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International Student Planner

How much will your college education cost and how will you pay for it? Financial Aid experts and/or International Student Services professionals at the colleges and universities in which you are interested can help you determine the total cost of attending their school including tuition, fees, books, computers, housing, and meals. They will also help you estimate the cost of additional educational expenses such as health insurance and travel.

Once you know the total estimated cost of your education, you can develop a realistic financial plan:

  • Determine the degree to which you can finance your education using personal and/or family funds.
  • Research and apply for scholarships and grants offered by organizations in the U.S. and in your country of citizenship.
  • And, create a sensible borrowing program.

Submit Admissions Applications

Most schools charge a fee to process new applications. If you are applying to a school using an online application, be prepared to pay in U.S. dollars using a credit card. It's also a good idea to retain a copy of the applications you submit, along with any supporting documentation, for your records.

Conduct Research

A wealth of information about U.S. colleges and universities is available in libraries, bookstores, and online using the web.

Recommended website:
U.S Department of Education


Application Requirements

College applications can often be printed directly from a school`s website, but schools will also send hard copies upon request. In addition to your completed application, many schools require one or more of the following; however, be sure to refer to your school(s) for specific requirements and instructions.

  • Nonrefundable application fee(s)
  • Contact information and identification numbers (for example, your passport number and/or National Identification Number)
  • Chronological listing of information about the educational institutions you have attended
  • Plans to study in an intensive English language program (required only if an applicant`s TOEFL score is not satisfactory)
  • Official scores for standardized tests that include but are not limited to the:
    • SAT, an undergraduate admissions requirement for most colleges you`re interested in attending. The SAT I: Reasoning Test is a measure of your verbal reasoning and mathematical problem solving skills. The SAT II: Subject Tests measure your knowledge of various subjects. (Please note that the SAT is not currently offered in mainland China.)
    • GRE (Graduate Record Examination), which measures general verbal, quantitative, and analytical skills and is required by most graduate programs.
    • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), a requirement of most graduate business and management programs that measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills.
    • LSAT (Law School Admission Test), which is required for admission to all Law School Admission Council member law schools. The LSAT measures skills that are considered essential for success in law school: reading and comprehending complex passages with accuracy and insight; analyzing arguments and drawing reliable conclusions; organizing and managing information; and writing persuasively.
    • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which evaluates the English proficiency of students whose native language is not English. TOEFL scores are required by more than 4,300 U.S. institutions of higher education.
  • Statement of the type of visa form (I-20 or DS2019 (formerly IAP-66)) you will need from the school
  • Your most recent resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Proof of the ability to pay for at least one year of school. Your Global Loan Certificate can serve as evidence of your ability to pay.
  • Official transcripts from previously attended schools
  • Personal statement or essay

Required Standardized Tests

Many schools require applicants to submit official scores for one or more standardized tests that include but are not limited to the:

  • SAT, an undergraduate admissions requirement for most colleges you're interested in attending. The SAT I: Reasoning Test is a measure of your verbal reasoning and mathematical problem solving skills. The SAT II: Subject Tests measure your knowledge of various subjects. (Please note that the SAT is not currently offered in mainland China.)
  • GRE (Graduate Record Examination), which measures general verbal, quantitative, and analytical skills and is required by most graduate programs.
  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), a requirement of most graduate business and management programs that measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills.
  • LSAT (Law School Admission Test), which is required for admission to all Law School Admission Council member law schools. The LSAT measures skills that are considered essential for success in law school: reading and comprehending complex passages with accuracy and insight; analyzing arguments and drawing reliable conclusions; organizing and managing information; and writing persuasively.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), which evaluates the English proficiency of students whose native language is not English. TOEFL scores are required by more than 4,300 U.S. institutions of higher education.

Refer to the information provided by each school to which you're applying to determine the standardized tests it requires.

Review Acceptance Letters

Before accepting an offer of admission, make sure you are able to meet the full cost of attendance. Schools may require that a substantial deposit accompany your acceptance in order to hold your place on their roster for the academic term for which you are enrolling.

Request Form I-20

To apply for a student visa (for your passport), Form I-20 must be completed by the school you'll be attending. (Please note that sponsored students and visiting scholars must request Form DS2019.) Many schools require a deposit that holds your place on their enrollment roster before they will send you a completed I-20.

Visa Application Process

Apply for a passport. Remember you will need to provide proof of residency in your country of citizenship. Once you have applied for a passport, make an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. consulate nearest you. The following items are generally required for this interview, but double check with your local consulate well before your interview.

  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS -156)
  • Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-157)
  • Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant (Form DS-158)
  • A valid passport endorsed for travel abroad and valid for return to China or re-entry into another country.
  • The I-20 provided by the school you have selected.
  • Proof of residency in your country of citizenship.
  • A clean bill of health. No inoculations are required unless you were recently in a country with epidemics such as cholera and yellow fever. HIV-positive individuals are not permitted to enter the U.S.
  • Absence of a criminal record. Criminal activity is grounds for deportation.
  • Proof that you intend to leave the U.S. within a reasonable time frame upon completion of your studies. The consulate advises applicants to present documentation and other evidence establishing social, economic, and other ties that would "compel the applicant’s return from the United States after a temporary and lawful stay".
  • You must show that you can support yourself financially during your stay. Use your Global Loan Certificate and auxiliary financial statements to demonstrate fund availability for at least your first full year of school.
  • Deposit Receipt from the school you'll be attending.
  • You will also have to provide proof of proficiency in English (unless you will be enrolling in a language program). Your TOEFL score often fulfills this requirement.
  • A 1.5 inch square photograph (37 mm x 37 mm) showing full face against a light background.
  • The visa processing fee.

