If you have decided to study in the US, your choice of destination country needs no validation as the US is considered the best study abroad destination. In this study guide to the USA for international students, we will inform you of everything you need to know for studying in the USA. From popular universities to lifestyle tips, and accommodations, to the admission process. Not to justify your choice but to further strengthen your decision, we at Studyabroad.shiksha.com have compiled a few reasons why considering the US as your study abroad destination is a wise decision.
USA Country Highlights
|International Students Studying in USA in 2022-23||4,65,791|
|International Students Studying in USA 2023||Predicted to increase by 3 - 4%|
|Total Universities in USA||4,000+|
UG: High school certificate/mark sheets + SAT / ACT scores (not mandatory if optional) + ELP test scores of TOEFL / IELTS / Duolingo
PG: Bachelor's mark sheet + GRE / GMAT / LSAT + ELP test scores + SOP + LOR + Resume
|Types of Financial Aids in US||Need-Based, Merit-Based and External Scholarships|
|Average Scholarship Offered in 2022 in USA||USD 73,000|
|Part-Time Working Hours||20 hours a week|
|US F-1 Visa Fee||USD 185|
|Procedure for Obtaining US Study Visa||Obtain the I-20 Form upon acceptance at US university, pay the SEVIS fee, apply for a visa interview, attend the interview and obtain a study visa.|
|Post Study Stay Back Time Period||1 year|
|Average Pay Per Hour in USA||USD 11.05|
Why Study in the USA?
Although the reasons to consider studying in a foreign country may differ widely among students, there are a few standout features that make studying in the USA different from others. Below are a few of the reasons why going to the US to study might be a good decision for international students:
- Every year the USA registers the maximum number of applications for admissions and admits the highest number of international students.
- Around 1,500 US universities rank globally and have made a mark for being in the top 10 as per QS and THE World rankings annually.
- There are over 3,000 universities in the US to choose from for higher education. Also, the US is home to reputed Ivy League schools.
- Along with the highest number of universities in the US, the course opinions are diverse and many specialisations are offered.
- Home to some of the top MNCs, the USA is the popular choice for working after studying internationally.
- International students have the option of working while studying in US universities and earning experience plus money to support their costs of living.
Want to know more reasons to choose the US as your study abroad destination? Check out: Top Reasons to Study in USA.
USA Education System
Many students who are going to pursue their higher studies in the US must be surprised to know that the US has no education system. The Federal government can influence education only by the funding it offers, but this is limited. Unlike CBSE board examinations in India, there is no national high school graduation examination. There are, however, state graduation examinations, and students must pass these. The US education system yet follows the below-given hierarchy of education:
Predict your English proficiency score by sharing few details
Stage-Wise US Education System
- Elementary school
- Middle School
- High school
- Post-secondary (college) - level has various types of institutions in the US
Types of Colleges in USA
There are a couple of colleges in the USA which are different from the regular existing colleges in USA, some of these are as follows:
- State School/College/University: The US comprises 50 states, and each state-run at least one university or college for providing quality higher education to students at low rates. These universities are funded by the respective state governments and are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities. E.g. The University of California or Texas A&M University. Different schools have different selection criteria and students need to have a certain minimum percentage for admission to colleges in the USA.
- Private university/college: These institutions are run privately and are considered costly as compared to state schools.
- Community Colleges: Community colleges offer two-year certification or associate degrees which is transferable. Generally, Community college graduates transfer to universities or four-year colleges to complete their degrees. They are allowed to transfer the credits which they have earned in the community college. Community colleges offer ESL courses or other programs which prepare students for studying university-level courses.
- Technology Institutes: These are the institutes that provide four-year courses related to science and technology.
- Liberal Arts College: Students pursuing a liberal arts degree focused on a subject of their choice, a 'major' but they are also required to take General Education courses in almost all of the other subjects offered. Liberal arts schools usually offer one expansive area of study whereas universities offer the same major in two or more degree areas. A student can major in Mathematics but can still choose an engineering career.
There is a huge difference between the US and Indian education systems. Indians are usually the top recipient of high-skilled H-1B visas and are also the second-largest community of international students staying in the US. The US government records claim that immigrants from India are better educated, more likely to have strong English language skills, arrive on employment-based visas, and are less likely to live below the poverty line than the overall immigrant population.
