International Applicant FAQ


1) What percentage of international students do you accept each year?
Our goal is to admit highly qualified students to our program regardless of origin. Therefore, we do not have a limit on the number of international students admitted.

2) Do I have to satisfy certain special academic requirements to be admitted?
Not beyond the published admission requirements to ICO.

3) What is a DSO?
The Designated School Official is the person on-campus designated to assist International Students. At ICO, the DSO is Lavern Young, Registrar.

4) What is an F-1 Nonimmigrant?
An F-1 Nonimmigrant is a foreign student pursuing a full course of study at an academic institution authorized to admit foreign students.

5) What is a Form I-20? How and when do I get one?
A Form I-20 is the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Students issued by the college accepting students. An approved college may issue one to a foreign accepted applicant after proof of financial responsibility has been met. The DSO will mail you an I-20 no later than 30 days prior to the start of the fall quarter.

6) What is the SEVIS fee?
Department of Homeland Security regulations require that individuals seeking status as an F-1 nonimmigrant student pay a $200 fee to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student Exchange Visitor Program, including the administration and maintenance of SEVIS. Student and exchange visitors will have the options to pay with a check by mail or with a credit card via the internet. The DHS will also accept fee payment from a third party, either in the U.S. or abroad. For current SEVIS fee information, please see the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement website.

7) Is a passport required for entry to the United States? Birth certificate? Social Insurance Number?
Yes; you must present your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay, at the port of entry. You must also present your SEVIS Form I-20. You should carry these by hand instead of checking them with your luggage, to ensure that they are not lost. In addition, it is strongly recommended that you also hand carry the following documentation:

  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee
  • DSO contact information: Lavern Young, 312-949-7430 

8) Are family members eligible to enter the United States with me?
Yes, the spouse and unmarried minor children of an F-1 nonimmigrant may accompany the student to the U.S. They will be classified as F-2 nonimmigrants. There is no SEVIS fee for spouses and dependent children.

9) Do you have any tuition payment plans available for international students?
ICO does not have a specific payment plan for international students. However, we do have several payment plans available for any student who chooses one.

10) Is financial aid outside Canada available?
Yes, but unfortunately very few low interest loans are available to foreign students. The Student Financial Services Department at ICO will assist you in determining what loans, if any, you qualify for, all of which require a U.S. co-signer. Canadian loans are also available to students studying in the U.S.

11) Are immunizations required?
Yes, students who enroll at a post-secondary educational institution are required by Illinois state law to present proof of immunity (from measles, mumps, rubella, and tetanus/diphtheria) to their school. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that health care workers comply with certain infection control measures. Specifically, this involves immunization for hepatitis B and annual testing for tuberculosis. The required forms are made available to the incoming class.

12) Is medical/health insurance available?
Yes, major medical and dental insurance is available through the American Optometric Student Association. If you’re Canadian, it’s important that you notify your Provincial Health Care Plan (i.e. Ontario – Health Insurance Plan) that you will be attending school in the U.S. Most provincial plans will cover you, but only partially.

13) Will I be permitted to go home for holidays? Quarter breaks? If so, do I have to apply for a new visa each time I leave or re-enter the U.S.?
Yes, you are permitted to leave and re-enter the United States as long as your documents are valid and properly endorsed. You do not have to apply for a new visa each time. Usually, the visa is valid for the duration of the program.

14) Do I have to inform the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services of a change of address?
All foreign nationals residing in the U.S., including U.S. permanent residents and non-immigrants, who are over the age of 14 and remaining in the U.S. for more than thirty days are required to report a change in address to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services within 10 days. Change of address forms are available from the Registrar.

15) If due to an unforeseen reason, I don’t complete the program on time, can I apply for an extension?
Yes, contact the DSO for the required paperwork.

16) Am I permitted to remain in the U.S. after graduation?
Yes, an F-1 student may be eligible to engage in temporary employment for practical training in his or her field of study. Practical training following completion of studies is designated as Optional Practical Training, which may be granted for a maximum of 12 consecutive months. No specific job offer is required to request OPT.

17) When and how do I apply for OPT?
A student must apply prior to completion of the course of study. The DSO will assist you with the required paperwork during the winter quarter of your fourth year of study.

18) Am I permitted to leave and re-enter the U.S. under this training?
Yes, an F-1 student engaged in OPT who travels outside the United States temporarily can be readmitted for the remainder of the authorized training period, provided the student presents the Form I-20 (endorsed by the DSO within the preceding six months) and an Employment Authorization Document.

19) Is on/off campus employment available for international students?
Yes, an F-1 student may accept on-campus employment at the institution he or she is authorized to attend without prior approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service. In addition, an F-1 student may work a maximum of 20 hours a week while attending school. A U.S. social security number is required. There are certain conditions which must be met in order to engage in off-campus employment. The Designated School Official can assist you in this process.

20) Do I need to apply for a Social Security Card for employment purposes?
Yes, the Social Security Card will state, “not valid for employment purposes,” which means unauthorized employment. In fact, it is suggested that you apply for a Social Security Card as soon as possible after entering the United States.

21) Where do I obtain a Social Security Card?
You must apply in person to the nearest Social Security Office. You are required to complete an application and show proof of identity. Acceptable examples of identity documents are driver’s license, passport, school ID card and birth certificate. To be eligible for a Social Security Number you must provide evidence of age and identity, an I-20 form, a current I-94 (you will receive when you apply for your F-1 visa), and a letter from the DSO stating that you are authorized to engage in on-campus employment. Pertinent information is available from the Registrar. Processing takes approximately six to eight weeks.

21) What are NBEO exams?
The National Board of Examiners in Optometry exams are comprehensive national evaluations used to assist state boards in determining the candidates’ entry competence and safety for the practice of optometry.

22) Do you have any Provincial Board Exam information available?
The Registrar requests state board licensing requirements annually from all states and provinces within the U.S. and Canada. The information is kept on file for your convenience.

Admissions-Information-Materials-Button