International Student Services
Once you arrive at Ambrose, International Student Services support staff will help you with the rest. It is our goal to make your Ambrose experience a positive one, whether that means helping with your course schedule, answering a question about housing, or just sharing stories over a cup of coffee.
Be sure to contact us with any questions you have!
All the Comforts of Home
A residence hall is more than a place to live. Students living in our comfortable residence halls participate in recreational, educational, spiritual, and cultural programs that contribute to their overall growth and personal development.
We're excited to have you join our campus community! The information below will take you through the steps necessary to arrive here ready for class!
From applying for your visa to packing for the Iowa weather, we'll help you along the way!
Housing Information: Consult the Residence Life website
Fall 2017: Thursday, August 17, 2017
If you will be living on campus, you should plan to arrive to campus on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. Graduate classes begin on Monday, August 21, 2017. Undergraduate classes begin on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.
What to Expect
As an international student, you will arrive on campus a few days before other students, to get to know the campus, your new classmates, and the many services available to you at St. Ambrose. When making your travel plans, the closest airport to campus is the Quad City International Airport located in Moline, Illinois. International Student Orientation is mandatory for all students coming to St. Ambrose on F-1 and J-1 visas. It's also lots of fun and is by far the best way to feel ready for your first semester here! Past students tell us that they enjoyed International Student Orientation for these reasons:
- Getting to know other international students before classes start.
- Getting familiar with campus, registering for classes, and feeling comfortable in your new room a few days before other students arrive.
- Seeing Davenport and the Quad Cities. In the summer, we take a boat trip on the Mississippi River, enjoy ice cream at an old fashioned soda shop, and bowl a few games at a local bowling alley. In the winter, we go ice skating, visit local restaurants, and go sledding if the weather permits!
- Meeting the people who will help you while you're here. From Student Accounts to our onsite nurse, you'll see the people who are here to make your time at St. Ambrose a success.
This is also an important time to learn more about the regulations governing your visa status, including your work entitlements, travel entitlements, and what do to if you need help.
After you are accepted to St. Ambrose, obtaining your visa is the first step in preparing to come here. Follow the steps below, and you'll be well on your way to success!
- Gain admission to St. Ambrose University.
- St. Ambrose will prepare your Form I-20 (for F-1 visa applicants) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visa applicants) and send this to you by courier.
- In the meantime, prepare by learning about the forms and details required in the F-1/I-20 and
J-1/DS-2019 visa processes.
- After you receive the I-20 or DS-2019, pay the SEVIS/I-901 fee.
- Visit the website of your local US Consulate to make a visa interview appointment.
- Take the I-20 or DS-2019 with the supporting documents (proof of English, transcripts, proof of funding sources) to the visa interview. Be prepared to discuss your educational goals and academic plan of study.
- Your visa case is adjudicated by the US Consulate.
- If approved, you will receive a visa, which will be a large sticker in your passport. Use the visa and I-20 or DS-2019 to enter the US. If your visa application is denied, the US Consulate gives you the reason in writing. Ask the Consulate or visit their webpage to learn about appealing any denial and contact us.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a visa?
The amount of time it takes to process a visa varies depending on the resources available at each Consulate and the number of requests. Visit this US Department of State Visa Wait Times website for an estimated time frame.
What is the SEVIS or I-901 fee?
The SEVIS fee is paid by students before they can obtain the student visa. You need a SEVIS fee receipt in order to obtain a student visa interview appointment. Visit the SEVIS fee website to learn more and to learn about payment options. You need the information on your non-immigrant paperwork (I-20 or DS-2019) to pay the fee.
What is an I-94 card?
An I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) is a small white card issued at the US border which is normally stapled or placed inside the passport. The student writes in their name, date of birth and country of citizenship. The I-94 card shows the place of entry into the US, the visa status and the expiration of the visa status. This is a very important immigration document and should not be lost. The visa status expiration date is noted as a specific date on the I-94 or as "D/S" which means "Duration of Status". This means a student can remain in the US as long as long they maintain legal status.
Why does my visa have an expiration date?
When you receive your visa, you will notice that it contains a specific expiration date. However, it is possible that your education is the United States will finish later than the expiration date on your visa. This is not a problem as long as you remain in the US. Your I-20 or DS-2019 and your I-94 card will be marked "D/S" which enables you to remain in the US for your education, so long as you are abiding by the regulations of your visa type. However, if you leave the US and the expiration date on your visa has passed, you will need to obtain a new visa to re-enter the US. Be sure you know your visa expiration date and keep this in mind when planning any trip outside of the US - even to Mexico or Canada. If in doubt about what to do, please visit us! Canadian exception:
The US and Canadian governments have made an agreement that Canadians do not need to physically obtain a visa in their passport to study in the US. The student needs all the same documentation and all the same visa rules apply. If the Canadian border official determines all the visa requirements are met, the I-20 is stamped and an I-94 is issued granting the student visa status without a physical visa in the passport.
