you can extend your OPT for two more years.
You can do OPT after finishing each degree (e.g., earn a bachelor's, then do OPT; next earn a master’s, then do OPT again; and then earn a doctorate and again do OPT).
After you have earned your degree and finished OPT, you must return to your country. However, if while you are doing OPT an employer wishes to hire you permanently, then your employer can apply to get you a work visa. There is a lottery system for these, so not all employers’ requests are granted.
The important thing to know is that when you go to the U.S. embassy to apply for your F-1 student visa, the person interviewing you will want to see that you do plan to return to your country. To get a student visa you must convince them of this. You can do so by demonstrating you have ties to your country (e.g., own property, have family, etc.), and that you have a plan for returning (e.g., an idea about the type of work you can do back home once you have earned your degree). The visa interview is very short; it lasts only two to five minutes, so arrive very prepared: i.e., have all your documents with you in an organized way; be able to explain why you want to go to the U.S. to study, and your plan for returning; explain why you want to attend NEIU and why you want to study your particular program. If possible, visit an EducationUSA office in your city, or look up their resources online. Do this far in advance of when you need to go for your interview. There are other online sites that help you prepare for this interview. Do practice sessions with a friend (i.e., mock interviews) so you aren't too nervous. If your request for a visa is denied, politely ask the person for the reason you were denied. Sometimes they will tell you and then sometimes you can reapply successfully.
If your F-1 student visa is expired while you are outside the U.S., and your travel does not qualify for Automatic Visa Revalidation, you must apply for a new visa at a U.S. Consulate/Embassy Office before re-entering the U.S. Entry visas can only be issued outside the U.S. We recommend you apply for a visa renewal in your home country. If you are unable to return to your home country and need to travel to a third country, you may apply for renewal from within the U.S. However, this is extremely risky, because if you are denied, you need to go directly back to your home country.
The visa renewal process varies for different countries. To learn about the application process of renewing your visa, please visit the website of your local U.S. Embassies, Consulates and Diplomatic Missions. The renewal process may take a long time, so plan ahead to ensure you have enough time to return to the U.S.
If you do not have plans to travel outside of the U.S., you are not required to renew your visa. This is because the F-1 visa has privilege of “Duration of Status” (D/S). This means that as long as you maintain good F-1 student status (i.e., remain enrolled in an academic program), you may remain in the U.S. without renewing your visa even after it expires.
Exchange J-1 Students
Enrollment in NEIU: I have been nominated by my university to attend NEIU. What do I do now?
Be sure your international office sends NEIU’s OIP an email letting us know they have nominated you. You need to go into NEIU’s online application page to apply. This will get you into the registration system so you can sign up for classes and get a transcript at the end. You don’t need to show originals of the documents asked for, only copies.
Traveling within the USA: As an exchange student on a J-1 visa am I allowed to travel within the USA? Do I need to do anything before I go?
Yes, you are allowed to travel. Please let us in the OIP office know your travel dates and places and a contact phone number. Be sure to always travel with your: 1) passport showing your visa; 2) your NEIU letter of acceptance; and 3) I-20. Have a paper and an electronic copy of each of these documents with you. Leave a paper copy of these documents at home as well.
Traveling outside of the USA: As an exchange student on a J-1 visa, am I allowed to travel outside of the USA? Do I need to do anything before I go?
Yes, you are allowed to travel but you must have us in the OIP office sign your I-20 before you leave; our signature must be no more than 15 days old. In addition, please let the OIP office know your travel dates and places and a contact phone number. Be sure to always travel with your: 1) passport showing your visa; 2) your NEIU letter of acceptance; and 3) I-20. Have a paper and an electronic copy of each of these documents with you. Leave a paper copy of these documents at home as well.
I see you have a certificate program. Are international students eligible to do only a certificate program?
No. NEIU is not authorized for international students to do certificate programs, as you must have an M-1 visa to do certificate programs, and NEIU handles only F-1 and J-1 visas. However, if there is a certificate component in your major, you may earn the certificate while completing your full degree program.
