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International Students

The University of Michigan is committed to international education. Students from countries all over the world come to the University of Michigan for graduate school. The University is equally dedicated to those students who wish to study and work abroad. The International Center was developed as a central area for information on international issues.

International students, particularly MSE students, should lay out their course plan when they arrive to campus in the first semester based on their timeline for graduation.  We encourage all students to meet with the ME Graduate Coordinator to discuss individual situations.  If you complete all of your requirements in three semesters and wish to stay a fourth semester, the ME department will not support an extension of your visa because you do not have any credits left to complete. To avoid this complication, please ensure that you are planning ahead. Likewise, the ME department will not support a reduced course load letter if the remainder of the student’s courses are not needed to complete the MSE degree.

Sections of this Page:

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

I-20 Extensions

GSI Oral English Test (OET)

English Language Institute

International Center

The International Center provides a variety of services for international students. The International Center’s website contains important information on a number of topics, including visas, financial aid, health insurance, employment questions, and student organizations.  This should be your first stop for any issues concerning your immigration status.

The International Center offers events and workshops throughout the year on topics of interest to international students and scholars, U-M department administrators, and domestic students seeking information on studying, working, or traveling abroad. View a list of the topics.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Any student intending to undertake CPT status during periods of internship or employment off-campus needs to first read through the materials on the International Center’s website. There are two separate processes involved with applying and completing CPT. One is the process of getting a new I-20 through the International Center and the other is enrolling in ENGR 998 for 1 credit.  Both processes begin after you have received a formal offer letter from the employer.  The sooner you can get this process started the better as it is not unusual for students to have to delay the start of their internship because paperwork is not complete.

For Master’s Students:

For PhD Students:

ENGR 998

Students approved for CPT will be enrolled for 1 credit in ENGR 998. Students cannot self-enroll in this course.  The course is graded S/U (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory). This course does not meet any requirements for the MSE or PhD Degrees. 

If the student is participating in a ENGR 998 project in the Sp/Su term, the ECRC will enroll the student in the previous Winter term.  

At the conclusion of CPT, students must submit a report summary of their work or internship experience in order to receive a “S” (satisfactory) letter grade.

Reduced Course Load (RCL)

International students in F-1 and J-1 status are required to maintain full-time enrollment during the school year. If you cannot or will not meet this requirement, you must request a reduced course load. Federal immigration regulations severely limit a student’s ability to be less than full time, but it maybe allowed in some circumstances, including academic difficulties, medical conditions, or completion of course of study.  For full explanation of these circumstances, please visit the International Center’s website here.

The most common reason ME students request is for completion of course of study.  A student must apply for RCL in his/her final term if fewer courses (i.e. less than full time) are needed and required to complete the course of study.  A student may still opt to be registered as a full-time student if they wish and would not need to request RCL.

A request for RCL does not eliminate the requirement to be enrolled during the entire semester.  A student must be enrolled in at least one class that fills the entire semester or two classes that fill the first and second 7-week sessions (ie. a student who only has 1 credit left to complete for the degree cannot only enroll in one of the 7-week sessions).

Full instructions for how to apply for RCL can be found here.  The ME Department only assists with the RCL Recommendation Letter, which is used to verify that the current term will be the final term for the student to complete his/her academic program.  In order to request this letter, please send an email to [email protected] and an RCL letter will be sent to you electronically listing the minimum number of credits required to complete the degree.

Please allow 2-3 business days for the document to be emailed.

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

International students interested in persuing work in the United States after graduation from the MSE or PhD programs, must receive OPT.  Instructions for OPT can be found on the International Center’s website.  There is only one component that you will need from the ME Department, this is an OPT recommendation letter from the department stating that you are a student in good standing and your final term of enrollment.  The ME Graduate Coordinator can assist with this via email.

To request an “OPT Letter,” email [email protected] and the ME Graduate Coordinator will return your letter to you via email.

International PhD students graduating in the Grace Period should also refer to the information on the International Center’s website.

As an engineering student, you are also eligible for the OPT STEM extension.  Other requirements and instructions for the STEM extension can be found on the International Center’s website.

Please allow 2-3 business days for the document to be emailed.

I-20 Extensions

Information about the I-20 Extension Process can be found on the International Center’s website.  If you are in need of an I-20 extension, you must meet with the ME Graduate Coordinator to discuss this.  Email [email protected] to schedule an appointment.

For MSE students

During this meeting you will discuss the rationale for your extension and work on completing the I-20 Extension Advisor Recommendation Form.  Part of this meeting will be reviewing your degree audit to ensure that you still have requirements left to complete.  Your extension will not be approved if you do not have requirements left to complete.  If the ME Graduate Coordinator approves, they will pass your I-20 Extension form on to the Graduate Chair for signature.  Once approved and signed, you will be emailed to pick the form up from ASO.  You will then bring the form and all other required documents to the International Center.

For PhD students

The first step to extending your I-20 is to get your advisor’s signature on the I-20 Extension Advisor Recommendation Form.  Bring this form to your meeting with the ME Graduate Coordinator, where it will be reviewed for accuracy.  If all looks accurate, the ME Graduate Coordinator will email your advisor to verify their consent and funding for the duration of your I-20 extension.  Upon reply, Human Resources will write your financial memo from the department (which is also needed as part of your I-20 Extension).  HR will return it to the ME Graduate Coordinator who will then let you know that both your I-20 Extension Advisor Recommendation Form and financial memo are ready for you to pick up from ASO.  You will then bring the form and all other required documents to the International Center.

GSI Oral English Test (OET)

The GSI Oral English Test (OET) is used to review the English proficiency of international students who will become GSIs.  Passing the exam is a requirement for international Ph.D. students and is necessary to ensure satisfactory progress while simultaneously confirming the ability of that student to be an effective GSI. All international Ph.D. students must pass the OET by the end of their 3rd academic term after admission (e.g., by the end of F12 for students who entered in F11) in order to be considered making satisfactory progress toward their degree. International Ph.D. students who have previous earned an undergraduate degree (that was taught exclusively in English may be exempt from the OET. Additional exemption criteria can be found here.

  • Upon successful completion of this requirement, the student will then be eligible to hold a GSI position (see the English Language Proficiency Requirements section).

  • If the student does not hold a GSI position within the next 18 months after passing the exam, the student must check in with the English Language Institute (ELI) to extend or renew their exam results. In order to continue making satisfactory progress, a PhD student must maintain valid exam results throughout their academic tenure. Please contact the English Language Institute to schedule a renewal interview.

  • The ELI will evaluate the student’s English skills and determine if the student is qualified to extend the exam results or is required to retake the exam. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the ELI to maintain valid exam results.

English Language Institute

The English Language Institute (ELI) is a valuable English language development resource for students attending the University of Michigan. Students who desire additional instruction or who are looking to become more proficient in the English language can take courses offered by the ELI. In addition, international PhD students are encouraged to utilize ELI resources to prepare for the GSI Oral English Test.  

The mission of the English Language Institute Instructional Division is to provide English language instruction to members of the University of Michigan community that promotes effective intercultural communication within the academic community at the University of Michigan. The Instructional Division offers credit bearing courses and support services in English for Academic Purposes in order to teach undergraduate and graduate students the language they need to become fully participating members of the academic community. The Instructional Division educates both undergraduate and graduate students in pedagogical discourse and intercultural skills for teaching at the University of Michigan, in the community, and abroad.  The Instructional Division works in collaboration with other units throughout the university in support of the University’s vision of an internationalized academic community.