Proof of Funds for your F-1 Visa

April 30th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

It’s that time of year when students have received acceptance letters from their colleges and universities. Once they’ve narrowed down their schools and confirmed admissions, the next step is to apply for a F-1 international student visa to get government authorization to study in the US.

If you are one of these students, then it is important to know about the proof of funds requirement that you’ll be asked when you visit your local US embassy. All prospective foreign students are required to demonstrate that they have the financial capability to support him or herself while studying in the US. This includes covering tuition and fees, living expenses, and any dependents – without working during your studies.

To meet the Proof of Funds requirement for your F-1 visa, you will either need to present proof of funds for yourself, or do so through a sponsorship (such as a relative financially backing your education). It is important that you check directly with the consulate as this may vary by country and agency, but here are some general considerations and documents you should bring during your visit.

Proof of liquid assets. The consulate will want to see that you are able to cover your education and living expenses. While there are generally no specific documents that prove this, there are some commonly used documents that help support proof of funds including:

  • Original tax returns from the last three years (Form 16)
  • Three years of bank records and/or fixed deposit statements of your sponsor (which can also be your parent)
  • Pay slips, employment letters
  • Chartered accountant statements
  • Scholarships (which should be indicated on your I-20)
  • Property documents

The US government is concerned more with liquid assets such as savings accounts and checking accounts since they want to ensure that you have easy access to these funds. Investments with fluctuating values and property deeds are not generally recommended as proof of funds. The embassy is looking to see that you have immediate funds to cover the first year costs of your education, and that you’ll have access to funds for the following years needed to complete your degree.

Additionally, it is important that all of your documents are original, in English (or an official translation attached), and official. Your bank documents should be on bank letterhead with the name of the account holder, account number, and the total amount of funds indicated on the forms.

Sponsorship. If you are planning to study in the US but do not have sufficient funds, you can have a sponsor support you instead. Many international students have a sponsor, such as a family member, to help cover their educational expenses. Sponsors can be located inside or outside the US:

  • If the student is sponsored by a US citizen, they would need to complete the I-134 Affidavit of Support Form that requires the sponsor to cover any expenses that the student cannot afford.
  • If the student is sponsored with funds outside the US, then the embassy would check to see if there are any fund transfer restrictions from the specified country. If there are any restrictions, the student must be equipped with evidence that the student will be able to access these funds during the period of study.

The final determination of sufficient proof of funds is determined by the consulate or embassy. Even if you provide these documents they can still deny the student visa. Be sure to check with your school and consulate to make sure you have all the proper forms necessary when arriving for your F-1 student visa interview.

 


Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship Launch

April 26th, 2012 by Jonathan Frankel

Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship Launch
Scholarship Deadline: Unrestricted

Twenty-two students attending the University of Liberia have the opportunity to receive a scholarship from the Chinese Ambassador’s Scholarship Launch. This scholarship program was officially launched April 4 by China’s ambassador in Liberia, Zhao Jianhua. The awards are for students in the Science and Agricultural College studying science, technology, agriculture or forestry and will assist the awardees with tuition and lab fees associated with their studies. Awards are given based on student’s subject of study as well as their grade average.

The launch is consistent with efforts to improve the Science and Agricultural College and increase the number of students studying the sciences at the University of Liberia. This scholarship program is centered on progression in the areas of science and technology and was launched to assist with the reconstruction of Liberia. If you attend the University of Liberia, please contact your school for more information on this award.


Keep Costs Low for Study Abroad

April 23rd, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

Studying abroad is a great opportunity to continue on track and earn credits, but at the same time broaden your experiences and understanding of the world around you. Depending on your industry, studying abroad can be a great way to distinguish yourself and gain meaningful professional experience. Many students who plan to study abroad can combine their class work with an internship in their field, and improve their fluency in a second (or even, third!) language.

