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Student Visa (I-20) Information

Visa Eligibility

Most international students require an F-1 visa/I-20 document to study in the U.S. The Graduate Admissions Office issues I-20 documents to new students in compliance with federal immigration regulations which require the following:

  • Student must meet or exceed the University's minimum standard for English Proficiency
  • Program curriculum must be full-time and primarily in-person instruction. Students cannot receive an I-20 for completely or primarily online/distance learning programs or for part-time programs
  • Student must have adequate funding to cover tuition, fees and living expenses for their first year of study

I-20 DHL Shipping

All students are provided the option of receiving their I-20 document via regular mail or express mail at their own expense. We also offer a reduced-rate shipping option for programs who wish to cover the cost of I-20 shipping for their students. The advantages of this option are:

  • Special government shipping rates that are less than half the normal rate to most countries. (e.g. the average cost for shipping to China or India is between $14-$17 in most cases.)
  • No surcharge for shipments to embargoed countries such as Iran
  • Recruitment: international student surveys indicate that students react favorably to institutions who send I-20s by express mail.

If you would like to arrange for program-paid express mail service for your international students, please contact Jim Rowan.

Funding Information

To receive an F-1 visa/I-20 document, international students must have adequate funding to cover their first year of living and educational expenses. Funding sources may include University assistantships, scholarships/fellowships, personal savings, family, employer or government scholarship, or other sources. Documentary evidence of all funding sources is typically required during the visa application process. 

This information shows the minimum amount of funding a student will need to show in order to get an I-20 for the 2019-20 academic year. These figures are an estimate that includes room and board, books and supplies, student fees, health insurance and (if applicable) tuition at the standard graduate rate for 6-14 credits. Please note that figures will vary for students in programs with differing tuition rates.


Twin Cities and Rochester


50% Assistant



25% Assistant



No Assistantship



As always, your graduate program can set whatever assistantship or fellowship stipends you wish. We are simply informing you of these amounts in case you want to set your stipends accordingly. For example, if your graduate program is able to offer a funding package of at least $19,490 to a 50% graduate assistant, that student will not have to show any additional funding in order to get an I-20. This might make for a more attractive award. Again though, your program can offer any stipend amount – either less or more than the amounts listed above.

Please contact the admissions office with any questions about the I-20 process or calculating expense estimates for international students.

Program Start Dates

The Program Start Date is indicated on I-20 visa documents and determines when a student can enter the US with their F-1 visa. 

The Program Start Date is the last date that a student may enter. The earliest date of entry is 30 days prior to the program start date. This is known as the “earliest admission date” and is also printed on the I-20.

The Program Start Date for a student without an assistantship is always the first day of the semester. For example, a student on the Twin Cities campus starting fall semester would be able to travel to the US anytime between early August and early September. Dates for Duluth students are usually about one week earlier than Twin Cities.

Students with assistantships or other payroll appointments must arrive earlier. Their start date is about two weeks prior to the start of the term. For fall admits to Twin Cities campus, the entry window will fall between the end of July and the 3rd or 4th week in August. 

Students will find their exact program start and earliest admission dates on their I-20 documents. GPCs can view a copy of the I-20 document in the materials section of an application in Slate. 

Can these dates be changed?

We cannot change start dates to allow students to arrive earlier than the 30-day entry period. However, a student may receive permission to arrive late in certain circumstances. Late arrivals require authorization by the Graduate School Office of Admissions  and/or ISSS. To request a late arrival please contact Jim Rowan or Suzan Koroglu.


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Admissions Resources for Grading, Tests, and Classroom Readiness

International Grading Systems (Country Sheets)

Access country by country grading criteria for graduate admissions. Please note that the recommendations contained in these country sheets are Graduate Admissions minimums. Individual programs may set higher requirements. 

Please contact Jim Rowan or Paula Baker with questions or concerns.

English Language Proficiency Information and Resources

University policy requires international students (and domestic students whose first language is not English) to provide proof of English language proficiency as a condition of admission. In addition, federal immigration regulations prohibit the University from issuing a visa document to any student who has not satisfied this requirement.

ESL Exam Exemption

Students from certain English-speaking countries are exempt from providing exam scores or additional proof of English proficiency. Not all countries where English is an official language or is widely spoken are included in the exemption list.

English Proficiency Test Waiver

If your program wishes to admit a student who is not able to satisfy the English requirement through one of the means above, you may request a waiver  by completing the form. Programs should be prepared to provide evidence of a student’s English ability.

Waivers for Twin Cities students are submitted to the Minnesota English Language Program (MELP).

Waivers for Duluth campus students are submitted to the Duluth Graduate School Office.

