Welcome to the USA English Language Center.  We are excited to have you as a student and as a member of the university community.  In order to help you succeed, you should familiarize yourself with our rules, regulations, and procedures.  If you have any questions about policies or procedures, either in the ELC or here at the University of South Alabama, we will be happy to explain them to you.  We hope that your participation in the program helps you reach the goals you have set for yourself.


▼   Arrival and Orientation

Late Arrivals

All new students enrolling in classes at the English Language Center must arrive in Mobile PRIOR to the first day of classes in order to participate in the mandatory orientationrequired placement exams, and registration activities.  Students who arrive late due to unexpected and unplanned but legitimate reasons have to make up the placement exams and complete all the requirements of the registration process. 

Likewise, current students who leave the U.S. and then return should arrive back in time for advising and registration. Students should be aware of the class schedules and should NOT schedule travel that involves late arrivals. Attendance will be taken beginning with the first day of classes. Latecomers cannot be accepted into the program after the first three (3) days of classes. All latecomers will also be required to pay a $100 late-arrival/special-processing fee.

Payment of Tuition/Fees

All tuition and fees must be paid before the first day of classes for each ELC term.  Students who are studying on scholarship must provide a scholarship letter authorizing the ELC to invoice the organization awarding the scholarship, and this letter must be received PRIOR to the first day of class of each term as appropriate.  Students who are expecting a scholarship but who do not yet have the letter must personally pay all tuition and fees.  They can then be reimbursed after the letter arrives and the ELC receives the payment of tuition and fees from the organization awarding the scholarship. NO reimbursement will be made prior to receiving the scholarship payment of tuition and fees.   If a student withdraws, there will be NO REFUNDS of payments after the first day of classes begins.  Students who must withdraw for MEDICAL REASONS may provide a written request for refund and attach original documentation for such medical reasons.  Any refund consideration for MEDICAL withdrawals will be made on a prorated basis, if approved.


International students at the University of South Alabama are required to be tested for tuberculosis and receive MMR inoculations (mumps, measles, and rubella).  The TB test and the first MMR inoculation must take place before the first day of class.  Any student who has not complied with the immunization requirements by the first day of class will not be permitted to begin classes and thus will be out of status on his or her student visa.  Students who fail to comply with the USA immunization policy and who are withdrawn from classes due to this failure will NOT be eligible for any refund of tuition and fees.  Additionally, students who miss more than four days of class due to failure to comply with the immunization policy will not be allowed to return to classes for the term in question and will be out of status for US immigration purposes and must depart the US.


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▼   Maintaining Status

US Immigration Requirements for F-1 visa Students

F-1 Students must be pursuing a full course of study and complete a full-time load each term, a minimum of four (4) classes  (8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f) (6)(i)(A)-(E)).  This means that you must earn grades for these classes. For immigration purposes, an incomplete is not a grade. An incomplete is regarded by immigration officials as representing an individual’s voluntary inability or unwillingness to attend class and/or complete assignments. US immigration regulations do not permit international students to stop attending class or not complete coursework — this is considered evasion of a student’s primary responsibility to be an F-1 student (mainly, to pass classes and earn a degree).

USA ELC Satisfactory Academic Progress

For all full-time students and specifically for students on an F-1 student visa, academic good standing (i.e., satisfactory academic progress) is defined as being enrolled full-time AND achieving the grade of a "C" or higher in three (3) out of four (4) classes each term.


Class attendance is required as a condition of the F-1 visa. It is also vital to a student's success. Students are not allowed to miss more than four classes for any reason. Any student with five or more absences in any class will be placed on probation for lack of compliance with immigration policies (failure to attend 85% of all scheduled classes). If the attendance does not improve during the subsequent term, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Any student with ten consecutive absences or a total of fifteen nonconsecutive absences in any class will be dismissed from the program.

Punctuality is also crucial to student success. Students will be marked tardy if they arrive after class begins. They will also be marked tardy if they leave class for any reason without previously arranged permission from the instructor. Previously arranged permission means meeting with the instructor in ample time BEFORE class begins. If students are tardy three times, they will earn the equivalent of one absence. When students miss more than 20 minutes because they leave or are late for class, they will be counted absent.