However, many students considering studying abroad may ask themselves if it is affordable. If you are one of these students, there are some important tips that will help you keep costs low for study abroad:

Location. Location. Location. The cost of living in your study abroad destination will ultimately depend on where you study abroad.  If you are trying to keep costs low for study abroad, you’ll want to consider a destination that is more economical. Think about your related expenses that you’ll need to cover such as living costs, food, transportation, entertainment, shopping, fitness, laundry and other extracurricular activities. All of these costs will depend on your location. To compare costs, think about not only the country you decide to go to, but also the town or city you choose. If you are dying to study in the United Kingdom, perhaps London might just be too expensive – but what about Manchester or Newcastle? You can still study abroad in the country of your choice, but be sure to investigate the associated costs. Major industrialized cities tend to be much more expensive than neighboring, smaller towns. If a big city is what you want, consider living just outside the city and commuting in, or perhaps consider a big city in a less industrialized country.

Exchange Rates Matter. If you were never finance savvy, here’s your chance to give it a second shot! Exchange rates are the fluctuations of currencies compared to other currency. If you’re a US citizen, more than likely your monetary worth is in US dollars. If the U.S. dollar appreciates (or gains value) compared to your host country’s currency, your dollars can buy even more. If the U.S. dollar depreciates (or looses value) compared to your host country’s currency, you will need more dollars to buy the same amount of goods or services. Over the past year, the U.S. dollar has declined significantly against the Euro and British pound. This means that you need more US dollars to pay for the same goods/services than you would have needed before. So, if you plan to study abroad, it is important to consider this important factor into your decision making. Choose a country where the dollar remains relatively strong and/or stable.

Think Timing. Timing will also impact your wallet! Depending on your study abroad destination, there is a high and low tourist season. Prices from airfare to domestic travel typically fluctuate seasonally. Do the research and plan ahead by trying to coordinate your study abroad trip on an off season period so that prices will be low and in some cases you’ll be able to bargain for better rates. Spring, Fall, or Summer semester gives you the flexibility to choose the best timing to keep costs low for study abroad. Beware, before making arrangements be sure to find out why it’s low season. If you are studying in Costa Rica during the low season, for example, it generally corresponds with the rainy season. Make sure that you are aware of seasonal weather changes so that you are prepared! Also, in some cases, because summer semester is a shorter length of time, rates for a study abroad program are also lower.

We hope that you have found our tips on how to keep costs low for study abroad helpful. We want to hear from you, what have you done to keep costs low when you went overseas?


Aurora Challenge Grant

April 19th, 2012 by Jonathan Frankel

Aurora Challenge Grant
Deadline: April 30

Are you a US citizen residing in California that has always wanted to visit Japan? The Aurora Challenge Grant through the Aurora Foundation is making this dream of visiting Japan a reality for one individual. The grant challenge is open to individuals regardless of their age or academic achievement, but who have a project goal they would like to fulfill.

Applicants are judged based upon the following criteria:

  • Commitment to his/her dream project that relates to Japanese culture
  • Need for financial support
  • Experience and background related to the project
  • Potential to enhance global goodwill with his/her project

The winner of this grant will win a roundtrip air ticket to Japan along with $3,000. The awardee must be able to commit to submitting a post-trip report about their experience. The submission date for this grant has been extended to April 30, those interested can find out more information on the application process here.


Repayment Period – Why it matters to you?

April 16th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

International student loans are a popular topic of conversation, especially for those students looking for additional financing. While there are many lenders that loan to international students, each loan has its own terms and conditions that will influence how much you pay over the life of your loan.

In our previous blog, we defined what is the principal and interest rate. The interest rate, or the cost of borrowing money, is influenced by the amount of risk associated with the loan. As you increase the time period on your loan, the total risk of your loan being repaid increases, and therefore the interest rate will also be higher. The interest rate accrues on a daily basis which is determined by your interest rate, amount borrowed, and length of your loan.

And, given this information, let’s consider how this relates to the repayment period. So, what is the repayment period?
The repayment period is the act of returning money that you have previously borrowed. This includes the repayment of both your interest rate and principal that you were lent.

