Who Can Study?
There are three nonimmigrant visas available for foreign nationals to study in the United States: F-1 (Academic or Language Students), M-1 (Vocational or other Nonacademic Students), and J-1 (Exchange Visitors). The majority of UTEP international students who need a visa to study will do so in F-1 status. UTEP does not administer vocational programs and therefore does not have M-1 students.
F-1 students may be primarily financed by personal or family funds, and are required to obtain Form I-20 from OIP before applying for an F-1 visa or beginning classes.
J-1 students must be primarily financed directly or indirectly by the U.S. government, the government of their home country, or an international organization of which the United States is a member, and are required to obtain Form DS-2019 from OIP before applying for a J-1 visa or beginning classes.
Do I Need a Visa to Study?
- U.S. Permanent Residents (“green card” holders) may study at any U.S. school without a visa.
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other undocumented individuals in the U.S. are not eligible for a student visa, but may study at any U.S. school.
- These students should research which schools will accept undocumented students, and be aware that federal financial aid is generally not available to them.
- Many foreign nationals and their dependents who are in the U.S. in another status may attend any U.S. school, full-time or part-time, as long as it is incidental to their primary purpose for being in the U.S. Exceptions include:
- B-1/B-2 visitors and those on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may only engage in avocational or recreational classes, and are not permitted to enter the U.S. primarily to take classes. Degree-seeking students may not study on a visitor visa or the VWP.
- F-2 dependents may attend primary and secondary school full-time, but may only enroll in post-secondary studies part-time.
For a comprehensive chart of which nonimmigrants are eligible to study, visit Nonimmigrants: Who Can Study?.
Interacting with OIP
Students listed as non-U.S. citizens on their UTEP application will be contacted by our office shortly after accepting their admission offer and must fill out basic information to determine whether they will need to apply for an I-20/DS-2019. After completing this form, students who are maintaining another eligible status (and therefore do not need a student visa) will not require further contact with our office to enroll in classes.
Students with a non-student visa status may not extend their stay in the U.S. just to complete an academic program, but may contact our office to obtain F-1/J-1 status at any time during their program, if eligible.
Currently, DHS has only authorized UTEP to issue I-20s for the following certificate programs:
- Undergraduate Certificate in Intelligence and National Security Studies
- Graduate Certificate in Public Health
- Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies
- Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
- Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Leadership and Management
- Graduate Certificate in Biological Sciences
- Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics
Students who wish to pursue a certificate that is not on the list above may do so outside the U.S. if the program can be completed online, or can complete the certificate concurrently while they are completing a degree-seeking program at UTEP.
Online and Non-Degree Programs
OIP is not authorized to issue an I-20 to students admitted to an online or non-degree program. These students are permitted to enroll, but must either remain outside the U.S. or have another valid status that allows incidental study.
F-1 students completing programs at UTEP which offer or require a significant number of online classes are subject to all regulatory enrollment requirements. Generally, international students are required to enroll full-time (Undergraduates: 12 credits, Graduates: 9 credits) each Fall and Spring semester. Only 3 online credits per semester will count toward the minimum for full-time enrollment.