The application and admission process for international applicants is the same as for domestic applicants, except for a language requirement.
All departments at MIT require a comprehensive knowledge of the English language. However, each department has its own language requirements and policies.
The immigration process itself is addressed by MIT’s International Students Office (ISO) after a formal offer of admission is provided by the admitting department.
English Language Proficiency
Test Requirements for Applicants
English is the language of instruction in all subjects within the Institute, and all papers and theses must be written in English. All applicants whose first language is not English, including international students currently enrolled in US institutions, must present evidence of their ability to continue their studies in English.
Qualifying applicants must submit official scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic), or the Cambridge English Qualification (C1 Advanced or C2 Proficiency exams only). The IELTS exam is preferred at MIT.
A minimum TOEFL iBT score of 90 (577 paper-based) is required by the Institute; however, some departments require higher scores. The minimum IELTS Academic score required is determined by the department. Refer to department information for testing requirements. Scores below the required minimum may result in the withholding of the visa documentation for a candidate otherwise considered admissible.
For more information on meeting this requirement, and the criteria required to be eligible for a waiver, please review the Standardized Tests page.
Evaluation Requirement for Incoming Students
Even students who met the requirements to waive the standardized English proficiency exam test for purposes of admission may have gaps in their English language abilities to hinder their success at MIT. For this reason, all students whose education was not in English from the ages of six through high school––including students who received a waiver during the application period––are required to take the English Evaluation Test (EET) at MIT in the week before the fall semester begins.
The EET is a diagnostic test intended to help students identify weaknesses in written and oral English that will inhibit their ability to meet academic, research, and work requirements, so they may successfully perform the tasks required of them from the moment they arrive on campus. English classes may be recommended as a result of the applicant’s EET score, with the goal of strengthening these abilities.
Financial Aid Limitations
International students must show that they can meet MIT’s minimum budget projection for a new graduate student before the International Students Office may issue a certificate of eligibility for an F-1 or J-1 visa. However, financial aid for international students may be limited, as financial support can vary by graduate program. Funding awards that accompany MIT’s research and teaching assistantships may not meet total living expenses as a student in the Cambridge/Boston area. For this reason, we encourage applicants to secure additional funds outside MIT.
Many countries place limitations on the purchase of U.S. dollars. Prospective students should consult the proper authorities in their countries about foreign exchange regulations to make certain that the academic levels and fields of study to be pursued permit the exchange of the local currency for dollars. Students should also be familiar with the procedures established for sending money to the United States.
For more information on tuition costs, living expenses, and financial support, please see the Costs & Funding page.
Passports and Entry Requirements
To enter the United States, each international student admitted to the Institute needs a passport issued by his or her government. Students must also visit US embassies or consulates in their home countries to be issued student visas, which will enable them to enter the United States. Students must present a certificate of eligibility (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) with the supporting financial documentation when they apply for their visas. The International Students Office at MIT will send the required document to all admitted students who provide evidence of sufficient funds to meet the estimated costs and of adequate English language proficiency. It is important to note that the validity of the visa does not indicate how long a student may remain in the United States; this determination will be made by the Immigration Service at the port of entry. Canadians do not need student visas; instead, they may obtain the appropriate immigration status at the port of entry to the United States by showing proof of citizenship and the Certificate of Eligibility.
Students admitted to MIT may choose between two visas: the F-1 (student visa) and J-1 (exchange visitor visa). Individuals on any other non-immigrant visa will be unable to register in a program of studies at MIT.
The F-1 Visa
This option is normally used by those who enroll as full-time students at an approved educational institution. It is obtained by presenting the Form I-20 to a US consulate or embassy and submitting an application for an F-1 visa. F-1 students are expected to attend the school that issued the Form I-20 and to maintain a full course of study while in the United States. Students whose studies are funded by their families or other private sponsors are normally issued the Form I-20. Upon arrival in the United States, students will be granted permission to remain in this country for the period of time required to complete their programs of study.
Some students hold fellowships or assistantships. Students with full assistantships, however, are not allowed to hold any additional employment on or off campus.
Spouses and children of F-1 students may hold the F-2 visa. The F-1 student may apply for Form I-20 for each of their dependents who wish to join them in the United States in F-2 status. Those dependents will then need to apply for F-2 visas at the US embassy or consulate.
Health and hospitalization insurance is a requirement for all F-1 students and their dependents.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
This visa may be used by those who come to study or conduct research as participants in an Exchange Visitor program. Students must be substantially (more than 51 percent) funded by their home government, educational institutions, international or national organizations, private companies, etc., in order to be eligible for a J-1 visa. Students on personal/family funds are not eligible for J-1 status; they must apply for F-1 status. The J-1 visa is obtained by presenting to the American Consul form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility). When students accept funding from the Fulbright or any other agency of the US government or their own governments (even though it may be only a travel grant), this status carries with it a “two-year home country residency requirement,” which obliges students to return to their home countries for two years before they can apply for permanent residency or change to an H or L visa. In addition, this restriction applies to students from certain countries that have registered a list of needed skills with the United States government. Students intending to use the J-1 visa to enter the United States should ask the US Consul in their home country whether or not they will be subject to the two-year home residency requirement.
J-1 students will be allowed to remain in the country for the period of time indicated on their DS-2019. This time may be extended, so long as they are pursuing a full course of study on authorized academic training.
Health and hospitalization insurance is a requirement for all J-1 students and their dependents.