This is an important term since you will need to know when to make your loan payments to ensure that they are paid on time. If they are not, you could find that you will have additional associated fees for late payment, or your loan could be in default.

To avoid this, many students prefer automatic debits from their account to ensure that payment is made on time each month. In some cases, you will find that lenders will reduce your interest rate if you sign up for electronic debiting.

There are three main forms of repayment:

  • Full deferral

This form of payment is typically much easier for students who want to dedicate their time in school to just studying. This allows students to defer interest and principal repayments until after graduation (typically up to four years consecutively), or when the student drops down below part-time status. Payments will generally begin 6 months after graduation or if the student is no longer enrolled at least part time. Keep in mind that this is the most expensive option as interest will accrue during the deferment period and will be added to the balance at the time of repayment.

  • Interest Only

Another less expensive option is the interest only repayment option. This allows the student to begin paying back the accrued interest on your loan immediately, while you are in school, but your principal payments typically do not begin until 45 days graduation (up to four consecutive years) or once students drop below part-time student status.

  • Immediate Repayment

This is the least costly option for students since students begin making payments for both the principal and interest immediately once the loan has been disbursed.

For further questions about repayment period, and why this matters, contact our loan experts. If you are interested in comparing international student loans, you can do so using our international student loan comparison tool which will allow you to compare basic lender terms.

The information provided in this blog is designed to highlight features of loans and how they work. It is always important to check with your lender to confirm terms and conditions, as they can vary.


IEFA Relaunch

April 12th, 2012 by Jonathan Frankel

Just when you thought the leading resource in international education financial aid couldn’t get better, it did. IEFA.org has recently had a facelift that includes new additions along with multiple updates to existing features making it a complete resource for finding the aid you need overseas, all in one spot.

IEFA has a new, polished look, but the main feature of this site still includes a scholarship database which holds over 900 awards for international students and those studying abroad. The IEFA relaunch includes updates of the most recent information to existing content, giving students a better chance of receiving aid! Instead of searching through hundreds of scholarships, awards can now be narrowed down by searching what students are studying, where students are studying or their origin and destination. The scholarship database is now continuously updated meaning less scholarship searching and more scholarship applying!

Although scholarships assist students with their financial needs, most of them do not cover every expense associated with international education. The IEFA relaunch now allows international students in need of a private loan access to the loan information they need with a user-friendly loan comparison tool. With multiple outlets of funding available, IEFA has become a complete resource for students looking to fund overseas education.

IEFA is also the new home of the IFAB blog. This content offers the most up to date information in the international education financial world. International students in need of tips or guidance along with their financial assistance will find this beneficial.

IEFA has been a valuable resource for international students for 14 years, with the IEFA relaunch they will now have access to even more comprehensive information and the financial aid they need.


Private Student Loans for International Students

April 9th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

If you are an international student interested in coming to the United States to study, or if you are currently enrolled in a US university or college, you may be looking for private sources of funding. While scholarships, grants and fellowships are a great place to start, you may soon realize that this is insufficient to cover your tuition, room and board, books, and other living expenses. Many international students turn to private student loans in this case.

If you are an international student considering a private student loan, there are a couple of pointers that you will want to know before applying for any loan.

1. Not all loans work for international students. Each lender has their own restrictions on eligibility. Some lenders only work with US citizens or green card holders, thereby eliminating any possibility of an international student obtaining a private student loan. Before you begin your application, be sure to check whether you are eligible before spending time gathering your information and completing the required documents.

2. Not all loans work for all schools. Private student loans have to be school-certified and thus only certain schools work with specific lenders. You will need to check with your lender to confirm that they work directly with the school you plan to attend – or the school you are currently enrolled in. Once you apply for a loan, the total loan amount is certified by your school. Loans are typically certified for the cost of attendance minus any other financial aid. The funds are then dispersed to your school that then disperse the funds to the international student.

3. Cosigner required. Most international students are required to have a US cosigner. That cosigner must be a US citizen or permanent resident that has lived in the United States for the last two years. To get the best available rate, your cosigner should have good credit history and rating.