There are three types of student visas:

  • F-1 (Student Visa). The F-1 visa is for students enrolled full-time in an academic program. An F-1 visa permits students to stay in the U.S. for the full length of their academic program plus 60 days after the completion of their program. Students with an F-1 visa must maintain a full-time course load and complete their studies by the expiration date shown on the I-20 form.
  • J-1 (Exchange Visitor Visa). The J-1 visa is issued to students who require practical training to complete their academic program that is not available in their home country. The training must be directly related to their academic program. The J-1 visa obligates a student to return to their home country for a minimum of two years upon completion of their studies in the U.S. before being eligible to apply for an immigrant (permanent resident) visa.
  • M-1 (Vocational Student Visa). The M-1 visa is for students attending non-academic trade and vocational schools. The M-1 visa is valid for up to one year. Recipients of an M-1 visa may not change fields of study. Switching from an M-1 visa to an F-1 visa is not permitted.

Form I-94 Upon Entry to U.S.

Form I-94, a small white card that is affixed to a page in your passport, states the date your stay in the U.S. expires. Duration of Status (D/S) indicates that your stay is valid until the earliest of either the graduation date provided on your original I-20 form OR the actual date of graduation.

Extending Your Stay in the U.S.

If you hold an F-1 visa but are unable to graduate by the date indicated on your I-20, you must apply for an extension of stay by filing the following papers.

  • Your I-20 form from the school you're attending
  • Proof of residency in your country of citizenship
  • A letter from your academic department explaining the reason for the delay in graduation
  • Completed Form I-538
  • A new Form I-20 that shows your new graduation date
  • A new financial statement

In addition, you must have continuously maintained your student status and your delay in graduation must be caused by compelling academic or medical reasons, such as change of major or research topic, unexpected research problems, or documented illness. Academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for extension. If your I-20 has expired, you are out of status and must apply for reinstatement. Once out of status, you may not work on campus or receive a graduate assistantship until the status is restored. If you work while out of status, you will not be permitted to apply for reinstatement.

Travel Within the U.S. and Abroad

While the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requires that individuals over the age of 18 carry their registration documentation with them, there have been cases where non-immigrants boarding domestic flights (flights within the U.S.) have been asked to show documentation that includes their passport, I-94 and/or I-797, and DS2019/IAP-66 or I-20. We therefore recommend that you carry all of these documents when traveling abroad and within the U.S.

Students traveling outside the U.S. must possess a visa for the country they are visiting, if required by that country. Visas for entrance into foreign countries must be secured from consulates or embassies for those countries but located within the United States. Canada requires that a student be in possession of his or her I-94 before being issued a Canadian visa. Please note that in order to return to the U.S., you must have a valid U.S. visa and an I-20 signed within the last six months.

Transfer to Another School

A student with an F-1 visa is eligible to transfer to another school if s/he:

  • Is a bona fide non-immigrant student.
  • Has been pursuing a full course of study at the school s/he was last authorized to attend during the term immediately preceding the transfer.
  • Intends to pursue a full-time course of study at the school to which s/he plans to transfer.
  • Is financially able to attend the school to which s/he intends to transfer.

The following procedures must be followed before a transfer will be considered complete:

  • The F-1 student must obtain a properly completed Form I-20 AB from the school to which s/he intends to transfer. The student must inform the designated school official at the school s/he is currently attending of the intention to transfer.
  • The student must enroll in the new school during the first term after leaving the previous school or the first term after summer vacation. The student must complete Page 1 of Form I-20 AB as instructed and submit it to a designated official at the new school within fifteen days after the date s/he began classes at the new school.
  • The designated school official receiving the Form I-20 AB will complete the process for the student.

Spouses and Dependents

A spouse or dependent may apply for a dependent visa upon presentation of the following:

  • A copy of the student? I-20 or DS2019/IAP-66 as prepared by an official of the school the student is attending.
  • A written invitation from the student.
  • Evidence of sufficient financial support.
  • Proof of ties to the home country. A spouse or dependent who holds an F-2 visa is not eligible to work in the U.S. under any circumstances. Dependents of J-1 visa holders may apply for permission to work from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Employment

Students holding F-1 and J-1 visas may accept on-campus employment at most colleges and universities. Please refer to your school's specific policies for details. On-campus employment is usually limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students may typically work full-time during holiday periods.

Maintaining Your Visa

To maintain your visa status:

  • Keep your passport valid at all times during your stay in the United States. You must also maintain full-time enrollment status and continue to make normal full-time progress toward your degree or certificate.
  • Maintain health insurance at all times for yourself and your dependents.
  • Be sure you meet eligibility criteria before you transfer to another school or program within the U.S.
  • Report any change of address to the United States government.  See the following link for more information.  http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html
  • Make sure you have a re-entry signature on your I-20 or DS2019/IAP-66 before leaving to travel outside the U.S., and ensure that you have a valid student visa upon your return.

In addition, students holding an F-1 visa may work on campus only if they maintain legal student status and do not accept off-campus employment of any kind without proper authorization from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. A non-immigrant who accepts unauthorized employment is subject to deportation.


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