American Classroom Readiness Course

The American Classroom Readiness Course from English3

In 2015, the Carlson School’s Human Resources and International Relations graduate program piloted the use of the American Classroom Readiness course (ACR) with its incoming cohort of international students. In 2016, other programs around the University joined and used the ACR with incoming international students. Each year the Graduate Admissions office has supported funding for the ACR, and this year Graduate Admissions is offering to pay for the ACR for any graduate programs that would like to use it, contingent on the availability of funding.

Why use the ACR?

While program approaches may vary, the common goal is to help incoming international graduate students have a smooth transition and successful start in their first semester on campus. The American Classroom Readiness (ACR) course is designed to expose international students to the expectations of graduate education in the U.S. (e.g., working in groups, participating in lectures, delivering effective presentations, etc.) A key component of the program is direct interaction with the ACR’s trained staff as well as other international students in their cohort. However, it should be noted that the ACR is not intended to be a substitute for formal language instruction or in place of on-campus international student orientation for your program.

Who uses the ACR?

You can determine who should use the ACR for your graduate program, but typically it would be the entire incoming cohort of international students.

How does it work?

Students work through a series of modules focusing on various aspects of the graduate experience. These include writing, listening, reading and the American classroom experience as well as discipline-specific vocabulary and special topics like the U.S. job market. Many of the activities in the modules include viewing short videos prepared by the ACR staff (or your program if you decide to create your own content) and uploading video responses. Students will also receive feedback from ACR staff (and you, if you choose to participate) and will also interact with each other in the course, which helps to create valuable peer relationships even before they meet on campus.

When would the ACR be offered?

The average ACR course takes students between 50-80 hours to complete, but this can be scaled up or down depending on your needs. Allowing students 8-10 weeks to complete the course before arriving on campus is a good general timeframe. 

It is also recommended that programs start reviewing the ACR course and making any customizations at least 3 months before students first log in. Programs will work directly with the ACR staff to create the course.  Once the course has begun, ACR staff will communicate directly with enrolled students and provide feedback on their participation. U of M program staff should also monitor student progress along the way and communicate with students about their participation to ensure satisfactory completion.

How do I get started?

  • Explore the English3 ACR demo site to familiarize yourself with the product and decide if you would like to participate in the service for your next incoming class of international students.
  • Contact Stacy Doepner-Hove if you would like a walk through of the tool or want to discuss your program’s needs, timeline, and the set-up logistics. Or, if you are likely to be moving forward with the ACR, contact 
  • The Graduate School Office of Admissions has agreed to pay for the ACR for any incoming international students. Stacy Doepner-Hove and she will put you in touch with the ACR staff to get you started.
  • Develop and deliver your course with the staff of the American Classroom Readiness course!

Conditional Admission

As the University's international graduate applications increase, programs are receiving more requests for conditional admission for applicants who are academically qualified, but may not yet have the language skills to successfully enter the program. Often students in this category carry partial or full funding from their home government, Fulbright, or another sponsoring organization that may cover a year or more of intensive English study.

This web page has information for those graduate programs interested in offering conditional admission. These resources are not encouraging the lowering of any graduate program admissions requirements. To the contrary, we are seeking to support your graduate program with the recruitment of top-tier academic candidates who simply need some additional English proficiency skills.

How can my program conditionally admit international students?

If you are interested in putting your graduate program on a list of programs to be considered by funding agencies, contact Gabi Schmiegel in the ISSS office.

If you are reviewing applicants, the information on this page is meant to help you make conditional admissions decisions by offering "recommended minimum conditional scores." These scores have been determined by experienced ESL instructors and researchers within the U of M's Minnesota English Language Program (MELP), and they reflect how much progress can be expected in one year of intensive English study. In other words, if your program requires a score of 79, but admits someone with a score of 61 on the internet based TOEFL test, it would be very likely that one year of study at MELP would result in the 79 score required for admission.

You will notice there are two admission requirement scores for each test. The lower score (79, 550, 6.5) reflects the University's operational standard for that test. The higher score (100, 600, 7.5) reflects the scores commonly used by U of M graduate programs with more stringent English proficiency requirements. If your program uses a different required minimum for admission, you can contact Mike Anderson within the MELP office for assistance.

What are some of the risks involved with this process?

It is important to note that graduate programs are not required to admit an applicant if he/she does not make adequate progress after a year of intensive language study. To avoid this unfortunate situation, programs should take considerable care when making a conditional admission decision and make it clear in the offer letter that admission can be revoked if necessary. Please consult with either MELP or the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) offices, with other graduate programs allowing conditional admission, or even faculty/students from the applicant's home country.