This article describes the visa requirements for students interested in booking an English course at a language school in the United States. All students, including students from visa waiver countries, must apply for an F-1 student visa for intensive English courses with more than 18 hours per week of classes.

1. Overview

There are two categories of students:

  • Students from countries that need a visa: For part-time English courses (less than 18 hours of lessons per week) that’s no more than 6 months, these students need to apply for a B1/B2 tourist/business visa. For full-time courses (more than 18 hours of classes per week), these students must apply for an F-1 student visa.

  • Students from visa waiver countries: These students may enroll in a part-time English course (less than 18 hours of classes per week) on an ESTA for a course lasting no longer than 3 months. For full-time courses (more than 18 hours of classes per week), these students must apply for an F-1 student visa.

2. Who needs a US visa?

A student must apply for a visa if he/she is a citizen of a country that is NOT a part of the visa waiver program. Am I from a visa waiver country?

3. US visa types

There are two types of visas:

  • Tourist/business visa (B1/B2): for part-time English course (18 hours per week or less): Students who are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short English course of less than 18 hours per week, may be able to do so on a B1/B2 visitor visa or an ESTA.

  • Student visa (F-1): for full-time English course (over 18 hours per week): Students who enroll in an English course with more than 18 hours of classes per week will need an F-1 student visa. After paying for the course, the student will receive an I-20 that to submit to the US embassy along with the visa application. The I-20 has a SEVIS tracking number on it. The student must pay the SEVIS fee online before going to the U.S. embassy for a visa interview.

4. Process for US visa applications

  • Register for the course on Language International.
  • Wait for the Form I-20. This will be mailed to the student’s provided address.
  • Pay for the $200 SEVIS fee by credit card online.
  • Apply for an F-1 visa at the U.S. Embassy.

5. Requirements for US visa applications

  • Passport
  • Bank statement
  • Proof of valid overseas health insurance
  • Form I-20 (for F-1 student visa applications)
  • In some cases: proof of transportation out of the USA
  • In some cases: proof of accommodation in the USA

6. Frequently asked questions

Can you issue a visa for my family members if they are not studying?

Legal dependents (spouse and children) of international students with an F-1 visa may enter the US as F-2 visa holders. To bring dependents to the US, the F-1 student must show evidence of financial resources to support his/her spouse and/or children. As a rule, you must show a bank account with $250 per week for each dependent that you wish to bring to the US.

The school will issue an I-20 form for your spouse and or children to use to apply for an F-2 visa and enter the US.

I'm already in the US and currently studying at another school. Can I transfer to one of your schools?

We have students that transfer to one of our schools, so we can certainly help you transfer. The transfer process is simple, but there are several things that we need from you:

  • An I-20 transfer form - After we receive full payment of your course, we will send you an I-20 transfer form. You need to ask your original school to fill out this form and send the form back to us.
  • A scanned copy of your valid F-1 visa stamp - If your visa stamp has expired or is about to expire, you need to travel back to your home country (or to one of the American embassies in Canada) for a new stamp.
  • A scanned copy of your I-20 from your original school - After you finish your studies at your original school, your original school will then transfer your I-20 to our school. The I-20 must be in our possession before you begin your course at our school.
  • Full payment of the course - We must receive full payment of the course before we can begin the transfer process. We accept payment by bank transfer, credit card, or check if you have a US checking account.
I have my F-1 visa but have not yet entered the US. I changed my mind and want to attend a school different from what's listed on my visa stamp. What do I do?

You have to report to your school on the start date listed on your Form I-20. Otherwise, the school may terminate your SEVIS record for failure to enroll on your start date.

If your course has not yet started, set up an appointment with the US Embassy. Get a new visa stamp issued for the new school before entering the United States. It is easier to get a new visa stamp before entering the United States than transferring after entering the United States.

My I-20 has been terminated. Can I get a new I-20 and transfer to your school?

I'm sorry to hear that your I-20 has been terminated. Once your I-20 has been terminated, you also lose your F-1 status. You may need to immediately leave the US, unless a school files for your reinstatement. Talk to your original school and ask them to apply for a reinstatement.

Can I study in the US with an expired F-1 visa stamp but a valid I-20?

The F-1 visa stamp or sticker on your passport allows you to enter the US for the primary purpose of studying. It does not matter if it expires while you are in the US, but if you leave the US when it has expired, you must get a new one before you return to the US. The visa is only used to enter the US. It does not have anything to do with permission to remain in the US.

If you need a new visa, you may either apply for one when you travel to your home country, or you may schedule an appointment with an American embassy in Montreal, Canada and apply for the visa there.

7. Useful links