SEVP to Release Guidance on Conditional Student Admission Program

Colleges and universities certified to sponsor foreign students for F-1 classification often receive applications from potential students who meet these schools’ academic standards, but lack sufficient proficiency in English. To address this matter, many Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-authorized schools have created various types of conditional admission and bridge programs. This MurthyDotCom NewsBrief discusses some of the issues raised by these programs, and SEVP’s efforts to address concerns.

Conditional and Bridge Programs

Although the specifics of the conditional admission programs vary from school to school, the programs generally fall into one of two types:

  • Those that allow an applicant to be admitted on the condition that the student first completes intensive English language classes
  • Those that admit the student in a program that includes English language courses concurrently with the standard academic courses

Conflict: Regulations vs. School Practices

While the logic in having such conditional or bridging programs is clear, SEVP has raised concerns with respect to compliance with current regulations. One major stumbling block is that the applicable regulations state that a school is only permitted to issue the required I-20 form to a student who has met “all standards for admission.” Form I-20 is needed to apply for and hold F-1 student status. By definition, conditional admission refers to students who fail to meet all standards for admission, by failing to meet the English language requirements.

SEVP to Allow I-20 for Bridge Programs with I-20 Notation

Schools have long struggled with this issue, so SEVP announced in January 2013 that it is drafting guidance that “…discusses what is and is not permissible and explains that designated school officials at bridge programs should issue the I-20 to students.” There has also been some ambiguity related to how the I-20 should be notated when the student will first be enrolling in an English language program before moving on to the academic program.

SEVP to Release Proposed Guidance Spring 2013

As reported by the nonprofit organization NAFSA: Association of International Educators, SEVP will be releasing a draft of its proposed guidance later this spring. The guidance is expected to address various key matters, including the apparent discrepancy between conditional admission and the corresponding regulations; and, how schools should indicate on the I-20 that a student is going to be taking both language courses and academic courses.


Even the most gifted student will likely struggle to succeed in an academic program if s/he faces a language barrier in the classroom. It is only natural, therefore, that the college or university would make every effort to ensure that its students possess the basic skills needed to comprehend the course material. By addressing some of the relevant concerns, SEVP hopes to streamline this process related to conditional admission and bridge programs. We at the Murthy Law Firm will follow this topic and provide updates, as they become available.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.