Every year thousands of students enter the United States with the goal of learning English as a second language. Summer is usually the busiest season for English learning institutions. Studying English in the US is, without a doubt, a good way to get to know the country. There are also many people that have already studied English in their home countries but wish to strengthen their skills in a country where English is the national language.
There are thousands of English academies spread throughout the country. These institutions are dedicated exclusively to language teaching, focusing on English for foreigners or native speakers of other languages. It´s of the utmost importance that they are authorized by the government to issue a document known as I-20, since without this documents you cannot get a student visa.
There are also other options at your disposal such as studying at a college or university, you could also spend a high school academic year enrolled in a public or private school, or you could also hire a private teacher. This last option is only possible for people who have a type of visa that allows them to reside in the US, temporarily or permanently, while attending classes.
Many academies also offer specialized classes, such as private speaking lessons, accent improvement or preparation for specialized exams such as the TOEFL, which many schools request. The programs to study English as a second language are very diverse. Nonetheless, there is a schedule that could be considered standard which is 20 hours of lessons a week of overall English. These classes usually include time dedicated to grammar, conversation, vocabulary, and writing.
As we have mentioned in past articles you need an F-1 visa to study in the USA. In order to obtain it, the academy to which you want to apply needs to issue a form known as I-20 and must be authorized by the American authorities to enroll foreign students. The SEVIS is also necessary. If you feel disappointed by the academy you chose, for any reason, it is possible to request a visa transfer to another academic institution.
Visa procedures can take some time and we don´t recommend that you buy plane tickets or pay tuition fees if you don´t have your visa in your possession. Remember that you cannot study English for 20 hours a week or more with a tourist visa since that would be considered a migratory violation. F-1 visas have a very strict policy regarding what type of work can be done in very specific situations. Accepting paid work such as waiting tables, babysitting, etc., is prohibited and is also considered a violation of the visa.
It´s very common that citizens from countries included in the Visa Waiver Program travel to the US for periods of less than three months and simultaneously enroll in English academies to receive classes. However, this may constitute a violation of US laws and could mean serious consequences, such as the impossibility of obtaining a visa when one is requested. Always remember not to exceed 19 hours of classes per week to avoid any kind of problems.
You should also know that some J-1 exchange programs are perfect for practicing English and living the US experience, for example working as summer camp staff or applying for a visa to work and travel in the US in the summer. The latter are legal ways of working in the USA, directed towards university students from other countries. Get started on your visa application today for further guidance on these subjects.