Students with serious medical conditions that necessitate excessive absences should either consider medical leave of absence or register with the Office of Special Student Services to receive appropriate accommodations based on their disability.

Any exception to this policy must be approved ahead of time by the Director of the English Language Center. There are no exceptions to this rule.

Final Exams

Final examinations must be taken at the scheduled times at the end of the term.  The schedule of exams is posted at the beginning of each term and in the class syllabus.  Examinations will not be given early because of personal travel plans or other personal reasons.  Students who miss final exams will receive a grade of zero (0) on the exam.


Students on an F-1 student visa are not permitted to work off campus.  Off-campus employment will result in termination of a student’s I-20. 

Vacation Term and Maintaining Status

In accordance with US DHS immigration regulations, USA ELC has developed the following policy for international students on F-1 immigration status.  ELC students on an F-1 or J-1 student visa must be enrolled as full-time students in a full-time course of study (i.e., class schedule).  Full-time for the ELC means twenty (20) hours of class per week.  All F-1 students must be enrolled and pursuing a full course of study in order to be in compliance with the US DHS immigration regulations regardless of whether the ELC or USA International Student Services is a student’s PDSO/DSO (school official issuing the I-20).

Students who are in good standing may take one term of vacation upon successful completion of four (4) consecutive terms in the ELC. During the vacation term, students may choose to continue studying as a part-time student, or they may choose to not take any classes at all. Only one vacation term can be taken while enrolled as a student at the ELC regardless of the length of enrollment.

The English Language Center requires that all ELC students enroll in the Summer term unless they have completed four consecutive terms at the English Language Center. Students wishing to take a "vacation term" upon completion of four (4) consecutive terms must demonstrate intent to return for the next term after the completion of the "vacation" term. No F-1 student can take off any given term without written permission from the ELC Director and the Manager of Immigration and International Affairs. Students who fail to provide a written request in advance will be asked to leave the program. Students who are asked to leave the program will have their I-20 terminated for failure to maintain status. A termination of the Form I-20 will result in a negative consequence to your immigration status.

▼   Loss of Status

Academic / Attendance Warning

A student will receive a warning at any time during the term if he or she falls below an average of 70% (C) in any class and/or has reached three (3) unexcused absences.  Students who receive a warning are in jeopardy of placing their F-1 immigration status at risk for failure to “maintain status” under US INA § 237(a)(1)(C)(i).

Academic Probation

Any student who receives a grade of "U" in two (2) or more of his or her classes, regardless of whether the "U" is due to a low class average, poor attendance, or both, will be put immediately on academic probation, whether or not he or she has already received a Warning Letter.

Academic probation places students on F-1 visas in immediate jeopardy of having their U.S. immigration status terminated (in SEVIS) for failure to maintain status. 

Students on academic probation who wish to transfer to another institution should be advised that the institution they are transferring to may not accept them because the institution will be notified of their academic probation status at USA.

Note: "Academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extension" (extension of the I-20) [8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(7)(iii) ]. And so, a student that has been placed on academic probation who is not able to complete his or her program by the program completion date, is not eligible for an extension of stay, unless other "compelling academic or medical reasons" exist to support the extension request.  Such reasons must be documented and approved in writing by the director of the ELC.

Academic Suspension

1) If at the end of the Academic Probation term the student again makes a grade of "U" in two (2) out of four (4) classes, regardless of whether the "U" is due to a low class average, poor attendance, or both, the student will be suspended from the USA English as a Second Language Program.  In the case of students in F-1 status, his or her I-20 will be terminated in SEVIS.

F-1 students, upon suspension and termination of their F-1 status, must immediately depart the United States as their U.S. immigration status in SEVIS is terminated. There is NO grace period.  According to U.S. immigration regulations, if a student fails to maintain status, withdraws from school, or otherwise terminates or interrupts his or her course of studies without first obtaining written DSO approval (which is updated in SEVIS), the student is not eligible for any grace period and is considered under the regulations to be out of status.  8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(5)(iv)  Such approvals for F-1 students are based on legitimate verifiable conditions as accounted for within the U.S. immigration regulations.

