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The process works like this: First, prospective international students apply to one or more U.S. schools that are certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. They receive a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status,” from schools that accept them for enrollment. Students offered conditional admission must also demonstrate financial support – the same requirements apply to all F-1 and M-1 students. The Form I-20 indicates the cost of tuition and living expenses the international student can expect to pay while attending that school.
Before a school may issue an international student a Form I-20, the student must first provide evidence of financial support to the school’s designated school official. The designated school official acts as a liaison between the school and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, a government program that ensures U.S. schools and international students comply with U.S. laws and regulations.
Evidence of financial support includes, but is not limited to: bank statements, documentation from a sponsor and financial aid and scholarship letters. Certain U.S. schools may have specific requirements for acceptable documentation. The designated school official will communicate this information to prospective international students.
While international students are eligible to work on campus, that employment is limited to 20 hours per week, so students shouldn’t count on being able to include income from while they’re in school. Student employment is not taken into consideration for evidence of financial support because there are no guarantees that students will have a job once they are on campus.
International student must bring their Form I-20 from the school they plan to attend and evidence of financial support to their visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate where they apply for their visa. The consular officer will review this information to ensure the student can finance their studies and living expenses in the U.S..
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A consular officer may request any information he or she deems relevant to establish the applicant’s qualification for the student visa. All international students, regardless of which country they are coming from, have to demonstrate they can pay for their U.S. education.