The USA and Canada are countries of focus in RWTH Aachen's Internationalization Strategy. Collaboration with North American universities and research institutions plays a crucial role.
General Information about the USA
You can get a general overview of the USA on these pages:
- USA Diplomatic Representations in Germany
- U.S. Department of State
- German Representation in the USA
- Federal Foreign Office
Information about Studies in the USA
You can get information about studies in the United States here:
- German Academic Exchange Service: DAAD Country Information USA
- DAAD Liaison Office New York
- Go out Blog from DAAD
You can find general tips on internships abroad on the RWTH pages titled internships abroad. On the DAAD website you can also find a detailed overview about allocation and funding possibilities for internships abroad . The Career Center sometimes publishes internship offers for the United States.
The German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD for short, has a DAAD office in New York, where you can get further tips.
You are responsible for seeking out the most up-to-date information for the country to which you are traveling and should direct all inquiries to the appropriate consulate.
The International Office of the RWTH and its employees do not provide guidance regarding the application for a visa.
This site is intended only to offer a general overview - the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website and consulate sites are the definitive sources of visa information. Should there be discrepancies in content, the Consular Affairs website and consulate sites take precedence.
Detailed Information about Visa Modalities for the USA
In undertaking a stay in the US (including Puerto Rico, Guam and the US-Virgin Islands) that lasts fewer than 90 days
- German passport holders may use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to apply for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
- You must be traveling ONLY for business, pleasure or transit.
- If you intend to accept paid or unpaid employment in the USA (also applies to journalists, au-pairs and interns) or wish to attend a secondary school or university (as part of an exchange program or a self-organized stay), you must apply for a visa even if your planned stay is fewer than 90 days.
- After entering the US, you may travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean within 90 days and re-enter the US using any mode of transport.
- You may be asked to show proof of the ability to finance your trip at the port of entry.
- You must hold a valid return or onward ticket. Onward tickets may not end in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
- Holders of a temporary German passport may not make use of the VWP.
Non-German citizens whose home countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program VWP can obtain further information on the program and passport requirements in the relevant embassies in your home country.
For students and scholars traveling to the US outside the framework of a university-sponsored exchange (e.g. for self-organized exchanges, "freemovers")
Most students and scholars of the RWTH will apply for visa type J-1
Students wishing to apply for a J visa will need to find a designated sponsor (more information about sponsors below). The overwhelming majority of individuals undertaking a research stay will seek sponsorship from the university at which they intend to conduct their research.
Take up contact with the professor or administrators of the institute that has agreed to host you in order to find out how best to go about this process. You should also visit the international office website of the university in question to familiarize yourself with their policies, as well as any fees and deadlines that may play a role in your planning.
It is highly probable that you will be responsible for paying not only a governmental fee for the processing of your visa, but also an administrative fee to the university that will host you; you should budget accordingly.
Terms that may guide your search of university websites: visa sponsorship, international scholar, visiting researcher
What is a sponsor?
Designated sponsors appear on a list of entities that have been authorized by the US Department of State to issue Form DS-2019, the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, which is the basic document to support an application for an exchange visitor visa (J-1).
An example of a designated sponsor is Cultural Vistas, a non-profit organization headquartered in New York, which has administered the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) for over 29 years, together with its German partner organization, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.
A complete listing of designated sponsors can be found here.
If you are seeking to undertake a stay in the US that will not involve a university, you should browse the list of designated sponsors to find other options that will meet your needs.
Aside from the J visa, the other types commonly appearing for academic exchange include F and M.
Umlauts such As "ä" and "ö" in US Visa
Individuals with umlauts or "ß" in their names please note that these umlauts are not transliterated in US visa.
In German passports, "ä", "ö", "ü" und "ß" in names are shown as umlauts without any changes. In the machine-readable part of the passport, these letters are transliterated and shown as "ae", "oe" and "ue"; "ß" is shown as "ss".
As English does not have any umlauts, names are represented in a different way in US visa. However they are not tansliterated by the US Consulates in Germany, so "ä", "ö", "ü" are shown as "a", "o", and "u".
So if Mr. Schröder receives a J-1 visa for a "Mr. Schroder", there's no need to worry. Please note that in US visa, "ß" is shown as "ss."
Exchange Costs and Funding Options
Study in the U.S.: Living Costs and Funding
The cost of a short-term study program in the United States will vary based upon institutional type, setting and program. Obviously it is not possible to name a definite sum. Students living in a dorm on campus – the least expensive option –, should consider costs of at least 1000 US dollars per month, in addition to the tuition fees.
Funding from universities, scholarship organizations and grant-giving bodies is often difficult to obtain for short-term study in the U.S. as much of this funding is awarded to degree-seeking students and researchers.
Scholarships are for varying amounts and tend only to cover a small portion of the total amount necessary for an academic term or year in the US.
Even if you don’t qualify for Inlands-BAföG, you may still be eligible for this Auslands-BAföG!
Studierendenwerk Hamburg will be able to advise you about opportunities for exchange to the US.