Keys to Success
- The process to obtain a visa varies in each US Consulate depending on resources. Some Consulates use the web to schedule appointments, and others use the phone. Refer to your local US Consulate for details.
- The time it takes to obtain a visa varies from 2 days to 6 months. Apply as early as possible.
- Concisely and directly answer visa interview questions. Do not hesitate to ask the officer to repeat a question.
- An F-1 visa interview requires proof that you do not intend to immigrate to the US. Can you prove you have strong ties or reasons to return to your home country?
- Be prepared to talk about your academic and personal goals in the consular interview. Why study at Ambrose? What are your plans when you complete your degree?
- Take all supporting admission documents to the visa interview: acceptance letter, educational transcripts, proof of funding, as well as admission test results and proof of English ability.
- Be careful completing forms and proof read your immigration documents and visa for any possible mistakes. Mistakes can lead to delays so be careful and pay attention to details.
Another step in preparing to arrive at St. Ambrose is all about your health!
All St. Ambrose international students are required to have health insurance. If you are a J-1 visa holder, immigration law requires that you have a minimum level of health insurance coverage during your entire stay in the US.
Important note: Health insurance plans in the U.S. vary greatly. Generally, plans that cost less provide you with less coverage, and plans that cost more provide you with better coverage. Student health insurance plans are often designed to cover emergency medical expenses for a low price, and these plans often do not cover all possible medical costs. Many plans do not cover your costs if your illness existed before you purchased the plan (these are called "pre-existing conditions"). Therefore it is very important that you understand what your insurance policy covers. You have a couple of options regarding health insurance, and you must choose one before arriving at St. Ambrose:
- Enroll in the St. Ambrose student insurance plan. First, review the plan (pdf) to see if this coverage is suitable for you. If you wish to purchase the plan, you do not need to do anything. On the first day of classes you will automatically be enrolled in this policy and the charge will appear on your university bill. If you are a student athlete, you will require a different insurance plan and we will put you in contact with the agent for our athlete policy.
- Choose your own student health insurance plan. Many companies offer health insurance for students traveling abroad, and they are competitively priced. We do not recommend one company over another, but some examples are:
St. Ambrose Health Form
The Health Form provides our on-campus nurse with the information necessary to understand your medical needs while you are here. You should complete pages 2 and 3 of this form to the best of your ability and bring it with you when you come to campus. During orientation, you will meet with our on-campus nurse, who will collect this from you. If you have any questions on health insurance or the health form, please contact us!
Now that you are accepted and have a visa, it is time to make travel arrangements! You should plan to arrive on campus to attend International Student Orientation, settle into your new environment, and recover from jet lag.
International Student Orientation
- Fall 2017 - Thursday, August 17, 2017 for the Fall semester.
If you are living on campus, please plan to arrive to campus on Wednesday, August 16, 2017. Your rooms are not guaranteed to be ready until this date.
Travel Arrival Information
Once travel arrangements are made, please email International Student Services with these details.
We will arrange for free airport pick-up if you fly into the Quad City International Airport (airport code MLI), in Moline, Illinois, approximately 20 minutes from campus. Send us your itinerary two weeks before you arrive so there is time to arrange pick up. If you prefer to fly into Chicago, there is a shuttle service that will bring you directly to campus, but this cost will need to be covered by you. Contact ACT II to make Chicago airport shuttle arrangements. Be sure to mention that you need to be dropped off at St. Ambrose University.
Driving and Parking on Campus
Davenport is located south of Interstate 80, on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. Driving to campus is quite straightforward. Our campus is located on Locust Street, which is the main east-west street crossing the city. If you are able to drive to campus, you are welcome to park in any campus parking lot until classes begin. After the start of classes, you will need to purchase a student parking permit to park your car on campus. You will also be restricted to parking in student lots.
Because you'll be with us for at least a semester, packing is serious business! If you're flying, you're probably limited to two suitcases on a plane, but you want to be sure you bring those things that will make St. Ambrose feel like your "home away from home!" Here are some tips on packing the right things for your time here.
What to Pack
First, it's important to know what weather to expect in Iowa during your time here. For the fall semester, it will be hot at the beginning, gradually cooling, and possibly quite cold by the end of the semester. The spring semester is just the opposite, with very cold temperatures at the beginning, gradually warming to mild Spring temperatures by April and May.
- Clothing on campus is informal. Jeans, sweaters, casual shirts, and jackets are common. In warmer weather, shorts and T-shirts are fine. For the winter, you will need heavy coats and boots for snow. If you do not have these, you can purchase them when you arrive. Clothing is readily available in a wide price range in the Quad Cities.
