International Student Services
From the moment you arrive on campus until the day you graduate, our International Student Services staff is here to help.
Our goal is to make your St. Ambrose experience a positive one, whether that means helping with your course schedule, answering a question about housing, or just catching up over a cup of coffee.
Please contact us with any questions you have.
All the Comforts of Home
A residence hall is more than a place to live; it's a place to live with purpose and compassion. With 24/7 security, weekly housekeeping, and Resident Assistants on each floor, students living on-campus are surrounded by people who care and want them to succeed.
A Multicultural Experience
The SAU community is dedicated to appreciating and understanding different cultures.
Through the BeeFriends program, International Students can connect with SAU students, faculty, staff, or community member. It's a way to have a cultural exchange, gain a new perspective on the world, and create a new friendship.
Learn more about BeeFriends. Contact Cathy Toohey at 333-6309 or at TooheyCatherine@sau.edu.
Can't wait for you to join us on campus!
Here are the necessary steps to arrive ready for class.
Housing Information: Consult the Residence Life website
What to Expect at Orientation
As an international student, you need to arrive on campus a few days before other students so you can become familiar with campus, your new classmates, and the services available to you at St. Ambrose. The date for orientation is set in late spring.
You'll also learn more about the regulations governing your visa status, including your work entitlements, travel entitlements, and what do to if you need help.
International Student Orientation is mandatory for all students coming to St. Ambrose on F-1 and J-1 visas. It's also a lot of fun!
Past students said they enjoyed International Student Orientation for these reasons:
- Getting to know other international students before classes start.
- Becoming familiar with the campus, registering for classes, and getting 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 sledding if the weather permits.
- Meeting the people who will help you while you're here. From Student Accounts to our on-site nurse, you'll get a chance to talk to the people who will make your time at St. Ambrose a success.
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 U.S. 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 an electronic record or paper record of a non-immigrant's place of entry into the US, the visa status and the expiration of the visa status. 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 U.S. as long as they maintain legal status. If you enter through a land border, you will receive a paper form I-94. Otherwise, you can download your electronic I-94 record from the official website.
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 U.S. Your I-20 or DS-2019 and your I-94 card will be marked "D/S" which enables you to remain in the U.S. for your education, so long as you are abiding by the regulations of your visa type. However, if you leave the U.S. 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 U.S. - even to Mexico or Canada. If in doubt about what to do, please visit us!
The U.S. and Canadian governments have made an agreement that Canadians do not need to physically obtain a visa in their passport to study in the U.S. 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 U.S. Consulate depending on resources. Some Consulates use the web to schedule appointments, and others use the phone. Refer to your local U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. Minimum health insurance requirements are on the J1 Visa website; click on the Insurance section under General Administrative Requirements.
Important note: U.S. health insurance plans 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 costs if your illness existed before you purchased the plan (these are called "pre-existing conditions"). Therefore, it is very important to understand what your insurance plan covers.
Information about the St. Ambrose student health insurance plan will be sent by email. There are plans available for F-1 and J-1 students. International Student Services will automatically enroll you in the iNext Scholar insurance plan and the yearly premium will be added to your university bill.
If you wish to select a different plan, you must notify International Student Services by August 10 and provide proof of insurance. Athletes need to show proof of health insurance before beginning preseason athletic training.
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!
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 Transportation to make Chicago airport shuttle arrangements.
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!
Let SAU be your home away from home
We want your Ambrose experience to be positive and will do all we can to help. Click below for information and resources on living in the U.S.
If we missed anything, please email, call, or stop in.
Two of your best resources on campus for support, advice, and guidance are the Student Ambassadors.
Each year, International Student Services employs two upper-class students as main points of contact for our international students. Student Ambassadors have traveled abroad and love all things international.
You'll meet them during International Student Orientation. You'll also see them throughout the year at our social gatherings, in the cafeteria, and anytime you'd like some help. Our Student Ambassadors have cars and can 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 need to obtain a Social Security Number. The government uses Social Security Numbers for tracking payments of income tax, allocating government benefits to you, and for data collection. A Social Security Number is required to work in the US.
To get a Social Security Number, you must visit the 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, 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 (IRS).
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 assistance to complete 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, such as Sprintax. St. Ambrose University has arranged free access to Sprintax Tax Preparation for you. Sprintax will guide you through the tax preparation process, arrange the necessary documents and check if you're due a tax refund.
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 Sprintax product can assist with your state return, however the student must pay the preparation fee for completing the State tax forms.
Students should contact a tax professional or Sprintax 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 Sprintax system.
Many international students choose to drive while they are in the US. It provides an unparalleled opportunity for sight-seeing and is very useful for getting around the Quad Cities.
However, it is 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. 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 at 902 W. Kimberly Rd, Ste 6D, Davenport, Iowa 52806, a few 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 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