Arriving in the USA
What will happen when I get off the plane? What about my visa and I-20 Form, etc.? Do I need to do anything special?
Here are the things you need to know for arriving at the airport in Chicago.
- Official papers: Be sure to put your passport, your original I-20 Form, and your original letter of acceptance from NEIU in your carry-on luggage. You will need to show them to the immigration officer as soon as you get off the plane before you collect your luggage. Please pack a set of copies of all these documents and your passport in your regular luggage and put an e-copy on your phone.
- Passport reading machines: Do NOT use these! You must talk with an immigration officer. Using the machines can interfere with your visa.
- Customs declaration form: This likely will be handed out on the plane, unless you are flying with American Airlines or United Airlines (they no longer give them out). You can also pick one up at the airport. You need to fill out this form before you get to the immigration officer. This is where you can declare food items and money. Do NOT lie on this form!
- Money: If you are bringing more than $10,000 with you (carrying or shipping cash, checks, wire transfers, or any other monetary instrument etc.) you must declare it using FinCEN Form 105. Download it using that link and fill it out before you leave home, or get the form at the airport. It IS legal to bring more than $10,000 into the U.S., and it will NOT be taxed, but you MUST declare it. If you don’t declare it, all the money can be taken away.
- Food: It is not allowed to bring beef or pork products, or any fresh fruit or vegetables into the USA. All food must be declared – you will be able to keep all foods except those noted above and a few others that can pose a risk to the U.S. food production system. Even if you take cookies off the airplane with you, say “yes” when answering the question about having food with you. (Don’t worry, Chicago is a very international city; you will be able to find your local foods and spices, etc. so please don’t pack food items.) If you don’t declare food items, you may be assessed a $300 fine and the food can be taken away. It can take up to one hour to process you – if you have a connecting flight you could miss it and the U.S. government will not put you on another flight.
- Dogs: The border officers use dogs to sniff for drugs but also for food. If a dog stops next to your suitcase you will be asked if you have food. If you had food and finished it, the dog might still smell it. The officer will ask you about food; be honest in your reply.
- Packing: Family members will miss you so they often like to slip in a little surprise into your suitcase – a favorite sweet, etc. – but you are responsible for knowing everything that is in all your suitcases, so just before you leave for the airport recheck all your suitcases to make sure no little gifts were slipped in. Food items and money are the ones that can cause you a problem.
- When to fly: Avoid arriving on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, especially between noon and 8 p.m. as the volume of people arriving at O’Hare International Airport can be over 20,000 in those peak hours, which can mean a delay of one to two hours to get processed.
- Phone numbers: Carry these phone numbers with you: Claudia Gonzalez, Coordinator of Partnerships, Stephanie Staaden, F-1 Program Coordinator, Office of International Programs +1-773-442-4796 and Cris Toffolo, Interim Director, Office of International Programs, +1-651-301-0511. We will be available in case you or the Immigration officials need to reach us!
- Problems at the port of entry? Report them to the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program.
What is an I-94? What do I need to do with this form?
The I-94 is a record of your arrivals to and departures from the United States. It comes in both a paper and an electronic format and is issued by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer to a foreigner visitor when they enter the United States.
How do I find my I-94?
To get a copy of your I-94 go to how to access the electronic record or visit the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. If you cannot get your Form I-94 from the CBP website, visit U.S. Citizenship and Custom Enforcement. There you can get Form I-102, which is the “Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record.” This site will also provide you with instructions on how to fill it out.
Can I bring my family with me if I am on an F-1 visa?
Yes, but you need to be able to demonstrate you have enough funds to cover the costs for your whole family while in the U.S. In 2019, the amount to show is $8,889 for your spouse, and $6,642 per child. Indicate on the financial statement form that you will bring dependents. You will need to have bank letter or bank statements (from you or your sponsors) showing the amount required for your study, plus living expenses for you and your family. Also submit to us, copies of the passports from your dependents, birth certificates for children, and marriage certificate for you and your spouse.
F-2 dependents spouses are not allowed to work or go to school in the U.S. If your spouse is planning to work, they will need their employer to apply for a work visa for them. It is best to consult a lawyer in your country who knows U.S. immigration laws.
