Information for Admitting Departments

International students who are outside of the United States and need to apply for a student visa have a long road ahead of them after being officially admitted to LSU by the Graduate School. The U.S. visa application process can be a lengthy one, taking anywhere from 2-3 weeks (for most Western European countries) to several months (for countries including – but not limited to – China, India, Iran and Nigeria).

The summer months are particularly busy at all U.S. Consulates abroad due to the high number of students admitted to colleges/universities for the fall semester as well as other travelers seeking tourist visas. November and December are also busy due to holiday closures.

In view of the above, we recommend that your department accept international applicants into your program as early as possible in order for these individuals to obtain official admission from the Graduate School, to complete necessary visa-related paperwork and to arrive on campus in time to register for classes.

We hope that this and the following information will be helpful to your department. If you have questions about a prospective or recently admitted applicant, e-mail or call 578-3191.

Click here for a list of U.S. Immigration terms that are used in the sections below.

ExpandHow international applicants obtain an I-20/DS-2019

In order to receive an I-20 or DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility (COE), U.S. Immigration regulations state that applicants:

  • must be admitted to a degree program on campus. (For graduate students, this means being officially admitted to the University by the Graduate School, and the official admission must appear in mainframe.)
  • must have sufficient funds to cover all estimated expenses for at least one academic year. (“Sufficient funds” can be in the form of LSU financial assistance, personal/family funding, government/company sponsorships, etc.)

The processing of the admitted applicant’s COE differs if he/she is outside of the U.S. or is already in the U.S. in F-1 student status. For more details, click here.

ExpandHow your department can help your applicants

It is to your department’s advantage to accept international applicants into your program as early as possible in order for

  • the Graduate School to complete the official admission process;
  • International Services to communicate with and receive from the admitted applicants what may be needed to process the I-20/DS-2019 COE; and
  • the admitted applicants to have enough time to apply for and receive the U.S. student visa, and arrive on campus to complete course registration.

If the applicant has been offered any kind of LSU financial assistance (i.e. assistantship, Tuition Award, etc.), provide a copy of the assistantship offer letter to International Services as soon as the offer has been made. For our office’s purposes, the offer letter does not need to be signed by the student but must be signed by someone from the department indicating that the offer has been made. A copy of the offer letter can be e-mailed to

Note: If the admitted applicant does not have any or enough funding from the University, he or she will be required to submit an Affidavit of Support and proof of funding to International Services in order to be considered for a COE. (International Services will e-mail the admitted applicant directly if any additional financial support documentation is required.)

Some departments pay for express mail delivery of the I-20/DS-2019 COE for graduate assistants to ensure that the admit receives the COE faster, applies for the visa sooner and (hopefully) makes it to LSU in more than enough time to register for classes and begin assistantship appointment duties.

Note: If the admitted applicant has an assistantship offer and the department will pay for express mail delivery of the I-20/DS-2019, International Services will contact the department after the documents are ready for collection from our office’s reception desk (101 Hatcher Hall).

ExpandFrequently Asked Questions

ExpandA recent admit applying for the U.S. visa says that the U.S. Consulate/Embassy is requesting a letter about the program of study. What does our department need to do?


It is likely that the student’s visa application needs to undergo additional administrative processing, meaning that the U.S. Consular officer is requesting additional documentation about the student’s program of study and/or research.

Since International Services does not know what types of research/classes each academic department on LSU’s campus provides to its students, your department should provide the student and/or U.S. Consulate with a letter explaining the types of research and/or coursework that the student will be involved in during his studies at LSU. U.S. Consulates also want to know the applicability of the coursework/research. Please note that administrative processing can add about 2-3 months to the visa application process so the sooner this letter can be written, the better.

NOTE: Unfortunately, our office (and LSU) cannot get involved in these types of administrative processes since they are done by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Also, due to confidentiality laws, the U.S. Department of State cannot give information about a student’s case to any third party. However, International Services can provide the student with contact information if he/she is having difficulties finding out about his particular case.

ExpandA new student admitted for the upcoming semester has been offered an assistantship by our department. We would like for him/her to arrive on campus as early as possible and begin working before the semester starts. Can he/she do that?


According to U.S. Immigration, new students are allowed to enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the I-20/DS-2019 COE.

Note: The program start date on the COE for any given semester is the day before the International Student Orientation program.

However, just because a student can arrive in the U.S. that early does not mean that he can work right away. U.S. Immigration regulations stipulate that the earliest that a student can begin working on campus is 30 days before the first day of classes for the semester to which he has been admitted. If the student meets these criteria, he/she must come to International Services to process the work authorization before the student can begin working.

Please review the information on our website regarding On-Campus Employment Instructions for Hiring Departments for more details or e-mail

ExpandOur department would like to accept an applicant who is in the U.S. in F-2 status [or H-4 or B-1/B-2 status]. Can he/she study or work on an assistantship?


According to U.S. Immigration regulations, individuals in F-2 dependent status are not allowed to enroll in a degree program or accept employment.

U.S. Immigration regulations allow individuals in H-4 dependent status to enroll in classes. However, those in H-4 status cannot accept employment, which includes departmental assistantships.

Note: Employment includes departmental assistantships.

U.S. Immigration regulations specifically prohibit study and employment in the U.S. while in B-1/B-2 tourist status.

ExpandWhat does an individual need to do to change his/her non-immigrant status to the F-1 student status so that he/she can study and/or work at LSU?


There are two ways that an individual can change to the F-1 student status:

  1. Leaving the U.S. with an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility and re-entering as an F-1 student. The individual will need to apply for and obtain an F-1 visa stamp before returning to the U.S. In most cases this is a faster way to change to F-1 status (depending on the country where he/she will apply for F-1 visa, time of the year, etc.).
  2. Submitting an LSU I-20 COE along with a change of status application to USCIS while remaining in the U.S. This application may take anywhere from 2 to 4 months to be approved by U.S. Immigration (or even longer in some rare cases), and the individual may not be able to start the new program until the change of status is approved. This means that the individual may not be able to register for classes or work on an assistantship while the change of status application is pending.
  • SEVIS: stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and is the U.S. Immigration online database from where the Certificate of Eligibility is created and issued by International Services. All F-1 and J-1 students are monitored by U.S. Immigration using the SEVIS database.
  • Certificate of Eligibility (COE): a form issued by International Services that international admits use to apply for the F-1 student visa (I-20 COE) or J-1 student visa (DS-2019 COE) and when entering the U.S.
  • F-1 student: class of admission obtained upon entering the U.S. with an I-20 COE and an F-1 visa stamp, which is issued by a U.S. Consulate outside of the United States. The majority of international students at LSU are F-1 students.
  • J-1 student: class of admission obtained upon entering the U.S. with a DS-2019 COE and a J-1 visa stamp, which is issued by a U.S. Consulate outside of the United States. This class of admission is granted to students participating in an exchange program. It is also granted to some students whose funding is sponsored by an entity that requires the student to apply for the J-1 visa.
  • USCIS: stands for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and is the U.S. government agency that oversees lawful immigration to the U.S. It was formerly known as INS.