- It would be a good idea to also bring a few nicer pieces of clothing too (skirts or dresses for women; trousers and button-up shirts for men). You may be invited to dinners or receptions, and you will want something more formal.
- Also, if you are able, bring some traditional clothing from your country. It is nice to share with your friends and at cultural events.
Bring contact information for family and friends so you can stay connected with home. Also be sure to bring contact information for your bank in case you have any problems with money transfers while you are here.
If you take medication regularly, bring a sufficient supply, along with a copy of the prescription. If you wear glasses, it's a good idea to bring an extra pair and a copy of your prescription.
You may be asked to present information about your home country, and it is useful to bring a flash drive, computer, or camera with photos from home on it.
Because you will likely find yourself invited to privates homes, it's a good idea to have several inexpensive but typical gifts to represent your country. Small and light gifts are the most practical. No one will expect anything big or expensive!
Many international students bring electronics, such as laptops, iPod, and cameras. Be cautious about the electrical conversion; not only is the voltage and shape of electric plugs different, the megahertz cycles are different. Bring converters and adapters if you choose to bring your electronics. For smaller items such as hair dryers, we suggest purchasing those here.
What NOT to Pack
- Sheets, blankets, pillows: The sheet sizes in the US are probably different than what you use. Campus beds are extra long twin or single beds. If you live on campus, we will provide you with temporary university linens. You may purchase your own linens after you arrive.
- Towels: We will also provide you with a temporary towel and facecloth if you are living on campus. You may purchase your own towels after you arrive.
- Food: There are strict restrictions on products that can be brought in to the U.S. The best advice is to not bring any food with you except small items like gift chocolates or candies.
- Too much: As difficult as it may seem, try to pack lightly. You will almost certainly be shopping during your time here, and no one will mind if you wear the same shirt or trousers quite often!
Making Ambrose Your Home Away From Home
We want your Ambrose experience to be as positive as possible. An important part of what we do is provide you with the information you need to make Davenport your "home away from home."
Click below for resources on living in the U.S. If you have any questions that aren't answered here, remember that we are always happy to help you. Just email, call, or stop in!
Two of your best resources on campus for support, advice, and guidance are the Student Ambassadors.
Each year, the International Student Services Office employs two upper-class students as main points of contact for our international students. Student Ambassadors have traveled abroad and love all things international - especially our international students!
You will first be introduced during International Student Orientation. Then, you will meet them throughout the year at our social gatherings, in the cafeteria, and anytime you'd like some help. Our Student Ambassadors have cars and are happy to take you shopping for groceries and other essentials during your time here.
They are your best connection to the St. Ambrose student community, and they're excited to welcome you to campus!
If you plan to work in the United States, you will need to learn about obtaining a Social Security Number. The government uses Social Security Numbers for tracking payments of income tax, allocating government benefits to you, and for many data collection reasons. A Social Security Number is required if you are working in the US.
To acquire a Social Security Number, you must visit your local Social Security Office in person. The office closest to campus is in Davenport. You do not need to make an appointment.
When visiting the office, you need to bring your passport, visa, I-94 card, I-20 or DS-2019, job offer letter, and application form, called the SS-5.
- You should wait approximately 10 days after you arrive in the US before you apply for a Social Security Number, so your immigration data is accessible to the Social Security Office.
- You need to have a job offer before you can apply for your Social Security Number.
- In Iowa, you do NOT need a Social Security Number to obtain a driver's license.
- Once you have a Social Security Number, you use that same number for as long as you work in the US.
Social Security Administration
4319 N Brady Street
Davenport, Iowa 52806 1-855-420-8556 toll free
Monday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tuesday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wednesday 9:00 am - Noon
Thursday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Friday 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday Closed
Closed on federal holidays
If you work for pay while in the U.S., you will need to consider whether you are required to submit tax returns, which are forms sent to the government at the end of the tax year, confirming how much you earned and how much tax has been taken out of your wages.
In the U.S., there are both federal taxes (which are used for nationwide spending) and state taxes (which are used by each state for their own spending). So, if you work in Iowa, you need to know about federal taxes and Iowa state taxes.
How taxes work in the US
In the US, the federal taxing authority is called the Internal Revenue Service, or IRS for short.
When you begin working for an employer, he or she will ask for your Social Security Number. Then, at each pay period, your employer will withhold taxes from your paycheck and give this money to the government. Using your Social Security Number, your employer and the IRS keep track of how much money has been taken from your wages for taxes.
At the end of the tax year (December 31), your employer informs the government and you of your total taxes withheld in a form called a W-2. You then use this W-2 to determine whether you have overpaid or underpaid your taxes for the year. This may depend on whether you had expenses in the year that could be deducted from your income, or if you had your employer withhold too little or too much from your wages.
