Illinois State University is located in the central part of the United States, in the town of Normal within the state of Illinois. Our community is called Bloomington-Normal because the Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington sit next to each other.
You cannot arrive in the U.S. more than 30 days before the program start date listed on your immigration document.
Be sure to carry your immigration documents with you rather than putting them away in your checked luggage. You must be able to show your papers quickly at various points during your trip.
When first landing in the United States and going through Customs and Border Protection (CBP), you will show the CBP officer your I-20 form and passport. The Study in the States website contains general information regarding Getting to the United States. If you are given permission to enter the United States, the inspector will stamp your passport. An arrival/departure record (referred to as an I-94 record) will also be automatically created for you.
ISSS recommends that you retrieve your I-94 and print a copy for your records after every entry into the US. You should also make sure your I-94 states that you were admitted in F-1 status and you were admitted until "D/S" which stands for "duration of status."
For more information regarding the I-94 and other border issues, please visit the Port of Entry pull-down in the travel section of our website.
The Office of International Studies and Programs recommends that students arrange their flight plans so they land in Chicago, Illinois, at Chicago O'Hare International Airport or Midway International Airport. Since Bloomington-Normal is about 3 hours south of Chicago, students need to make arrangements to travel from Chicago to Illinois State University.
If you plan to arrive at the Chicago O’Hare airport between August 9th and August 11th, Illinois State University will arrange to have staff members on site to welcome you and assist you in finding your travel provider, but you must fill out the Global Redbird Itinerary Form with your flight number and arrival time/date before August 1st so that we can make arrangements. You are still responsible for making and finalizing all of your travel arrangements from Chicago to Bloomington-Normal before you arrive. Staff cannot provide you with transportation from the airport to the University, however, there are several options for this journey: bus, plane or train. Do NOT take a taxi from Chicago to Bloomington-Normal: It is very expensive!
The Peoria Charter Bus offers service to Illinois State University from Chicago O'Hare and Midway International Airports. The trip from Chicago to Normal takes approximately 3 hours and costs about $35. Students can buy their tickets on the bus. It arrives at the Uptown Normal transportation center (Uptown Station).
There are direct flights from Chicago to our local Bloomington airport, Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI). The trip from Chicago takes only about 30 minutes. CIRA is very conveniently located in the Bloomington-Normal community and is only 3 miles from the university. Students will need to buy their tickets in advance.
Students may also take the train from Chicago to Normal on Amtrak. Students arriving at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport can take a taxi or other transportation to Union Station in Downtown Chicago. The Amtrak station is located about 45 minutes away from the airport. The trip takes 2.5 hours and takes students to the Uptown Normal transportation center (Uptown Station), right next to the University. It is best if students buy their tickets in advance at the Amtrak website.
This is a good option for students who will arrive early and want to spend time in Chicago before continuing on to Illinois State.
ISSS recommends that international students plan ahead for how they will get from our local Bloomington-Normal airport or bus/train station to their accommodations (hotel, dorm, apartment, etc.). Below are some of the local transportation options available.
The award-winning public transit bus system in Bloomington-Normal with various routes to take you all over town. It's $1 to ride and free once you get your Redbird Student ID card.
There are several local taxi cab companies. Some examples are listed below. For a full listing please visit the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
Checker Cab: (309) 828-0123
Circle City Cab: (309) 829-5342
Red Top Cab: (309) 827-9707
Illinois State University does not sponsor or endorse these organizations. However, in accordance with our mission to assist international students and as a convenience, we provide this information.
International Students Inc. (ISI) is a local organization not affiliated with Illinois State University that provides a variety of services to the international student population including: temporary housing options, host families, furniture, transportation help upon arrival, conversational English groups, bible study, and other special events. You can request transportation help and/or a home stay by completing a Registration Form online.
International Friends of ISU is a local organization not affiliated with Illinois State University that provides a variety of services to the international student population including temporary housing, options, household goods, transportation help upon arrival, welcome dinners, long-term host family matching, and other special events for students each semester. You can request help with transportation, housing, and a host family by messaging the organization through Facebook or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can request a host family by completing this application form.
There are several organizations on campus that may be able to provide assistance. Please review the directory of registered student organizations (RSOs).
If you have questions regarding any of the above information, email InternationalStudents@IllinoisState.edu. Please note that the above options are only for transportation within the Bloomington-Normal area.