2) Other reasons, in addition to those outlined in the USA ESL policies, for suspension/termination include:

  • for F-1 students: failure to maintain status and compliance with US immigration regulations,
  • an unexplained continuous absence for 10 class days or longer,
  • an unexplained failure to take final examinations or otherwise complete course requirements in all classes,
  • disruptive behavior and other academic/nonacademic activities as defined in and/or covered by the USA Code of Student Conduct and Academic Disruption Policy in the Lowdown.

Students found in violation of the USA Code of Student Conduct and/or the USA Student Academic Conduct Policy may be subject to disciplinary and other actions by the University and/or USA ESL program which may result in their suspension or termination in the USA ESL program and thus, for F-1 students, subject them to termination of their F-1 status.

For students whose U.S. immigration documentation is sponsored by other agencies, probation or suspension information will be transmitted (as appropriate under U.S. immigration, USA policies and procedures, and in accord with sponsor requirements) to the responsible agency for appropriate action.  For students on scholarship or funded by third parties, this information may be released to them based on the scholarship/third party agreement requirements that the student has agreed to.


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▼   Communications with Faculty and Staff

Appointment Scheduling

The faculty and staff of ELC welcome students to meet with them on a regular basis to discuss any concerns they may have with respect to progress in the program and USA policies or to seek advice on areas of interest.   Instructors post their office hours for walk-in visits.  However, all students should be aware that scheduling an appointment is a courtesy and a requirement if you wish to have extended discussions about specific areas of concern.  Students should always attempt to schedule an appointment one or two days in advance and provide a summary of what they wish to discuss.  The more the instructors and staff are aware of a student’s needs prior to the appointment, the more productive the discussions will be.  To schedule appointments please call (251) 460-7185 or see Ms. Polly in AHE 230.

Complaints and Grievances

If you have a problem with grading, policies, placements, or other issues related to your classes, interactions with instructors, university services, etc. you are encouraged to take the following steps:

  1. Contact the instructor or staff member involved to discuss your concerns in person – make an appointment.
  2. If you are unable to resolve your concerns via step 1, then you should contact the program director and set up an appointment to review your concerns.  It is best if you have your concerns outlined in writing and provide these concerns during the meeting.
  3. If you are not able to resolve your concerns with step 1 and 2, then you may schedule an appointment with the Vice President for Global Engagement.  You should bring a written description of your concerns to discuss with them.

Note: Timely reporting of any concerns, issues, etc. is extremely important.  However, you should also be aware that scheduling an appointment is critical for administrators to be able to discuss your concerns.

For additional USA policies and procedures for students please refer to:

University of South Alabama Bulletin – Policies and Procedures for Degree Seeking Students

University of South Alabama Student Handbook “The Lowdown”


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▼   University Admittance

Many of the students in the English Language Center are improving their English with the goal of obtaining admission to a degree program at the University of South Alabama. International students must demonstrate proficiency in English to gain admission. Students applying for admission to undergraduate studies may demonstrate English proficiency in one of the following ways:

Option One

Students can be recommended for admission to the University by the Director of the English Language Center if they meet the following program requirements:

  • Passing all level five ELC courses with a final grade of 70% or better.
  • Achieving a CaMLA score of 61 or better.

Option Two

  • TOEFL score of 61 or better OR
  • ACT English subject score of 19 or better OR
  • SAT Reading score of 24 or better OR
  • A, B, or C on Advanced level English Examinations from the United Kingdom OR
  • IELTS Academic score of 5.5 or better OR
  • iTEP Academic Plus score of 3.6 or better OR
  • Pearsons (PTE Academic) score of 44

Students applying to a graduate degree program must demonstrate English proficiency as follows:

Minimum TOEFL score of 71 OR
Minimum IELTS score of 6 OR
Minimum iTEP score 3.7 OR
Minimum Pearsons (PTE Academic) score 48

Please note that some programs may require higher scores to prove English proficiency. Applicants who hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited U.S. institution are not required to submit TOEFL results.

Note: Because it can take three (3) weeks or longer to receive TOEFL or IELTS scores, students are responsible for scheduling examination dates in time for the scores to arrive before the University's admission deadlines.  Please refer to the USA Bulletin for all admission policies and procedures that are applicable for the semester in which you are interested in applying.

The ELC Student Services Coordinator, Justine Burbank, is available to assist students with scheduling of such tests. She can also help students with the application process.


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