Skip to main content

New Students FAQs

I am a new international graduate student. When can I arrive in the U.S.?

International graduate students in F-1 and J-1 status can arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date listed on their I-20 or DS-2019 forms and up to 30 days after that date. Graduate students must check with their school or academic department before arriving after their program start date to request approval for late arrival. Some programs may not be able to accommodate late starts.

Should students decide to defer, they must submit a New Student Immigration Document Deferral request through the Office of International Student and Scholar Services using the OISS Portal

I am a new international undergraduate student. When can I arrive in the U.S.?

New international undergraduate students can arrive up to 30 days before the program start date list on their I-20 or DS-2019. 

When is international student orientation?

Please see the Orientation webpage for dates and details.

International Student Orientation will cover many essential topics, including:

  • Essential immigration information
  • Class registration
  • Health Insurance, health care, and immunizations
  • Setting up a US Bank Account
  • Transportation in the US
  • Cell phones
  • Get to know your library
And much more!

What is the “check-in” process for new international students?

All new F-1 and J-1 international students are required to complete a mandatory new student “check-in” via the OISS Portal AFTER arrival at Northwestern. The check-in process is completed online, and you will be required to upload a copy of your most recent I-94 Form and F-1/J-1 Visa page of your passport. This process allows the OISS to report your arrival in SEVIS.

What are the current COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements to board a flight from a foreign country to the United States?

Non-U.S. citizens who are nonimmigrants traveling to the United States by air from any part of the world are required to establish that they are fully vaccinated, with some limited exceptions.

See the CDC COVID-19 webpage on International Travel for the most up-to-date requirements and recommendations for international travelers.


What are NU's policies related to the Coronavirus pandemic?

Please visit the OISS webpage on COVID-19 Information for International Students for the most up-to-date information on policies and requirements for all students.

What are the latest COVID-19 campus updates?

Please review Northwestern’s COVID-19 Dashboard for current testing data and campus updates.

After I fly into Chicago, how can I travel to the NU campus?

You may fly into either of the area's two major airports. For additional information about your arrival, visit their websites.

There are several options for getting from the airport to campus, depending on time, budget, and desired mode of transportation

Airport Express

Airport Express provides shared rides from the airport to campus.

  • Reserve your spot online AT LEAST 24 hours before your flight.
  • Northwestern University students will receive a 15%  discount when booking online.

American Coach Limousine

Taxi & Rideshare

Taxi service is available to the city of Chicago and suburban destinations. Fares vary based on traffic conditions, but an average fare from O'Hare International Airport to the Evanston campus is $50-$75. All taxis should have a working meter to calculate the fare based on time and mileage. Some taxi companies have airport “flat” (fixed) rates. Be sure to ask.

  • Taxi stands are situated at the lower-level curb front outside of baggage claim at each terminal.
  • Use the taxi stands to ensure you have a licensed taxi driver. Do not accept rides from drivers outside the taxi stand or on the departure level (second level) of the terminal roadways.

Rideshares through the Uber and Lyft applications are widely available from both airports. Uber and Lyft drivers are authorized to pick up riders at O'Hare and Midway airports.  Please open your app and follow the directions to the designated pickup zones.  Both airports offer 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi, so you can use this to order an Uber/Lyft ride!

Car Rental

Some new students and their parents choose to rent cars.  Please check individual car company websites for pricing, driver's license requirements, and additional information.

Rental car companies at O'Hare

Rental car companies at Midway


The following public transportation options are more economical but can be more complicated and take longer to arrive.

Pace Bus

The Pace is a suburban public bus system. This takes approximately one hour to travel to campus, and the cost is $2.25.

CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Trains

It is possible to take CTA Train (blue line) from O'Hare International Airport and then make two transfers to the red line and purple line, which will bring you to Evanston. This takes approximately 90 minutes to two hours, depending on the time of day. Cost is between $5 - $10, depending on the timing of transfers.

  • The CTA blue line station is situated on the lower level of Terminal 2. You may walk to the station or use the Airport Transit System to get to the station.
  • Take the blue line train and switch to the red line at the Jackson Station in downtown Chicago. From Jackson, take the red line in the direction of Howard, and then at Howard, switch to the purple line (direction of Linden) and the purple line will bring you to Evanston.
  • For best routes and guidance, use your map app and switch to “public transportation” directions.

What should I do when I arrive on campus?

How can I find housing on or near campus?

Check the Housing resources page for on-campus housing information and links. 

See Off-Campus Life for resources related to finding housing off-campus.

My visa appointment will not allow me to arrive to begin the term on time. Is there a way to request an expedited visa appointment?

U.S Consulates may be able to expedite your interview date to facilitate your arrival at the beginning of the academic term and for international student orientation. The process to request an expedited nonimmigrant visa interview varies by location. You should refer to the instructions on the website of the Embassy or Consulate Visa Section  where you will interview, or on their online appointment scheduling site. Please note:

  • You must first submit the online nonimmigrant visa application form (DS-160), pay the visa application processing fee, and schedule the first available interview appointment, even if that interview appointment is far into the future. Only at this point will a consular section consider your request for an expedited appointment.
  • Students and exchange visitors requesting expedited appointments should be prepared to provide an I-20 or DS-2019 form showing that they would miss the beginning of their courses/programs if not granted an expedited appointment.

If I cannot arrive in person for my term of admission due to visa delays or other problems, what are my options?

Undergraduate students should contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions about the deferral process.

Graduate students should contact their academic department to determine what options are available within their academic program.

To defer immigration documents, submit the New Student Immigration Document Deferral Request via the OISS portal.  

What can I do if I am denied a visa?

If you encounter a denial from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, be sure to request a written notification explaining the reason(s) for the denial. Inform the OISS of your visa denial by email

Read more on visa stamp processing.

What is SEVIS?

How can I obtain an I-20 or DS-2019 from Northwestern’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS)?

Please review the Immigration Document Request webpage to understand the process to obtain a Form I-20 or DS-2019 for study at Northwestern University.

I am a new or transfer F-1 student, and I have received my Form I-20. What is the next step?

Please see Steps for Newly Admitted Students for guidance.

How can my dependents (husband, wife or children) come with me?

If they plan to come, they must be issued their own SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019. Find additional information about bringing dependents.