Student Language Courses in the USA

The United States of America seem like a dream for many European students. Especially during the semester break, it often makes sense to take a language course in this country. On the one hand you can improve your English to new levels and on the other hand you get a great chance to explore the country. You might also want to take advantage of the opportunity to travel through the United States after the language course ends.

Visa, yes or no?

While many Europeans enjoy the freedom of going anywhere and start to study by simply enrolling at a language school in almost any country in Europe, it is not that easy in the United States. As a rule, a visa is generally required for foreign students in the USA. This does also apply for people who want to live or work there.

The student visa for language students is the so-called F1 visa. The application usually takes a few weeks to a few months and is not exactly easy:

First, you must complete an application form for a non-immigrant visa online in English. Second, you will be asked to do an interview at an American embassy or consulate. There you have to show proof of payment of the processing and security fees and you will also be asked to present a special document issued by the language school, in addition to an original geometric passport photo.

Only those applicants who correctly fill in the application form and successfully pass the interview may enter the USA with a visa.

If you feel discouraged by those procedures, there is also the possibility to attend a language course in the USA by using the so called ESTA entry procedure as an alternative.

Attending a language course in the USA by using the ESTA entry procedure

There are some pre-conditions for entering the USA for a language course by using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

First, your visit in the United States cannot exceed a maximum stay of 90 days and you must already be in possession of a return ticket when you enter the country (alternatively a ticket for an onward journey).

In addition, the duration of the language course can only be of a maximum of 18 hours per week, which guarantees that the student keeps his status of a tourist.

Finally, the student must come from one of the countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These countries (many European countries, including Germany, some East Asian countries and some countries of Oceania) do have a simplified entry procedure with the United States of America.

This is how the ESTA procedure works

To enter the USA, you need a valid passport issued by a country participating in the VWP program (please see above).

The entry may only occur as a tourist or for business reasons. As a student you generally have a tourist status, which enables you to attend a language course for a maximum period of 18 hours per week.

A valid credit card is required to complete the ESTA application online.

The actual application can be completed quickly. Everything can be done online by using your PC. In addition to personal information (address, gender, nationality, date of birth) there is a $ 14 fee that needs to be paid using your credit card. Alternative payments that do not include a valid credit card are not being accepted.

The application is usually either granted or rejected online within a few minutes.

Nevertheless, the application should be made in good time, especially as the ESTA entry permit is valid for a full two years. The only exception is when your passport expires during this time, in such case the entry permit would expire accordingly. You would have to go through the whole process again.

In addition, it is recommended that the application is even made several weeks before your planned your entry. Should the application via the ESTA entry procedure be rejected online, there still would be time to consider the possibility of a visa entry in such a case.


If you want to attend a language course in the USA as a student, you should ask yourself if a maximum study period of 18 hours a week is adequate. This would provide you with the possibility to enter the country as a tourist by using the simplified ESTA entry procedure. Certainly, your language skills can also be improved beyond attending language courses without much ado.