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Future Students

Getting Your F-1 Student Visa

Here are the steps to getting your F1 student visa and entering the US.

  1. Apply to ELI for the “Intensive Academic English” program at least 60 days before your intended program start date
  2. Receive a confirmation email from with next steps
  3. Send us required documents at least 45 days before your intended program start date
  4. Our ISSS office will issue an I-20
  5. After you receive your I-20 from ELI, follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 student visa at least 15 days before your intended program start date. Instructions for getting your visa are here
  6. Notify the ELI office about your visa status at least 7 days before your arrival to the USA
  7. Arrive to Knoxville before your orientation start date

The I-20 is valid for one year from the date of issue. It requires a specific arrival date. Students who cannot enter the United States before the specified date should request an extension by contacting the English Language Institute. There is no extra charge to change the date if your original I-20 is still valid.

US immigration law requires you to enroll at ELI if you have received your I-20 from ELI. A student must enroll at the institution which issues the I-20 to enter the United States.

Additional Regulatory Processes

  • Check your I-20 form to make sure it is accurate. If it is not accurate, contact us.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee of $350 at Print your receipt!
  • Go to
  • Find the US Consulate nearest you
  • Submit the DS-160 visa application form online
  • Make an appointment for a personal interview. We recommend that you apply for the visa at least 8 weeks before you plan to travel
  • Schedule your visa interview appointment
  • Take the following items to your visa appointment:
    • I-20 form
    • Passport valid for at least 6 months
    • Printed receipt for the SEVIS fee
    • Documentation (receipt) that you have paid for your Visa Application Fee
    • Evidence that you have the funding listed in the financial section of the I-20 (bank statement, certified bank letter, letter from sponsor, etc.)
    • Be prepared to demonstrate that you plan to return to your home country after your academic program is complete
  • When you enter the US, have your passport and I-20 form ready to show the Immigration Officer. Make sure that your passport shows your F-1 status

Your Pathway to the University of Tennessee: Conditional Admission

If you meet all admission requirements for the University of Tennessee but your English is not yet strong enough, you can apply to UT for Conditional Admission. If you are accepted for Conditional Admission, ELI will issue you the I-20 form so that you can get an F1 student visa and enroll in our English Language Institute (ELI), where our intensive program of English classes will help you prepare for undergraduate or graduate studies at UT.

The required TOEFL score for admission to the University of Tennessee is 523 on the institutional level Paper-Based TOEFL test (PBT). After you reach this score, you can begin your studies as a fully admitted student at UT.

Alternatively, when you complete ELI’s highest level, you can request a letter of recommendation from ELI; if in our judgment you are ready to start undergraduate studies, you may be admitted to UT even without the required TOEFL score. Your F1 visa is then transferred to the University of Tennessee.

Living close to campus helps you to take advantage of many cultural, social, and language benefits. Students who live close to campus have more opportunities to engage in campus activities and make new friends, which helps improve their language learning.

University Housing

Students who choose to live on campus must read the contract carefully. For more information and instructions on how to apply, visit the University Housing website.

Benefits of living in university housing:

  • Within walking distance of campus
  • Near bus and trolley routes
  • A roommate can be found for you
  • Utilities, internet, furniture included
  • Often coupled with a university meal plan

Note: The university does not offer family housing.

Apartment Housing

Please be advised that the English Language Institute is not responsible for the content of any third-party housing websites. Information on third-party websites may change at any time without notice.

General information regarding off-campus housing can be found on the Off-Campus and Commuter Services website or on one of many apartment rental websites such as

Benefits of living in an apartment close to campus:

  • It may be within walking distance of campus
  • It may be near a bus or trolley route (see Knox Area Transit website)
  • Some apartments offer shuttle service—but you should pay attention to scheduled times of service
  • You can choose roommates (we recommend finding an American roommate or living with someone who speaks a different language)
  • No need to leave or move during university breaks

ELI is not able to offer home stays with American families.

*Disclaimer: ELI students must find their own housing and must be aware of each facility’s contract agreements. The housing may involve paying a security deposit, and it is important to make sure the lease agreement isn’t broken for the length of time you plan to stay.