Many Indians work in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. Most Indian immigrants stay in California, Texas, and New Jersey.
Top 10 Universities in the USA 2023-24
Some of the top universities in the US that are popular among international students are as follows:
|US Universities||QS - World University Rankings 2024||THE - World University Ranking 2023|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||#1||#5|
|University of California, Berkeley||#10||#8|
|University of Chicago||#11||#13|
|University of Pennsylvania||#12||#14|
|California Institute of Technology (CalTech)||#15||#6|
As per the QS rankings of 2024, around four US universities ranked among the top 10 universities globally. And as per THE's 2023 rankings, seven US universities made it to the top 10. The top-ranking US universities make it in the top 20 universities globally also as per both QS and THE global rankings.
Popular Student Cities in the USA - QS Rankings 2024
The area of New England on the east coast of the US is the centre of all its renowned academic institutes. Most of the top-ranking colleges in the USA are located in the cities of Cambridge, New York, Florida and other areas. Let us have a look at the 10 Best Student Cities in USA as per QS in 2024:
|US Cities||QS - Best Student Cities Ranking 2024|
|Los Angeles (LA)||#27|
Approximately, 1,99,812 Indian students were studying in the US during the academic year 2022-23 across the above-given top-ranked student cities in the USA. These students were admitted to the following popular courses - Business Management, Computer Science, Finance and Accounting, Economics, Communications/Media, and Physical and Life Sciences.
Climatic Conditions in the US
Based on the region, the climatic conditions of each of the US regions have been given below:
Southwest - The Southwest has a hot desert climate and covers cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas. The average temperature in summers would be around 40°C to 25°C; in winters it would be around 18°C to 4°C.
Southeast - The southeast has a warm to hot, humid climate and covers cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Charleston. The average temperature in summers is around 35°C to 25°C; in winters it is around 10°C to 0°C.
Midwest - The Midwest, Northern Plains, Great Lakes, and New England regions have a humid climate and cover cities like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. The average temperature in summers is around 28°C to 15°C; in winters it is around 0°C to -9°C.
Atlantic Coast - The central plains and East Coast have a temperate humid climate and cover cities like St. Louis, Cincinnati, and NYC. The average temperature in summers is around 30°C to 18°C; in winters it is around 4°C to -3°C.
Pacific Northwest - The Pacific Northwest has an oceanic climate and covers cities like Seattle, and Portland. The average temperature in summers is around 30°C to 18°C; in winters it is around 4°C to -3°C.
The United States is a dynamic country, covering the breadth of a continent. Many cultural currents exist and coexist within American life. To mingle with the local crowd, you need to keep in mind that the lifestyle of Americans is a lot different than Indians. You need to include more activities in your life if you want to get to know and meet new people.
Know about Professional Sports - One way to break the ice with the locals is to talk about professional sports like NFL or NBA or any other local sports. Sports play an important role in mingling with locals.
Outdoor activities – Americans love spending their time outdoors and prefer taking part in outdoor sports and games. Their lifestyles are more active and they prefer spending time meeting new people and trying out a new and different set of skills.
Music Concerts, Night Life – Every weekend people go to social events like music concerts and performances or maybe just go to a bar to watch a game. Weekends are for socializing and relaxing, so your friends or classmates might invite you to a club. All you need to have is an open mind to meet new people and socialize.
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Accommodation in the USA
Lifestyle Tips – Firstly, you need to decide whether you want to live in university-managed accommodation, or with a private landlord. Choosing a university-managed accommodation can also give you a catered or self-catered option. The catered accommodation offers the benefits of your meals being cooked for you and a degree of certainty with meal costs.
If you have an idea about what you prefer, the accommodation office at your university will be able to tell you what accommodation they have available - so that’s the place to start. If you are thinking of renting from a private landlord or if your chosen university can’t offer you anything in its residential facility, the accommodation office should be able to provide you with a list of private properties and landlords in the area.
Wherever you choose to live, you should make sure that you know your contractual rights and responsibilities. In most cases, you will be asked to enter into a tenancy agreement, which you should read thoroughly before you sign.
Orientation After Arriving in the USA
Orientation week is mandatory for international students so ensure that you arrive before it starts. This is the time when you will be introduced to the university and its services, as well as enroll in your classes. You must read your guidebook, which is provided by the college. The guide explains each part of the admission process.
