University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota


Understanding Exchange Student Status

This site defines “Exchange Student” as a non-degree seeking exchange visitor who will maintain student status while at the University of Minnesota.  Establishing and maintaining student status means that a person must be formally admitted to a program of study by the University of Minnesota, which most often is admission to an undergraduate non-degree seeing program of study.  Only after being formally admitted is a student eligible to receive a visa document to apply for a student visa.  Additionally, once here on a student visa, a student must pursue a full-time course load during the academic year, and his or her period of attendance must correspond to the academic term.

Sometimes students who are pursuing degrees overseas are interested in coming to Minnesota “on exchange” for a period of time, but intend to perform research, write their theses, perhaps attend a class, but not enroll full-time. This is permitted on other types of visas, but will not make one eligible for student status in the U.S. Depending on the length of stay and intended activities on campus, a J-1 scholar visa or other option is more appropriate. To be clear, a student is NOT ALLOWED to enroll in any courses on a B-1 or B-2 visa. To learn about non-student visa options, please refer to ISSS Website. A J-1 Scholar visa can only be obtained with the sponsorship of a University of Minnesota department; it cannot be arranged independently by an individual.

Many prospective exchange students are currently studying at a graduate level or equivalent in their home academic systems. However, it is not usually possible for exchange students to become admitted to a non-degree program of study at the graduate level at the University of Minnesota. There are several reasons for this policy, but the primary reason is that graduate programs can be very competitive, and an important factor in the admissions process is the likelihood that a candidate will complete the degree in a timely fashion. Accordingly, a candidate with no intention of completing a degree is not competitive against other applicants.

Students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree from the University of Minnesota occasionally arrive on campus through an exchange program. With the approval of the nominating partner institution, this is permissible and we will facilitate visa documents, housing, and other services. However, the Office of International Programs does not assist with any application for admission to a graduate degree program. Programs vary widely in terms of deadlines, required exams and application materials, and application processes. See more information if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree program.

Please note that an exchange student who initially comes to the University of Minnesota on a J-1 Non-Degree program will only be able to convert their status to Degree Seeking through exiting and re-entering the U.S.

If you wish to be a short-term, non-degree student at the UMN, but you do not have an exchange program, you may be interested in GO Minnesota.