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Are International Students Allowed to Take Online Classes?

The short answer is yes. Online classes and degree programs naturally cater to the needs of international students who are limited by geography and sometimes their finances to move to another country to attend school. But applying to an American online college does require many of the same steps as enrolling in a traditional brick-and-mortar school in the U.S.

School search

Research online degree programs and schools to make sure they are accredited, quality-driven universities attracting ambitious students who already have a high school diploma or equivalent. Some diploma mills or shady online schools may target international students who don’t understand accreditation and will trick them into paying tuition to a business that prints out diplomas and enrolls you in classes that have no academic or training value. To increase your chances of getting a high-quality education, look for these things:

  • accreditation from an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education
  • application requirements, such as proof of previous education and test scores
  • a good reputation from graduates
  • a strong graduation and job placement rate

All international students wishing to enroll in an American university must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The TOEFL is now given online and measures your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills in English. Universities require different minimum scores for enrollment, so check with your school for exact requirements.


While many colleges have similar applications and application requirements, visit each school’s website to download their unique forms and questions. Talk with admissions counselors about any additional paperwork or scores you may have to submit because of your international status, like:

  • passport and/or citizenship information
  • plans to visit or move to the United States for school
  • marital status
  • school history
  • family information
  • financial information and proof that you can pay your tuition

If you do not plan to move to the United States for college, much of the immigration requirements for international students may not apply to you. But creating a list of questions to ask admissions and academic counselors about your international status is a good idea, just in case. Questions you may want to ask include:

  • Do I need to pay taxes on my tuition?
  • Do I need to get a student visa if I travel to the U.S. for school events, like graduation?
  • What kind of financial aid am I eligible for?

Finally, you will want to make sure that your online classes and/or degree will benefit you in your home country. Make sure that certification classes and programs meet equivalency requirements for job training and higher education so that your online college experience prepares you for the career you really want.