For additional help in comparing lenders, check out our international student loan comparison tool that consider all of these factors to provide you with a list of eligible private student loan options. By choosing your school and citizenship, you will be given a list of lenders that have been prescreened based on your eligibility.


Recession Relief Scholarship

April 5th, 2012 by Jonathan Frankel

Recession Relief Scholarship
Deadline: April 14

Those in need of help to pay off debt from higher education bills are in luck. The Helping Hand Scholarship from Straight Forward Media has four Recession Relief Scholarships for eligible students who are suffering from college costs.

Individuals from around the world who are planning to attend or are currently attending a college, trade school, technical institute, vocational program or other post-secondary educational program are eligible to apply for the Recession Relief Scholarship. Four individuals will win this $500 scholarship to help put a dent in their debt.

If you are interested in this scholarship, you can submit your application by completing the required form and essay questions.  

You can apply here for the recession relief scholarship. Good luck!


Top Majors That Are Likely to Get You Hired

April 2nd, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

In one of our most recent blogs, Top Paying Undergraduate Majors, we looked at which undergraduate majors yielded the highest income long-term and for new hires. In the current employment environment, however, it has been difficult for many students to find a job post graduation. You may have heard on the news in the US – or around the world – that youth unemployment is particularly high. In Spain, for example, 49% of young people under 25 were unemployed at the end of 2011. In Italy, that number was 49% and in the United States that number was approximately 20%.

According to the most recent hiring statistics, the hardest hit demographic to find a job after graduating is international students who have visa restrictions on employment. Degree-seeking international students typically come to the US under a F-1 international student visa which allow students to work under “Optional Practical Training” status up to one year.

If a company wants to hire an international student long-term, the employer will need to apply for a H1B work visa which allows individuals to work for three years and they can renew the visa for another three years. Because students must be working in a field related to their studies, there are top majors that are likely to get you hired compared to others. This sponsorship process requires students to be highly competitive in their industry with skills that standout among other applicants. Furthermore, this process can be quite expensive for employers so typically larger companies, such as banks and consulting firms, are able to hire and support international students.

With visa restrictions and high unemployment, there is recent data that ties your major to your ability to get hired. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Best College Major to Career, your major has a direct impact on your employability. Here are the top 10 lowest unemployment rates based on major:

Undergraduate Major Unemployment Percent
Actuarial Science 0.0%
Pharmacology 0.0%
Educational Administration and Supervision 0.0%
School Student Counseling 0.0%
Geological and Geophysical Engineering 0.0%
Astronomy and Astrophysics 0.0%
Teacher Education 1.1%
Agricultural Economics 1.3%
Medical Technologies Technicians 1.4%
Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology 1.6%

We have also took the majors with the highest income in our previous blog and ranked them according to the lowest unemployment rates:

Undergraduate Major Unemployment Percentage
Environmental Engineering 2.2%
Aerospace Engineering 3.6%
Chemical Engineering 3.8%
Mechanical Engineering (ME) 3.8%
Applied Mathematics 4.1%
Nuclear Engineering 4.1%
Management Information Systems (MIS) 4.2%
Petroleum Engineering 4.4%
Physics 4.5%
Civil Engineering (CE) 4.9%
Electrical Engineering (EE) 5.0%
Mathematics 5.0%
Computer Science (CS) 5.6%
Industrial Engineering (IE) 5.6%
Biomedical Engineering (BME) 5.9%
Economics 6.3%
Statistics 6.9%
Computer Engineering (CE) 7.0%
Materials Science & Engineering 7.7%

While there are top majors that are likely to get you hired, there are other factors that can influence your employment as an international student. Being at the right place at the right time as well as networking and your relationships can make it easier for you to find a job upon graduation.

Many colleges and universities offer resources, like a Career Center, that can give you the right tools and exposure to secure a job in the United States. While this process can be difficult, it is important to think long-term and consider your major, involvement, networking, and internship decisions if you are considering job prospects in the US.