F-1 Visa

Most ELI students will need a U.S. F-1 (student) visa.  When we send your acceptance letter and Form I-20 to you, we will include instructions on how to apply for the visa.

During ELI orientation, you will received detailed information about F-1 visa regulations.  ELI immigration advisors are always available to meet with you throughout your studies to discuss any questions or concerns.

How to Apply
  • Pay the $350 I-901 fee (SEVIS fee) online at
  • Find your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at
  • Review the instructions for F-1 visa applicants on the Embassy or Consulate website.  Procedures are different in each country, but all applicants must complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and pay a $160 Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee.
  • Schedule your visa interview (procedures vary by country).  The interview will be short, but your answers during the interview are very important.  The officer who conducts your interview will pay more attention to your answers than to your documents.  Be prepared to explain your reasons for studying English in the U.S., how you will pay for your tuition and living expenses, and your intention to return to your home country in the future.
F-2 Visas for Dependents (Family)
  • Your spouse and children may qualify for F-2 (dependent) visas.
  • F-2 children may attend K-12 public schools for free.  Contact for more information on enrolling your children in local public schools.
Change of Status
  • If you are in the U.S. now with a different type of visa (for example, B-1/B-2) and you want to change your status to F-1 without leaving the U.S., you must submit an application called Form I-539 to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • It may take several months for the U.S. government to process your application.  Approval is not guaranteed.
  • We recommend that you consult a qualified immigration attorney.
Maintaining F-1 Status
  • You may enter the U.S. for the first time up to 30 days before the program start date on your Form I-20.
  • Your visa must be valid when you enter the U.S., but it is fine if your visa expires while you are living in the U.S. (as long as your Form I-20 is still valid and unexpired).
  • You must study full-time (18 clock hours per week or 12 credits per semester) and you must attend at least 80% of your classes.
  • You may not work off campus while you are an ELI student.  ELI students are allowed to work part-time (up to 20 hours per week) for UMBC, but we cannot guarantee that you will find a job on campus.  You should not rely on wages from campus employment to pay your tuition or living expenses.
  • If you complete the highest level of your program (IEP or AEP), you may stay in the U.S. for 60 days after the last day of classes.  If you leave the ELI without finishing the program, the 60-day F-1 “grace period” does not apply.