Planning guide to US for international students

International students interested in pursuing their studies in the US will need to obtain a student visa or F-1 Student visa. Before you leave your home country, you will need to prepare your documents and follow the visa procedures dictated by the local US embassy. As each US embassy consulate sets its own policies regarding visas to US, it is not uncommon to find varying procedures and regulations. So it is highly recommended to consult with a local embassy for official information regarding student visas. This page will provide general information to prepare international students to come to US.

Once you are sure of the school you want to attend in the US, you have a more specific idea of the school requirements for admission and studies for international students. You cannot go to any school of your choice because the school has admission requirements such as proficiency in the English language and other testing score requirements. So it is important to understand and follow the admission requirements to ensure acceptance to the college or university. If you have a family or friend living in the US, he/she can be a great aid to research on your behalf. You can also go to the school's website to learn of the specifics of the school. To evaluate each schooling option, consider these points:

  • pay attention to the testing requirements for admission. What is the minimum score required for admission on TOEFL?
  • learn of any special course of study or academic standing requirements.
  • tuition cost, application fees, books, and other school supplies
  • health or medical insurance requirements
  • choose a school close to your family or friend (if any) living in the US. This will not only ensure you will live close to the people you know but also they could offer food, housing, finical, transportation, or other needed help.
  • learn of school transfer requirements or procedures. This is helpful to know in case you need to transfer to another school.

Does this not go to show you that you need to do a lot of planning and early? Don't forget schools have important deadlines for each semester for students to apply for admission. So if the deadline for admission for a Fall semester is March 15, you cannot apply after March 15. Instead you need to apply earlier than the deadline to ensure your application is reviewed and processed in a timely manner.

Before you even consider getting a student visa, make sure you have a passport. And, it should be valid for longer than six months beyond the date you intend to stay in the US. (Review this page to learn more on traveling to US.) Having a passport does not guarantee a visa; rather it is just a document certifying a citizenship of a particular your country. With visa on your passport, you can travel to a foreign country. So what guarantees a student visa? Being sure that your visa application is complete, accurate, and is in compliance with the procedures and policies set by the local US embassy. Make sure to get legal help if you are not sure you can follow through the visa application process alone.

When you apply for a visa (or when you submit an application for a visa), you will need to have:

  • passport,
  • a acceptance letter from your school,
  • bank statements to confirm you have (or you have access to through a sponsor to) enough funds,
  • health/immunization records,
  • official test scores,
  • any additional supporting material

Before you submit any document to the embassy or school, make sure you keep copies for yourself. If you are not asked to provide original documents, don't provide original documents, instead give copies. Once you have applied for your visa, you will be asked to come for an interview. The interviewing embassy officer will talk to you in your native language to further evaluate your visa application. The interview is your opportunity to convince the consular you are ready to study in the US. Unfortunately, if your visa application is not favorable to granting you a visa, your application may be denied. In this case you can request a written explanation and don't forget to inquire about reapplying options. Also, consider legal advice for options.

Once you have a visa to enter the US, you will need to make the necessary travel arrangements. In most cases, you probably will be flying to the US. This means you will need to pay for air fare. Don't purchase your ticket until you are sure you have the visa. Otherwise, you may end up with a ticket and situation in which the visa is delayed or denied.

Before you leave your home country, make sure you are in good health. Get a complete physical and dental examination. Inform the doctor about the length of your stay in the US and of any known medical care you may need during your stay. If needed, bring with you yout prescribed medications and medical records translated into English.

Don't forget to bring money with you but not a lot of cash for safety and security reasons. Bring your money in non-cash formats such as a traveler’s check. Make sure the money you bring is in US currency, not in foreign country; otherwise you may find it difficult or expensive to exchange for US dollars. Make sure the money you bring is in both large ($100's and $50's) and small ($1's, $10's, $20's) denominations. If you have credit cards (such as Visa, or MasterCard), it is a convenient way to pay for your purchases because these cards are widely accepted.

Other things to consider before you come to the US:

  • Know the weather season before you arrive and dress appropriately. You don't want to be in light cloths when it is freezing and snowing outside!
  • Generally pack stuff you will absolutely need and avoid bringing stuff you will need rarely. First of all, if your packing is heavy, the airline may charge you for the extra load. Secondly, you will need to show some extra strength to carrying the heavy load.
  • Don't forget to bring your eye glasses. Bring in your prescription for your glasses are also helpful in case your glasses are damaged or lost.
  • Bring family or friends' photos (or photo albums), videos, etc. Also, remember to bring with contact information for your loved ones.
  • A driver's license and voter registration card (if applicable)
  • Consider bringing your native dress or costumes for cultural festivals or special occasions
  • know where you intend to live in the US. Also, how you will get there from the airport. Are you going to use a taxi, train, bus, or via some other means?

Once you arrive in the US and after some resting, go to your to register yourself as a student. You are likely to be asked for your passport, proof of health insurance, English transcripts of foreign studies, and so on. If required, you may be asked to take additional testing at the school to determine your academic readiness. None of this should be a surprise, however because all of this information has been available to you since you applied for the school. Don't fear because you are a new student at the school. First, there may be many other students starting new. Second, you will have an opportunity to attend an orientation. The information session will provide you crucial and specific information to help you get acquainted with the college or university and student life. To get more information on filing for a visa or finding a local embassy, see this page.

Posted on 12/25/2007
by Raj Singh