The vast majority of international students in the U.S. have F-1 Student Visas. Before they can be issued an F-1 visa, however, applicants must submit a valid Certificate of Eligibility (also known as an I-20 form) to the U.S. Department of State in addition to the usual visa requirements.

Because an I-20 can only be issued by accredited colleges and universities and cannot be issued until applicants have been admitted to the school, their level of English proficiency has been assessed, and they have satisfied the school’s funding requirements, the F-1 visa application process is not one step but two. This first step, the I-20, represents a unique challenge for many international students because this funding requirement – and the related issue of conditional loan approval – can often complicate the process.

Only a handful of pieces of evidence are accepted as proof of solvency by U.S. universities. Funding from the university (in form of scholarships or grants) and personal or family wealth, are relatively straightforward but at times difficult to obtain.

Private international student loans are more complicated because student loans are usually granted only after a student has been formally admitted to a school – which may not happen until proof of funding (the reason for the loan) has been established. The crisis that might otherwise arise from this chicken-and-egg scenario is resolved by the fact that many schools accept what is known as conditional loan approval from a lender as sufficient evidence of solvency.

Although conditional loan approval does not mean that a student has the money on hand, with it international students can receive their I-20, formally accept the loan in question, and apply for their F-1 visa. Though this process varies from school to school, your school’s international student advisor will be able to address any questions or concerns you may have. Once you clear things with them, all you need is a bit of time, patience, and persistence and you will be on your way to the next exciting chapter your life!

Have you thought about studying in Canada? Learn about Canada Visa information.