Applying to study in the US can seem difficult but it doesn’t have to be. A little bit of investigating reveals that the process is actually much less confusing than it initially appears. Take the I-20, one of the earliest – and most frequently misunderstood – aspects of the student visa application process. This document, which is also known as a Certificate of Eligibility, is required for all F-1 visa applications and can only be issued by accredited colleges and universities. At its most fundamental level the I-20 certifies that a) applicants have been admitted to the school in question, b) they are proficient in English, and c) they have met the school’s solvency requirements for international students.

While the first two are straightforward enough, students often complain that the solvency requirements for international students are not. This, however, does not need to be the case. Solvency requirements – which prove that the student in question has the financial means to cover the costs of the time in the US – are frequently misunderstood but are actually quite simple. First, it is important to understand that bank holdings alone are not the only way to meet solvency requirements for international students. International students may also apply the benefits of any scholarships or fellowships they have been awarded as well as in some cases use the proceeds of international private loans in order to prove their solvency.

It is important to note, however, that international students are not eligible for the same scholarships, fellowships, and loans that domestic students are. For example, while many school-based scholarships are open to both domestic and international students, few of the most famous government-back scholarships and loans would work. All is not lost, though! Many school-sponsored or third-party based scholarships (e.g., merit scholarships) are still open international students and, failing that, a wide variety of private loan options exist. Be careful, though – while many schools consider a wide array of private loan options when considering solvency requirements for international students not all do. It is important to also check with your embassy or consulate to ensure that it is acceptable as well.  The regulations used by each institution can vary however, so it is important to check with the school in question before making any formal plans. Contacting the school’s international student office with questions like these may be the first step in an exciting journey abroad!

Documents required for US visa application for international students