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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.

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.