F-2 dependent children can attend a U.S. school. You will need to apply to the local school system for this, or apply to a private (fee-paying school) or home school them.
I have a baby. Can I get childcare?
Northeastern runs an excellent child care center. They take babies from age 15 months or older. If your child will be 15 months old by the date they would start, please apply as soon as possible because they always have a long waiting list.
If you can't get a placement there, try Luna Park, which is walking distance from the school. Many parents put their child there when too young to get into NEIU's child care center and then they transfer the baby to NEIU.
Another excellent facility is the Children's Care and Development Center (CCDC) in nearby Lincolnwood, Ill. Its waiting list is long and they are a 10-minute drive by car to Northeastern’s campus.
Here is a review of other child care centers close to the University.
Maybe apply now to a couple of places as there usually are waiting lists for the good places.
Can I enroll my children in a US public school? If so, how do I do so?
Yes, you can. The nearest public elementary school to NEIU is Peterson Elementary School, located at 5510 North Christiana Avenue, about two blocks from campus. It has classes from kindergarten through eighth grade. To attend, you must live near the school. There is an attendance boundary. If you live in this area your child can attend. There are many apartments in this area so you should be able to find housing within the boundary. Get more information at the Peterson school’s website or call and ask to speak with Ms. Nydia Rodriguez, +1-773-534-5070. We can also put you in touch with NEIU Professor Catherine Korda whose child attends the school and she is a very active parent. This school has many newly arrived immigrant children so it will be a welcoming environment. To register you need to complete this paperwork and provide transcripts from your child’s home country school. The CPS Office of Language and Cultural Education (OLCE) looks at the transcripts to determine what grade they should be in. If your child needs to attend secondary school (i.e. “high school”), that process is described on the Chicago Public Schools website.
Change of status for a spouse: What do I need to do to have my spouse change from an F-1 to a F-2 visa?
You must hand in a new financial statement showing that you have enough money to support yourself and your spouse (about $9,000 or more). See the amount listed on the financial form. You need to show us an original copy of your bank statement and/or an original copy of your sponsor’s letter.
You will have to submit the documents to the OIP office and follow the instructions mentioned in change of status.
“Stop the Clock” for OPT: I can have 90 days of unemployment during OPT – how do I stop this from accruing?
The 90-day clock starts on the date on the actual EAD card. To stop that, you will be able to log in to your SEVP Student Portal to update your employment information with your date of hire. Once you submit the changes in the portal, you can request an updated copy of your I-20 with the employer information on it.
Can I be a student while on an H-1 visa?
Yes, you can be either a part-time or full-time students as long as you remain employed full-time. If you can’t handle full-time employment and being a full-time student, you can quit your job and enroll full-time at NEIU. In that case you should change to an F-1 visa. We suggest you consult an immigration lawyer about this or return to your home country and apply for the F-1 from there.
Change from F-1 to H1B visa: My company is applying for an H1B visa for me. Do I (or the OIP office or my employer) need to update anything in SEVIS at this time?
Once the employer files your H1B visa and after it has been approved, the SEVIS record gets updated internally. It is recommended that students verify their SEVIS status by reaching out to their DSO. If SEVIS has not yet been updated, the student must bring in supporting documents such as the H1B confirmation that USCIS has received the application or the H1B approval from USCIS.
Can I change from a B-1 to an F-1 visa?
Yes, you can but we strongly recommend that you consult an immigration lawyer or return to your home country and apply for an F-1 visa from there.
Extended Stays Outside the U.S. (stay outside of the U.S. for more than five months)
Can I stay outside of U.S. for more than five months?
If you will be outside of the U.S. for more than five months, you will be required to get a new I-20 prior to returning to the U.S.
Immigration regulations state that a stay outside of U.S. within five months is considered a break in F-1 status. After an absence of more than five months, an F-1 student is no longer admissible to the U.S. as a “continuing student”. After five months the student must be issued a new “initial” I-20 and pay a new SEVIS fee. Please contact ISS for additional questions.
