Financial Requirements for a Student VISA
If you wish to apply for a student visa in the U.S., you must prove you can afford tuition and related costs.
As an applicant for a student visa to the United States, you’re expected to prove you can cover your tuition and living expenses. This means you must cover not only your own expenses, but those of your spouse and children, if any, should they stay with you in the United States. You must do this without relying on any employment you might pick up in the United States while you’re a student—and without your spouse or children working at all.
How Much Money You Will Need
If you’re applying for F-1 (academic student) status, your financial resources must clearly cover a 12-month academic term. Also, you must show evidence that additional years of study will be covered as well. The U.S. government doesn’t expect you to be able to pay for all your years of education right away, but it does expect you to show where the money will come from. Similarly, if you apply for M-1 (vocational student) status, your resources must cover the entire 12-month (or shorter) study term.
Sources of Financial Support
Your sources of financial support can include personal funds; personal assets or pieces of property that can be readily convertible to cash; earnings from work done as part of a fellowship or scholarship; or specified funds from other people or organizations. As part of the application process, you must gather documents proving the existence of these sources. For example, you might show evidence of:
- Personal or family funds, such as copies of bank statements or stock certificates. Combine these with a list summarizing your total cash assets. Note that if a bank statement shows a recent deposit but a low average balance, the U.S. government will require an explanation. Attach a written document to the copy of the bank statement, such as a personal statement or an official document showing the source of the new cash. Your goal is to overcome any suspicion that the money was borrowed from a friend to pad the account and make the financial situation look better than it is.
- The employment status of family members who intend to support you, such as a letter, on company letterhead, from their employer (explaining the person’s job title, salary, and that it’s a permanent position); or copies of their income tax statements.
- Assets held by you or your family members that can be readily converted to cash. For example, real estate (land) would be an acceptable asset. Immigration authorities will require proof as to whether the property is owned free and clear or whether it carries any debt or lien; you should attach bank receipts or other receipts showing to what extent any loans or mortgages have been paid off. If the ownership papers don’t make the value clear or show a value that seems too low, you can hire a professional appraiser to prepare an estimate and report. (Note: The conversion must be done in a country whose currency is traded on the international exchange.)
- Any scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants or loans from your school, government or private sources. Although these will also appear on the Form I-20 you receive from the accepting school, you must provide independent confirmation for them. Usually, a copy of the notification letter you received is acceptable.
If family members residing in the United States or territories intend to support you, they can use a USCIS Form I-134 to indicate that they not only have the income and assets you have reported, but they are willing to spend them on your studies and living expenses.
Support from Non-Family Members
If individuals who aren’t members of your family are willing to support you, you may provide evidence through the same sources mentioned above, including a Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. The person who decides whether to issue your visa will wonder, however, why someone who isn’t related to you wishes to pay for you to get an expensive U.S. education. For that reason, non-family members should also provide a sworn statement explaining why they are so willing, able and motivated. The statement should mention that the person understands he or she is not just a “backup” if other sources fail but will be immediately responsible for paying all or part of your tuition, fees and expenses.