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Everything International Students Should Know About the Student Visa Application and Studying in the US

The world is becoming a smaller place each year, and as time goes on education becomes a crucial factor in determining success and future well-being.

That’s why motivated students around the world are eager to choose schools in the United States. US colleges and universities are regularly ranked among the best institutes of higher education in the world. They provide some of the most sought after degrees, and they offer students from other parts of the world opportunities to get a high quality education and exposure to new and exciting ways of life.

Here we’re going to discuss some things international students need to be aware of before coming to the United States to study.

#1 Student Visa Information

International students can be granted entry into the US by ensuring that they receive the proper visa classification. Young people and older adults alike must fill out a student visa application, typically for an M-1 or F-1 student visa, to be able to stay in the US for the purposes of higher education.

The student visa allows foreign students to study full-time in an accredited college, university, or vocational school. To be able to apply for this visa a prospective student must first receive a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20) from an SEVP certified school. SEVP is the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. A Form I-20 is only issued after a student has been accepted into a school.

The process to apply to various schools as an international student may differ, so international applicants are encouraged to contact the school’s Admissions Department for further information. Most institutes of higher education will have an International Student Adviser available to assist international applicants.

#2 You Must Prove You Have Sufficient Financial Resources

Simply being accepted into the school of your choice does not guarantee you will receive a student visa for studying in the states. Prospective students must show they have sufficient financial resources (even if they’re from a sponsor) to cover their living and education expenses while in the US.

To prove your financial resources are adequate for your time in the US, you must submit the appropriate financial supporting documents to both your school and the embassy or consulate you are applying at. If your sponsor is living in the United States, then you will also need to submit Form I-34 (Affidavit of Financial Support). Although you may think that employment will help you cover your living expenses, not all international students are eligible to work while they are studying. To ensure the best outcome be certain you have enough financial support to live and study full-time in the US.

#3 Course Enrollment Guidelines

Because you are primarily visiting the United States to study and further your education, it’s mandatory that international students on M-1 or F-1 visas be enrolled in a full course of study. You must have at least 12 credit hours or the equivalent of full time student status at the institute you are enrolled. Failure to maintain a full time course load is a violation of your student visa status and puts you in a position to be deported.

#3 Extending Your Stay

If you decide that you would like to extend your stay beyond your education, you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). International students are eligible for a set amount of OPT based on their visa status as well as the length of their program. After completing your OPT you may be able to change your visa status or extend your stay temporarily by submitting an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539). There are no guarantees that your application will be approved however.

#4 Visa Violations

A visa can be canceled by US Immigration Services for many reasons. The most common reason is when a student overstays the period authorized by their visa, and does not apply for an extension or renewal. As a student, if your visa runs out, you are considered in an “unlawful status.” If you have overstayed your visa by more than 180 days, when you leave the US you will be barred from returning for at least 3 years and possibly longer. It’s important to always ensure your visa is current and that you avoid any possible violations of your visa status.

#5 How to Be Prepared Mentally for the Big Move

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Now that we have the most important part of being an international student out of the way (the visa) we can focus on the thing you’re really concerned about — how to prepare for your education in the US.

One of the key things you will have to do is to prepare mentally. Moving is always stressful, but moving to a completely different country compounds that stress. Things will be different than you are used to and you may find yourself suffering from a bit of culture shock. Upon arriving, make sure you connect with people who share similar interests. Chances are you will find people with similar backgrounds and interests easier than you would think. But don’t just stick to what you are comfortable with — part of the benefit of studying abroad is the ability to immerse yourself in another country and get to know its people and culture. Enjoy your time and make the most of it by trying new things and meeting new people.

Studying in the US: An Important Life Decision

Choosing to come to the US to study is a huge decision and needs to be carefully planned out. First, research where you want to study and what is required to gain acceptance. The next step is to submit an application to your school of choice. While you are waiting for a decision, you should begin preparing for your student visa application. Once you’re admitted and receive your I-20, you can apply for the student visa. There are no guarantees, but as long as you follow all of the instructions from Study in the States and your international student adviser, you will have a much better chance of being approved for a student visa.

Once you have your student visa in hand, you can set your sights on studying abroad. You’ll have the opportunity to live in a new culture and enjoy completely new experiences — like meeting new people and trying exciting new things! Good luck and we hope you have a positive, life-changing experience during your stay in the US!

Stay tuned for the next post in our International Student Series.

If you’re interested in applying to AIMS, you can learn more about the international admission process here.


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