Resarch Funding Organizations
- Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft USA (de)
- National Science Foundation
- Association of German Foundations
Detailed Information about Required Language Skills
I need at least level B1 in English - what does this mean? What is CEFR?
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, CEFR, is the product of over twenty years of research and exactly what the name implies – a frame of reference.
The CEFR describes foreign language proficiency at six levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) and also defines three plus levels (A2+, B1+, B2+). This scheme makes it possible to compare examinations across languages and national boundaries.
For more information, visit the Council of Europe website.
Electronic Version of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, assessment (pdf).
What is the TOEFL? What is the IELTS? Do I need a score?
The Test of English as a Foreign Language, TOEFL, and International English Language Testing System, IELTS, are two standardized assessments for determining English language proficiency.
Virtually all US academic institutions will require an individual to document her/his English ability in order to satisfy admissions requirements. These requirements vary greatly by institution and may be adjusted over time.
Within an institution, it may also be the case that a minimum requirement will be program- and level specific. For example, a graduate student in an industrial engineering program may have to submit proof of a higher language level than an undergraduate student studying in a physics program.
How does a CEFR level compare to a TOEFL score?
Educational Testing Service, ETS, the developers of the TOEFL, carried out a study with a panel of 23 experts from 16 European countries and was able to draw connections between the TOEFL and CEFR.
Recommended TOEFL score ranges and the minimum score for each modality (reading, listening, speaking, writing) at each CEFR proficiency level have been reported and can be viewed here: Mapping TOEFL iBT on the Common European Framework of Reference.
Do I need a standardized assessment score?
If you are undertaking an exchange term to an RWTH partner institution and will be following coursework, you may very well need to sit for a standardized assessment and submit a score in order to qualify for admission; however, the time at which you would need to do this is somewhat flexible.
You do not need to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score at the time you submit an application to the International Office of the RWTH, that is January 15 or August 15 - other documents will allow you to substantiate your English skills.
If your application is favorably considered and you receive a nomination for the coming academic year, you would be informed of your next steps and whether a partner university will require a standardized test score. It might be the case that a university is willing to accept a certificate from the RWTH Language Center or statement written on your behalf in order to satisfy their admissions criteria.
If you are undertaking an exchange term to pursue research or work on a thesis, you likely will not be required to submit formal proof of language ability. The decision to admit you for research work is often at the discretion of your would-be supervisor or sponsoring institute. More or less: if this person or team is content with your language ability, you’re in.
If you are undertaking an exchange term and organizing it on your own, that is not going abroad within the framework of a partner exchange, you likely will need to sit for a standardized assessment.
Again, every institution treats the subject differently, so you would be well served to research this topic and find out the admissions criteria and language proficiency requirements of your target colleges/universities.
You should also note deadlines by which certification of language proficiency must be met as well as how these items must be submitted (Should they be ordered and sent directly by the testing service? Are originals required or will copies suffice? Is it sufficient to send an electronic version, then have an original verified upon arrival in the US?).
On a positive note, many institutions are willing to exempt individuals who have completed coursework in an English-speaking environment or studied within a certain academic framework (our Scandinavian neighbors often fall into this category).
Be sure to explore a university’s site and, if in doubt, contact one of their admissions counselors.
Terms that may guide your search: language proficiency standards, English language requirement, English proficiency waiver, language proficiency exemption, language assessment battery.
General points about standardized language exams
Standardized exams vary in cost and may carry additional fees to have official score reports sent to an institution or forwarded at a later point in time.
Various study guides and preparation materials may be purchased, though many sample questions are available at no charge on the websites of the administering companies.
It may be a worthwhile investment to sit for a standardized language assessment, provided that you are planning a stay abroad within the coming months/years; one advantage of sitting for an exam at an early stage in your preparation is that you can control its timing. For example schedule for a weekend when you have few other academic responsibilities).
Note that exam scores tend to be reported for a fixed period of time. For example two years from the date of testing.
Pressed for time in sitting for a standardized exam? Living in NRW and having a semester ticket, you should absolutely broaden your search of testing facilities! Just because there isn’t an upcoming exam in Aachen doesn’t mean there isn’t an offering in, say, Cologne or Essen. Make use of the search functions on assessment company sites and cross-check offerings with area language centers.
Refreshing Your English
The RWTH Arts and Humanities Language Center offers a broad range of language courses at a variety of levels.
Furthermore, the BeBuddy program gives you the opportunity to get to know and support exchange students from the US.
Each summer, between 40 and 50 students from US and Canadian universities, including RWTH Aachen partners, come to Aachen within the framework of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, UROP, for a ten-week research stay that includes German language study and cultural programming.
If you’re considering an exchange to the US, what better resource than a current student from a stateside university, where you may be enrolling next year?
Stylistic differences: Application material and correspondence
What does a Résumé (the American CV) look like? To whom should a US cover letter be addressed?
The Career Center has made available some excellent resources to help guide you in preparing correspondence for a US target audience. Visit the page Bewerbungstipps and browse the section “Die englische Bewerbung” for helpful suggestions and downloadable fact sheets.
Additional resources and some common constructions (for example “Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren”, “To whom it may concern”) can also be found at the Phrasen section of bab.la.