If you have overpaid, you will be given a refund. If you have underpaid, you will be asked to pay the balance to the IRS. A similar system is in place for state taxes.
The best place to begin to learn about your federal tax obligation is the IRS website on filing requirements for international students. April 15 is the day that U.S. federal taxes are due each year. You will receive your W-2 in January. Therefore, you have from January to April 15 to complete your tax return. Many students seek out assistance in completing their federal and state tax forms. We strongly suggest either of the following:
- Using a tax professional. There are many firms of accountants in the area who specialize in preparing tax returns from January - April, and their services are relatively inexpensive for simple tax returns.
- Using software specifically designed to assist non-immigrants with completing their tax forms, called Glacier Tax Preparation. The software generates the appropriate tax forms after you complete a series of questions. It's inexpensive and is a quick way to complete your forms on your own. When visiting the link above, choose the product for "individuals."
Each U.S. state has state forms as well, although the tax withheld and tax payable is usually much smaller than the federal tax obligation. Tax professionals can assist with State tax forms, or you can do these yourself. The Glacier Tax Preparation product does not assist with your state return. It is best to prepare both your federal and state tax returns at the same time.
Students should contact a tax professional or Glacier Tax Preparation directly with your tax questions. The International Student Services Office is happy to give you further information on tax professionals in the area and on the Glacier Tax Preparation system.
Many international students choose to drive while they are in the US. It provides an unparalleled opportunity for sight-seeing, and it can also be very useful for getting around the Quad Cities.
However, it is certainly not necessary to have a car, especially if you are here just for a semester or year. The Quad Cities has an excellent bus system, and our Student Ambassadors are always happy to give you a lift around the city.
Renting a car
Car rental in the US is quite easy. You may rent a car for as short as a day or longer. It is an excellent way to travel on a holiday around the country. The Quad Cities has many car rental agencies. Some agencies will only rent to older drivers (over 25), so you will want to ask about this. Also, please make certain that you have appropriate insurance purchased to cover you while driving. If you plan to rent a car in the U.S., you should obtain an international driver's license before you arrive here. This permit verifies that you hold a valid license in your home country. Contact the authorities in your country to get an international driver's license, because the United States does not issue them to foreign visitors.
Obtaining a State of Iowa driver's license
If you plan on purchasing a car in the US, you will need to obtain a driver's license. Licenses are issued by each state, so if you are resident in Iowa, you will apply for an Iowa driver's license.
With an Iowa driver's license, you are able to drive as a tourist in any other state in the US. Please just keep in mind that the traffic laws in each state vary. It is your responsibility to know and obey the laws of that state while driving.
The Iowa Department of Transportation (also called IDOT) administers driver's licenses, and you must follow their laws and regulations for obtaining a license. The two main steps are:
- Present the proper identification documents to IDOT; and
- Pass the required tests (written and driving test).
The Iowa Driver's Manual, published by IDOT, contains information on what identification documents to present and what tests are required. This manual also contains the material you should study for the written test. If you plan to obtain an Iowa driver's license, it is important to read this manual!
The nearest IDOT branch is located on Village Shopping Center, 902 W. Kimberly Rd, Ste 6D, Davenport, Iowa 52806, about 10 minutes from campus. If you have questions about applying for your license, it is best to start by contacting this office.
What is an apostille?
An apostille is an official document from the Secretary of State of Iowa's Office. An apostille legalizes its corresponding document so that it can be recognized as valid in a foreign country. Some international students are required to obtain apostilles so that their home country will officially recognize the education they earned abroad.
What documents do I need to obtain an apostille?
- Official Transcript
- Letter from the Higher Learning Commission verifying that SAU is an accredited institution (the Center for International Education has a copy of this letter)
- Explanation of degree requirements both in English and your native language (these should be printed on official university letterhead)
Each of these documents must be copied and notarized by a certified Notary Public. We have two staff members on campus who are Notaries Public. They do not charge for their services.
How much does it cost?
The cost is $5.00 per apostille. An apostille must be obtained for each of the above documents. The Secretary of State accepts check and credit card payments. Make checks payable to the Iowa Secretary of State's office. You may place an order for the apostille by faxing or calling the Secretary of State's office and paying the fee with a Visa or Mastercard. Phone: +515/281-5204
Once I have collected all of the necessary documents, what do I do next?
Mail all the notarized documents along with your check payment to the Secretary of State's office at the address below. Include your name and mailing address. This is where the apostille will be mailed. Also include the name and address of the location where the documents will be filed in your home country. Send apostille requests to: Public Service Representative
Iowa Secretary of State
Lucas Building, 1st Floor
321 East 12th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
How long does it take to get the apostille?
Apostille requests are usually returned within 14 days.
Whom should I contact for more information?
If you have questions about the process for requesting an apostille, please contact the Iowa Secretary of State's office: Phone: 515/281-5204