Welcome guide


University Facts

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest public universities in the United States. Since 1883, when it was founded, it has grown from one building with eight teachers, two departments and 221 students, to a 350-acre (1.4 sq. km.) main campus with 21,000 faculty and staff, 16 colleges and schools and almost 50,000 students from all 50 states and over 100 countries.

The University of Texas at Austin is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the people of Texas and the world. UT Austin is a leading provider of education and research with a depth and diversity of resources unmatched by other public universities. As an enduring symbol of the spirit of Texas - big, ambitious and bold - the university drives economic and social progress and serves as a leading center of knowledge and creativity.

What starts here changes the world.

Learn about The University of Texas at Austin.

Pre-arrival Checklist

  • Read All Your UT Documents: Your acceptance letter contains information about two important appointments for your English Placement Test and Registration. It is important to be on time to both appointments and bring all required documents to registration.
  • Review Immigration Documents: Verify that all of the information on your I-20/DS-2019 and SEVIS fee receipt are correct. If you have decided to pay the SEVIS fee on your own, make sure to pay online.
  • Apply for a Visa: Apply for the F-1/J-1 visa at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country. See the Applying for a Visa section for more information.
  • Health Insurance: All international students with The University of Texas at Austin are required to have health insurance. You will automatically be enrolled in the UT Student Health Insurance Plan and your tuition covers your enrollment. If you already have health insurance and want to waive this requirement, have your current health insurance provider complete the waiver form. See the Health Matters section for more information.
  • Prepare for Initial Expenses: Make financial arrangements to cover the cost of tuition, books, the first three months living expenses, and recreation. See the Financial Matters section for more information.
  • Arrange Housing: Find a place to live. ESL Services is not able to assist you in arranging housing, but this guide provides an overview of the many housing options in Austin. See the Housing section for more information.
  • Plan Transportation: Plan how you will get from the Austin airport to your hotel or apartment. See the Arrival section for more information.

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Immigration Matters

Students Who Currently Reside Outside the United States

Anyone applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa must prove that they do not intend to immigrate to the United States. Under U.S. law, all student visa applicants are viewed by the U.S. Consular Officer as “intending immigrants” until the officer is convinced otherwise. You will need to show strong ties to your home country or place of residence to secure a student visa. Proof of strong ties to your country may include family, property ownership, financial statements, employment, or letters from family or friends.

You should be able to verify the financial information shown on your Form I-20/DS-2019. You can do this with your personal bank statement, or a statement of financial guarantee and letter of support from a sponsor confirming their willingness to support your education program. A sponsor may be your employer, a family member, or the government of your home country.

Our students have varying reasons for studying English; some students study English to prepare for undergraduate or graduate degrees in the U.S., others study for business or pleasure. During the visa interview, you should be able to explain confidently your purpose for studying English in the U.S.

If you are entering the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1, you may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before the program start date stated on your I-20/DS-2019. If your visa is delayed and you cannot arrive on time to begin your admitted semester, please email ESL Services about deferring your admission to a future semester.

F-1 Visa

Most students who enroll in a full-time ESL program enter the U.S. on an F-1 student visa. You must submit the completed UT ESL application, show evidence of financial support and pay the fees. Then ESL services will issue you a Form I-20 and a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) I-901 Fee Receipt. You must present these forms at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country when you apply for your student visa. You will need an unexpired passport and evidence of financial support for as long as you study at UT.

Dependents (spouse or children) of an F-1 visa holder can accompany the student on F-2 dependent visas and may enroll in part-time ESL study. F-2s are not permitted to study full-time or enroll in a degree program. Please submit a part-time ESL application for the F-2 before you arrive to ensure space availability!

J-1 Visa

Some students enter the U.S. in J-1 student status. The J-1 visa is administered by the Department of State and is used for a variety of educational purposes. The Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for a J-1 visa) may be issued to a student with a scholarship from a sponsoring organization. Dependents of a J-1 visa holder are classified as J-2 and may study ESL on a part-time or full-time basis, or may enroll in a degree program.

Students Who Are Currently in the United States on an F-1 Visa (Transfer Students)

If you are already in the U.S. studying at another U.S. institution and would like to attend ESL Services, United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) permits a transfer of your immigration status to ESL Services provided that you are in valid F-1 status.

  • Inform your current school about your intent to transfer to ESL Services before your current program ends.
  • Provide your current school with the ESL Services Transfer-In Form (issued at time of admission).
  • Make sure your current school completes and signs the Transfer-In Form and emails it back to ESL Services.
  • Submit Proof of Financial Support to ESL Services.
  • Once your I-20 is released from your current school to ESL Services, we will issue you a transfer-pending I-20.
  • If you plan to travel outside the U.S. during any break periods, make sure to obtain your UT ESL I-20 before re-entering the U.S.
  • If you changed your status in the U.S. to F-1 and do not have a F-1 visa stamp in your passport, you must use the ESL Services I-20 to apply for a new visa.