Travel Domestically within the U.S.
Can I travel within U.S.?
In general, special permission is not required for F-1 students to travel within the U.S. from state to state, even to Alaska and Hawaii. We recommend that you carry your Illinois ID, passport, I-94 card and I-20 with you whenever you travel outside the state of Illinois.
CPT (Curricular Practical Training)
What is CPT and what are the rules that cover this?
CPT: How many hours can I do on a summer internship while still enrolled at NEIU?
To do an internship at any time during the year, you must be enrolled in a class that requires an internship. You can work part-time or full-time at the internship, but do not work full-time for more than 11.5 months on CPT or you will not be eligible for OPT.
Optional Practical Training
OPT Extension for STEM: To get a STEM Extension of my OPT must I hand in the whole I-983?
Yes. You and your employer both complete the Form I-983 and submit to your DSO at the time of requesting the STEM OPT extension I-20.
OPT Start Date and EAD (“Employment Authorization Document”) card: I applied for OPT some time ago and only just got my EAD card. The date on the card is after the date on my OPT application, so now what is my official OPT start date?
The U.S. government can take up to five months to process an OPT request. During that time, you are still “in status” because your OPT application is “pending.” You will not accrue “unlawful presence” during this period. As soon as you receive your EAD card in the mail, submit a copy to OIP. We will also confirm that your status has been updated in SEVIS. You will also receive an invitation from SEVP to set up your Student Portal.
The dates on your EAD card are your official OPT dates. You can now accept an offer of employment to start on any day on or after the start date on your EAD card. Do NOT work at all before you have received your card or I-797 Notice of Approval with the approved dates of work authorization.
If you already have an offer of employment that you wish to accept, you will need to log in to your SEVP Student Portal and update your employer information. This will also stop the 90-day unemployment period.
Traveling while on Post-Completion OPT
Can I travel while on OPT?
While you are doing OPT, in order to re-enter the U.S. after traveling internationally, you need to present the same documents as currently enrolled students to the CBP officer at the port of entry. In addition, you need to show the following documentation:
If your OPT application is pending, you may return to the U.S. to do a job search in the U.S.. You should bring your original Notice of Action (receipt notice) issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration office.
If your OPT application has been approved, you must bring your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and the Letter from Employer confirming that you are employed or have been offered employment. This letter should be printed on the employer’s letterhead, and should include: 1) name and contact information of your supervisor; 2) a brief job description that shows the work you will do is related to your field of study and commensurate with your level of education; and 3) the dates of your employment– and these must be within your OPT authorization period.
If you need to renew your visa, please read the answer to the question “How can I review my F-1 Visa?” In addition to all documentation required by the U.S. Consulate/Embassy to renew your F-1 visa, you will need to provide your EAD Card and a Letter from Employer as described above.
How much does it cost for a U.S. student visa?
As of June 24, 2019, the U.S. government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will charge the following rates:
I-901 SEVIS fee for F and M international students: $350.
I-901 SEVIS fee for J exchange visitors the fee: $220 except for J exchange visitors who are coming in for the au pair, camp counselor, and summer work travel program participant categories. This fee is only $35.
Cost & Payments
Can I set up a payment plan to pay my tuition and fees?
Yes, you can. But to do so, you need to be enrolled in the University and registered for classes. This will cause a bill to be generated (based on the number of credits you are taking). Then you can set up a payment plan. For more information visit NEIU Financial Aid.
I want to get a SEVIS proof of payment for my I-901 Form. Does OIP send this to me?
No, OIP does not give out SEVIS Fee Payment verifications. You will get this once you have paid for the I-20 Form, which you can do online.
You will want to provide proof of payment when you apply for your F-1 visa. Be sure to bring proof of payment also to your interview at the U.S. consulate to get the F-1 visa.
How do I apply for Northeastern scholarships?
If you have not applied for institutional scholarships, do that over the holiday break using your NEIUport login at NEIU Scholarships. Don't forget to follow up on any private scholarship opportunities available through online searches with MyScholly, Scholarship Owl, FastWeb or Sallie Mae.