UW–Madison welcomes international students, undergraduates, graduate, and post-graduate, to study at UW–Madison for one or more terms as a University Special student. University Special students take regularly scheduled courses for credit which are displayed on an official student record, but are not currently earning a degree from UW–Madison. There are four main categories with different learning goals and admissions pathways. 

Formal Exchange Program                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The program is available to students attending a university abroad  which has a formal exchange agreement with UW–Madison.  Students work directly with their home university's exchange/study abroad office for the admissions and enrollment procedures.  The four exchange offices at UW–Madison are:

All formal exchange students except those pursuing law studies are admitted by the Adult Career and Special Student Services office, which also serves as the academic dean's office. 


The program is available to international students who wish to study at UW–Madison for one or more semesters or a summer term—and are not part of a formal exchange program. The Visiting International Student Program (VISP)  participants are official UW–Madison students who take courses from distinguished, world-class faculty. VISP provides personalized advising as well as a variety of cultural and social events. The students are admitted by ACSSS.  Detail about the program, admissions criteria, and student experience is provided at the VISP webpage


Capstone certificates allow students with a bachelor’s degree to obtain additional professional skills and certification. Designed for nontraditional students and working professionals, capstone certificates reflect a focused collection of graduate-level courses approved by the Graduate School. Capstone certificate programs do not lead to the conferral of a degree, but do appear as an official program on a student’s UW–Madison transcript. The availability of a capstone certificate program to an international student varies as follows:

  • The 100% online programs are available to international students who remain abroad.
  • Students already in the U.S. on another visa type (e.g. J–1 scholar, J–2 dependent, H1B) may be eligible for admission to any of the capstone certificate programs.
  • Full-time programs on the university campus require international students to hold an F–1 or J–1 visa to study legally in the United States. The programs approved by the U.S. government for F–1 or J–1 visas include Actuarial Science, Communication Sciences & Disorders, Computer Sciences, and Geographic Information Studies.

A comprehensive list with details about program content, admissions criteria, and the application process is available at the Types of Study page.


The Intensive English Program (IEP) is available to adults who wish to study English as a second language full-time at UW–Madison to improve their proficiency in English. While in the program, participants are UW–Madison students.  If selected for admission, the student is issued a Form I–20 which allows the participant to request the student visa.  The program offers full-time, 15-week programs in the fall and spring terms and an 8-week program in summer.  The classes range from lower-intermediate (A2) to advanced level (C1).  Beginning-level instruction is not offered.  Part-time enrollment is available to adults who already in Madison to live, work, or study.  Further details about the program content, admissions criteria, and the application process is available at the Types of Study page and the IEP website

How to Get in

The application for admission as a visiting international student varies depending on the program. 


Students who wish to come to UW–Madison on a formal exchange program must work directly with their home school’s exchange/study abroad office to review application deadlines and admissions requirements (including TOEFL score). The exchange coordinator will provide participating students with a direct link to the application which is appropriate for the UW–Madison program. Students seeking admission in the three programs listed here will be admitted as a University Special student with the designation of UNIS on the application and the class roster. 


Any international student who has completed at least one semester of college/university study and meets language proficiency requirements may apply. Applicants do not need to be currently enrolled in an educational institution.  Students should apply at least three months before the intended start date at UW–Madison in order to complete the entire admission process and visa application (which may require many months to complete). Also, there is a limited number of spots available in VISP each semester, so early application provides the best consideration.

Students are admitted in one of three levels which determines the minimum credit load requirements:

Undergraduate level students: completed at least one semester of college/university study and will not have completed their degree before arriving in Madison. Students must be in good academic standing with a minimum grade point average (GPA) equivalent at home university of a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, as indicated on this international grade conversion guide. UIUL is the designation on the admissions application and course roster.

Graduate level students: completed an undergraduate degree and may or may not have started a graduate program. UIGL is the designation on the admissions application and course roster.

Dissertator-level students: completed all graduate coursework and are currently working on a dissertation, or have completed a Ph.D. No additional requirements apply for students in these classifications. UIDL is the designation on the admissions application and course roster.

To apply: Students must review eligibility requirements and then follow the application process outlined at the VISP website. VISP coordinators will assist with each step of the process. The coordinators will send an email to confirm the application has been received and to provide details on next steps.