You must complete the transfer process within 15 days of the program start date or you will be in violation of your immigration status. You may not work on campus until your immigration transfer is processed. If you are out of status, discuss your options with your current international student advisor or with an immigration advisor at the International Office at The University of Texas at Austin.

Students Who Are Currently in the United States on Another Type of Visa (F-2, J-2, H-1, etc.)

If you are in a status other than F-1 or J-1 and would like to study full-time, please contact ESL Services to determine your eligibility. In general, F-2 visa holders cannot study full-time. If you want to change your status within the U.S., you must submit the change to USCIS before your current status expires. If you are in a status that doesn’t permit full time enrollment, you must submit the change 2-4 months before the start of the semester. ESL Services will help you with the filing process.

Applying for a Visa

In order to apply for a visa at a United States embassy or consulate, you must have:

  • Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt
  • A passport valid for at least 6 months
  • The intention to stay in the US temporarily only for pursuing a full-course of study
  • Proof of a residence outside of the US that you will return to after completing your studies
  • Proof of the ability to finance your education and living expenses while living in the US
  • Completed visa application form

Once you have all the required documentation, you should apply for the visa as soon as possible to ensure that there is sufficient time for processing, although the U.S. Embassy usually does not allow you to apply for the visa earlier than six months before the program start date listed on your I-20/DS-2019.

You will need your SEVIS ID and UT School Code, both of which are listed on the I-20/DS-2019, to make an appointment for your visa interview. Ask the US Embassy or Consulate nearest you how long it currently takes them to process visas.

If you have specific questions about obtaining your F-1/J-1 visa, contact the US Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.

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Financial Matters

Bringing Money: We recommend you bring enough money with you to pay for tuition, books, and the first three months of rent. You may want to use a bank draft or cashier’s check in U.S. Dollars, payable to yourself. Deposit this in a local bank when you arrive. Here are some options.

You will not be able to use these funds until the draft or check “clears,” which may take 15-30 days after deposit. Bring the amount of your tuition, plus approximately $1,500 to $2,000 for your initial living expenses. You may also wish to bring some U.S. currency, but we do not recommend carrying large amounts of cash.

Tuition Payment: You can pay your tuition with Visa/Mastercard, cashier's check, money order, or wire transfer when you arrive for your scheduled registration. Please email ESL Services to get more details about how to process a wire transfer. Wire transfers should be processed after obtaining your student visa, but before traveling to the U.S.

Sponsored students must have their financial guarantee when they arrive for registration, in order to not pay tuition and fees.

Estimated Expense Planner:

Personal Expenses
$1,460 per month
$730 per month
$320 per month per child
Tuition and fees

My estimated expenses:

$_____________ Tuition and Books

$_____________ Living Expenses (Housing/Food)

$_____________ Social Activities

$_____________ Total

Banking Options

Local Banks

The following banks are located near the UT Campus. These banks do not require an SSN to open an account; however, you will need official documentation, such as a Texas state ID, driver’s license, UT student ID, or passport open a new account.

Website: www.ufcu.org

  • 2101 Speedway St – tel. (512) 467-8080
  • 2244 Guadalupe St – tel. (512) 467-8080
  • 4611 Guadalupe St (near 45th street and the UT Intramural Fields) – tel. (512) 467-8080

These UFCU branches include walk-up ATM machines that accept deposits. UT students may open a savings account for a fee of $5.00 or a checking account with a deposit of $25.00, which is available for use after the creation of the account.

Website: www.chase.com

  • 1904 Guadalupe (at MLK Blvd) – tel. (512) 236-3070
  • 1000 E. 41st St (in the HEB supermarket, Hancock Shopping Center) – tel. (512) 302-3881

Website: www.bbvacompass.com

  • 321 W. 6th St (on Guadalupe) – tel. (512) 421-5761
  • 4100 N Lamar Blvd – tel. (512) 421-5741

Website: www.wellsfargo.com

  • 2354 Guadalupe St Unit. B – tel. (512) 236-1250
  • 605 W 15th – tel. (512) 344-8612
  • 3221 Red River St. – tel. (512) 344-8655

Questions to ask when choosing a bank:

  • What identification and documents do I need to open an account?
  • How much money is required to open each type of account?
  • What kind of checking, savings, or money market accounts does the bank offer?
  • What is the service charge?

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Health Matters

Health Insurance: Health care can be very expensive in the US; therefore, health insurance is required for all students in F-1/F-2 or J-1/J-2 visa status who are enrolled in classes at The University of Texas at Austin. All students in F or J status are automatically enrolled in the UT Health Insurance Plan at the time of registration. The cost of the policy is included in the student’s tuition bill.

