Degree-Seeking International Students.
Please contact the department you are interested in applying to prior to completing the application. Departmental deadlines vary and some departments may require a preliminary application.
In order for your graduate degree application to be reviewed for admission, all of the required documents must be submitted to the department to which you are applying prior to their application deadline. For more information regarding deadlines and requirements, please contact the department.
We recommend that you follow up with the department to ensure that all supporting documents were received for review. Once the department reviews your completed application and all of the accompanying documents, they will send your file to The Graduate School (DGE) with their recommended admission decision. The Graduate School then reviews your application and issues a formal decision letter.
International Students must submit the following application materials:
Each department sets its own application deadlines. Contact the department to which you are applying for their specific deadlines.
Entrance Exam Requirements
Please contact the department to which you are applying for information regarding their entrance exam requirements.
If the department requires an entrance exam, The Graduate School must receive an official score report from the specific testing agency. Unofficial score reports may be used to initiate the application process. However, if accepted, registration will be prohibited until an official score report is received.
If an official score report is not obtainable, a score report will be accepted directly from another accredited academic institution.
Non-Degree International Student
Non-degree graduate students are those who have earned a bachelor’s degree and:
- do not wish to pursue a graduate program leading to an advanced degree at MSU but wish to take courses;
- have been denied regular or provisional admission;
- have non-degree standing through the recommendation of the department or The Graduate School;
- whose formal degree application is pending final action;
- who applied too late to be admitted for the intended term;
- who wish to apply for the teacher certification program, Northern Plains Transition to Teaching, or Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Certificate.
International students must submit the following application materials:
- a completed Application for Graduate Admission;
- a nonrefundable application fee payment of $60 for online applications or paper applications;
- official transcripts and bachelor’s degree certificate with official English translation;
- official English proficiency exam score report;
- a completed and signed Financial Certificate including proof of available funds (items such as a certified bank statement, certificate of deposit or other verified document). In the case of a sponsor, the document should be accompanied with a letter indicating support.
International graduate students and non-degree status
International students will be accepted as non-degree graduate students for a maximum of one year.
International non-degree applications must be submitted approximately 75 days prior to the start of the term to ensure enough time for the issuance of an I-20. Specific deadlines for non-degree international applicants are as follows:
- Fall Semester: May 15
- Spring Semester: October 1
- Summer Semester: February 1
English Proficiency Exam
International applicants to both degree and non-degree status must submit an official English proficiency exam score report. The accepted exams and minimum required scores are as follows:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- 80 (internet based test)
- 213 (computer based test)
- 550 (paper based test)
- IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
Some departments may require higher scores. International student requirements for teaching assistantships are addressed in the section on Graduate Assistantships.
English proficiency exam scores are not required if:
- English is the first official language of the applicant's country of citizenship, or
- the applicant has received an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution in the United States.
If sending official TOEFL or IELTS scores, please have them sent directly from ETS (Educational Testing Service) or the IELTS to Montana State University. Unofficial score reports may be used to initiate the application process. However, if accepted, registration will be prohibited until an official score report is received. Photocopies of the TOEFL may be accepted from the student and will be verified by ETS for accuracy.
For information regarding the TOEFL, please view the website www.toefl.org.
For information regarding the IELTS, please view the website www.ielts.org.
General Guide for International Students
All international students and visiting scholars on campus are required to comply with a number of complex regulations in order to remain legally in status while in the U.S. The federal SEVIS system is used to generate required documents, monitor compliance and process requests for visa benefits. The most important requirements are explained briefly below. We encourage you to work with the Office of International Programa (OIP), 400 Culbertson Hall, 406-994-4031, for advising on these important issues, and we welcome your questions as well.
- All students must be fully enrolled (12 credits for undergraduates and 9 credits for graduates) in the fall and spring semesters. (The majority of international students on the MSU campus have F-1 visas.)
- There are few exceptions to this rule – however, one important exception allows graduate students who hold a GTA or GRA position to enroll in 6 credits, as their work is considered part of their academic load.
- Undergraduate students can also apply for a “drop below”, but the permission is limited to one single time during their entire period of study, unless there is a serious, documented medical condition. Reasons for “dropping below” are very restricted.
- Any “drop below” (including for GTAs/GRAs) must be approved in advance. This process utilizes a special form (“Blue Form”) that is circulated and signed first by the Advisor, the Graduate School (graduates only) and finally by OIP to be logged into the SEVIS system and kept in the student’s file.
- Enrollment is optional in summer, unless the student initially arrives in the U.S. for summer session, in which case the minimum requirement is 3 credits per session.
- International students are allowed to work ON campus (maximum 20hr/wk during the academic year and 40 during summer or periods of vacation).
- Any OFF campus job is subject to approval by OIP and must be closely related to the student’s major. This is called CPT (Curricular Practical Training). The student needs to enroll for at least a 1“internship” credit to participate in CPT and approval of the student’s Advisor is required. CPT is limited to part time work during the academic year and can be full time in summer. OIP can grant permission for CPT.
- In order to be eligible for CPT a student has to have been enrolled for a minimum of 2 semesters.
- At the end of each level of study, the student is eligible to work one year in a position related to the field of study in the U.S. an extension of 17 months may be possible for STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math fields), via OPT (Optional Practical Training). The application process through the Department of Homeland Security takes approximately 3 months. The student should apply before graduation.
- Spouses of F-1 students cannot work.
Social Security Number
- A student needs to have a job in order to be eligible to apply for a SSN.
- All paperwork has to be issued through OIP.
- A student is allowed to start working prior to applying for or receiving a SSN.
- The SSN is usually issued approximately 2 weeks after application.
- All foreign students who have worked in the U.S. are required to file tax returns every year. Free tax assistance is organized on campus every year in the spring.
- Students who have not earned any money, must still file form 8843.
- International students are required to keep OIP informed of any change of address (lodging or e-mail).
J-1 Exchange Visitor Students
- The U.S. visa stamp in the passport is an entry document only; a student can stay in the U.S. with an expired visa as long as his/her form I-20 is kept up to date and he/she is maintaining legal status.
- However, if the student is going to travel outside of the U.S. and his/her visa has expired, he/she will have to apply for a new visa in order to re-enter the U.S.
- Before traveling, OIP needs to sign form I-20. This signature confirms that the student is in status, fully enrolled and eligible to return to MSU.
- At the end of their program of study the F-1 student has a 60 day “grace period,” allowing him/her to stay and travel in the U.S., but not to work.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Scholars
- J-1 students are bound by the same basic rules as F-1 students. Most are exchange (visiting) students or government-sponsored students.
- Their permission to work in their program is called “academic training,” which also needs to be directly related to their studies. Permission is granted by OIP – unless they are sponsored students in which case the sponsor needs to give the approval.
- The grace period for J-1 students is 30 days after the end of their program.
- The spouse of a J-1 student, J-2 can apply for permission to work, and is allowed to work both on and off campus once he/she gets the EAD (Employment Authorization Document) card. J-2 can also study.
- Scholars can be admitted to the U.S. for up to 5 years. Short-term scholars are limited to 6 months.
- MSU is authorized to invite Researchers, Short-term scholars, Specialists or Professors/Teachers.
- Participants in the Professor category are eligible only for non-tenured positions.
- Exchange visitors MUST carry insurance for the entire duration of their stay in the U.S.
- There are financial requirements for support of an Exchange Visitor; OIP will explain the details.
- The grace period for J-1 scholars is 30 days after the end of their program.
- The spouse of a J-1 scholar can apply for permission to work, and is allowed to work only after she/he receives the Employment Authorization Document card (application processing takes several months).
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