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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

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. 

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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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.

Alternative Proof of English Proficiency

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 an alternative proof of English proficiency 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.

Effective immediately for Students From Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria


  • The ESL Policy Committee is in the process of revising the English Proficiency Exemption list to include Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.
  • Students whose education took place in Ghana, Kenya or Nigeria satisfy English language proficiency requirements and do not need to provide English test scores
  • The updated list will be published as soon as it is available.