More than 57,000 international students participate in Intensive English Programs (IEPs) in the United States each year.
What are ESL Programs?
[av_one_full first]English as a Second Language, or ESL, programs offer international students the chance to learn English or improve their English language skills. Courses are offered at hundreds of U.S. educational institutions and range from academic English for university-bound students to language and culture courses for travelers.
Intensive English Programs (IEPs)
• Can be taken for personal or professional reasons and not for academic credit.
• May also be taken to prepare for U.S. college or university admissions, and some IEPs offer “bridge programs” that help students transfer into an academic program.
• May include classes designed for any level of English proficiency.
• Usually require 20–30 hours per week of intensive English language study.
College American Language and Culture Programs:
• Are usually taken for academic credit to prepare for, or as part of, a U.S. college or university degree program.
• Often require an intermediate or advanced level of English language proficiency before enrollment.
• May be taken to improve a specific academic skill, such as reading, writing, or grammar.
• Will assist with adjustment to U.S. culture and campus life.
Research and Narrow Your Choices:
• American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP)
Nearly 300 AAIEP members offer accredited intensive English programs located in college and university settings or city centers across the United States.
UCIEP is an independent consortium of university and college-administered intensive English programs in the United States.
Intensive English USA is the leading source of information for international students who are researching study abroad opportunities in the United States.
Invest in Yourself!
The cost of an Intensive English Program in the United States will vary based on the institution and program.
If you know you want to attend an IEP in the United States, start your financial planning as early as possible.
Make Your Budget:
As you work to develop a budget for your IEP studies, keep in mind that your overall costs are comprised of tuition, fees, and living expenses.
Many programs require an application fee, which is often nonrefundable, and a tuition deposit. Be sure to find out the total cost of a program before you apply.
Admission requirements vary, but most IEPs require that students have completed secondary school and are able to prove they can pay the full cost of the program. As part of the application, you may be asked for additional information such as educational transcripts or documentation of English proficiency. You may also be required to agree to devote the majority of your time to language studies while in the program.
Learn about Conditional Admission
What is conditional admission?
Some institutions in the United States offer conditional admission to their academic programs. Applicants whose academic or professional qualifications are very good, but whose English language skills need improvement, may be offered conditional admission. This does not automatically mean they have been accepted into the academic programs offered by the college or university.
Before being granted full admission and being permitted to enroll in academic courses, students who receive conditional admission must:
• Complete additional English language courses, or
• Submit an acceptable score from a standardized English language proficiency test (such as the TOEFL or IELTS), and
• Submit any other remaining requirements as indicated in the conditional letter of admission.
Some international students may be required to take English language placement tests after they arrive on campus. Based on the results of those tests, students then enroll in their regular programs of study and/or they may need to enroll in additional English language courses.
STEP 1: Receive your certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant student status: Form I-20.
• To apply for a visa, you must first have received a Form I-20. The U.S. academic institution or program sponsor will provide you with the appropriate form only after you have:
• Been admitted to a SEVP-approved institution or accepted in an exchange program.
• Provided evidence that you can meet all the costs of the program.
• The academic institutions that admit you will send you a Form I-20.
STEP 2: Pay SEVIS fee
• You must pay a SEVIS fee and fill out other visa applications forms prior to your visa interview. Go to the SEVIS I-901 fee processing website for complete information about paying your SEVIS fee. Follow the instructions carefully. For more information, you may also visit the Study in the States website for students.
STEP 3: Apply and schedule interview
• Refer to the U.S. nonimmigrant visa website to complete the required application forms.
• It is best practice to ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the end of your study in the United States and that your name is spelled correctly and appears the same on all documents.
• Be sure to have your Form I-20 and your SEVIS receipt.
• Confirm you have the required documents and schedule your visa interview following the instructions on the website of your nearest
U.S. embassy or consulate.
• During the interview, be prepared to answer questions regarding ties to your home country, your English language skills, your academic background, the program in the United States to which you have been admitted, and proof of your financial ability
Gather Pre-departure Materials and Important Documents
Before you leave your home country, take the time to double-check that you have gathered all the documents you will need for your travel and stay in the United States.
• Passport and nonimmigrant visa. Hand-carry your passport and certificate of eligibility (I-20) with you at all times during your travel. On the plane before you land, you will complete the Arrival-Departure Record (I-94 form) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will take your biometric fingerprints and photograph. Part of the I-94 will be stapled into your passport. Do not lose it! The stapled portion will be removed when you leave the United States.
• Certificate of eligibility. Confirm you have the immigration form (Form I- 20) issued by the school or program you will be attending.
• Contact information. Have the name and phone number of your international student adviser on campus, in case you need to call him/her upon arrival in the United States.
• Birth certificate and marriage certificate, if applicable. Be sure to obtain notarized translations of these certificates if they are not in English.
• Academic transcripts. Bring your official transcripts, outlines, or descriptions of courses you have taken, and contact information for your U.S. campus.
• IEP acceptance letter.
• Certification of financial support. You should have an original signed statement of support from your sponsor, as well as an original bank statement from your sponsor, if you are entering the United States on an F-1 student visa.