If you already have health insurance, you may be eligible to opt out of the UT Health Insurance by completing an insurance waiver form and submitting it at the time of your ESL registration appointment. The waiver form is linked here, and is also included in the student admission materials.

To waive out of the UT Health Insurance, your policy must meet or exceed the following minimum requirements:

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness, per year
  • Evacuation benefits of at least $50,000
  • Repatriation of remains benefit of at least: $25,000

If you have any questions about student health insurance, please visit the International Student and Scholar's insurance page or contact ESL Services or the International Office’s Insurance Advisor.

Dependent Insurance

Insurance for UT Dependents

It is recommended by the University that all students (regardless of visa category) purchase dependent health insurance for any family members that accompany the student to the United States. For J-1 visa holders, insurance for dependents is required. If you will be studying ESL with us, and you would like to add insurance coverage for your dependents, you may add coverage once you've completed registration.

Want more information?

Email us

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Registration Week

During registration week, you will have several steps to complete before you can receive your class schedule. We will also offer many activities to help you become more familiar with Austin, The University of Texas, and your classmates. We cannot guarantee space availability for student’s enrollment who do not attend their scheduled placement test and registration appointment.

Take Your Placement Test:

Complete your placement test. Your test appointment is listed on the top of your ESL admission letter.

The test consists of a writing assessment and a computer-based multiple-choice exam with sections in grammar, reading, and listening. It takes about three hours. Your scores will be used to determine the best course level for you.


Attend your registration appointment, also listed at the top of your admission letter. During your registration appointment, you will have an oral interview, confirm your program choice, pay your tuition, purchase health insurance or show your health insurance waiver, and meet with an immigration advisor to show your immigration documents and review immigration policies and regulations.

Attend Orientation

Be sure to attend orientation at the end of registration week. First, you must complete orientation to get your class schedule. Also, you’ll learn important information about life in Austin, the resources available to you at The University of Texas, the ESL Services program and policies, and advice on how to complete your ESL program successfully.

Social Activities

You should sign up for many of the social activities provided during registration week as part of your ESL program. They give you a fun way to meet many new students from all over the world and show you how to get around the university and Austin.

One important activity is the campus walking tour where you can learn where many of your classes will be, as well as where to find libraries, computer labs, food, and much more. You can also join a chartered bus tour of Austin that will give you a sense for the city and some of its most important features. A highlight of this tour is the stop at the highest point in Austin: Mount Bonnell, which gives you some of Austin’s most beautiful views.

All of these activities will be listed in the guide you will receive at registration or check the ESL website) for event updates. Be sure to try them all!

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ESL Services Program Policies

Placement and Advancement: Students are placed in ESL classes based on our placement test, which consists of an oral interview, a writing sample, and a multiple-choice exam on listening, structure, and reading. Students are expected to (a) attend all classes on time, (b) show respect to teachers and classmates in words and actions, (c) participate in all classroom activities in a friendly manner, and (d) do all homework assignments.

Violation of these standards of conduct may result in being dismissed from the program and/or not being allowed to continue in a subsequent semester.

Students are expected to speak only English in the classroom and are strongly encouraged to speak only English with their classmates at all times.


Attendance in all classes is required of all students. All absences are counted; none are excused. Students who miss the first week of classes will be dropped from the program. For students on F-1 visas or ESL-issued J-1 visas, this may result in the loss of legal immigration status.

  • If you are late three times, it counts as one absence.
  • 90% attendance overall is required to receive a program certificate.
  • 75% attendance is required to maintain F-1/J-1 immigration status; successfully complete an elective class; and take the Institutional TOEFL Exam.
  • At midterm, students with less than 50% overall attendance may be dismissed from the program.


Students receive grades of A, B, C, D, or F. Grades are based on attendance, participation, homework, quizzes, and tests. Poor attendance will result in significantly lower course grades.

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Public Schools and Childcare

Public Schools

In Austin, the public school system decides where children go to school based on where they live. They sometime make exceptions. You will need immunization records to enroll your children in Texas public schools. School transcripts are helpful, but not required, to make sure students are placed in the right grade level. For information see the AISD registration page.

Child Care

The University of Texas at Austin provides childcare for UT students, faculty, and staff through the Child Development Center. This is not a free service. There is often a long waiting list for placement, which is based on the date of application.

A licensed childcare facility must be a well-managed, accountable organization with adequate supervision that provides a safe and healthy environment and activities geared toward specific age groups.

To find out if there have been any valid complaints and/or other pertinent information about any of the programs you are considering, call the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS); call (800) 862-5252; or contact your local licensing office. Information provided by Get Child Care Now.

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We hope you found this guide helpful! Please take time to check out other pages on the ESL website to learn more about UT Austin’s ESL program and don’t hesitate to contact us with questions. We look forward to having you at UT!