Activities to Look Forward to in the USA
Along with sports, colleges offer extra-curricular activities that provide students with a wide range of experiences. Music, drama, science, and literary societies in colleges offer opportunities for outdoor education and other leisure activities. Visits to theatres, concerts, and places relevant to the courses of study such as art galleries and museums, religious centers or historical sites, scientific companies and projects are all part of college life.
How to Apply to US Universities from India?
Those looking to pursue higher studies from abroad, generally prefer going to the USA. However, students are not aware of the appropriate application process for applying to universities in the USA. The application process will be the same for most of the universities, however, there must be a separate element for the application process for each of the universities. It varies between different study programs and levels.
Before applying students should know when to start the application process for US Universities. When are the deadlines? What are the intakes for US universities? When a student can go for studying there? These are some of the important things which students should know before applying to US universities. There are two main intake seasons of US universities fall and spring. Unlike India, universities in the USA follow a bi-semester system where an academic year is divided into two semesters.
Students should decide which intake season they want to choose – fall or spring. Those students who are planning to go to pursue undergraduate or graduate-level courses should know the timelines for the September intake. Whether public or private universities have a set of rules for the application process, candidates should know the minimum percentage required for getting admission to a master's in the USA, as MS is the most popular course in the USA.
Eligibility Criteria to Study in USA
The criteria for eligibility vary for each of the study programs and the levels at which they are offered. For each course, Indian students will need to meet a minimum English language requirement.
US Undergraduate Eligibility Criteria for Indian Students
For admissions to undergraduate programs, international applicants will have to fulfil the following criteria if applying to US universities:
- A minimum academic record of 65% and above for the humanities stream in class XII, and 70 - 80% and above for the Science/Commerce stream in class XII will be required.
- SAT or ACT scores (if not test-optional) may also be needed. If the university is test-optional, applicants can choose to submit or not submit scores.
- English language proficiency by submitting either TOEFL or IELTS or PTE or even Duolingo scores, whatever is suitable for applicants and required at the specific university for admission.
- Some applicants may be required to appear for an interview as well.
- Those applicants applying for Arts related courses may be required to submit a portfolio as well.
There may be some course-specific requirements that applicants may have to fulfil when applying for undergraduate courses at US universities, thus, they should check all details and then apply.
US PG Eligibility Criteria for Indian Students
For US university admissions for postgraduate courses, Indian students must follow the given criteria for starters and apply according to the university:
- Foundations and Diploma programs are available for students who have secured below 60%. The student should have completed 18 years of age before joining a degree program. (It is important to note that these numbers are just for reference purposes, the actual numbers may differ from university to university.)
- Submit GRE or GMAT or LSAT scores for admissions in case applicants are applying for PG courses in the USA.
- Applicants may also be required to submit LORs and SOP or even admission essays for master's admissions in US universities. Check out Sample Admission Essays.
- There may be an interview requirement as well.
- Those applying for MBA in USA, will have to submit resumes as well. You can check out the format and a sample resume before proceeding to apply.
Rest, some criteria may vary with the course-specific requirements based on the university in question. Applicants must thoroughly check the requirements and then proceed with the applications.
Documents Required for US University Admissions
The following documents also need to be submitted:
- Attested copies of mark sheets or transcripts of class X, XII, and the Bachelor's degree (if applicable)
- At least, two academic reference letters from professors who have taught you most recently. (Number of reference letters depends from university to university)
- If you have work experience then two letters of recommendation from the employer/manager who knows you well and can comment on your professional abilities
- Statement of Purpose (SOP)
- Essays (If demanded by the university)
- Photocopied score reports of GMAT / GRE / IELTS / TOEFL
- Portfolio (in case of students applying for art and design courses and architecture programs)
- Others (certificates/achievements at the state and national level and extracurricular activities)
- Proof of funds
Application fee: All colleges require that you pay an application fee while applying. The fee amount will differ depending on the college and course being applied to, so check with individual colleges about their application fee. There may be a couple of universities and colleges in the USA which may not require an application fee. Check out: US Universities Without Application Fee
How to Apply to US Universities?
The common steps to keep in mind while applying for US university admissions irrespective of the level are as follows:
- Search for colleges and courses
- Contact schools and visit websites for information
- Narrow down your list of schools
- Take the entrance exams like:
- UG admissions: SAT or ACT
- PG admissions: GMAT or GRE
- English language proficiency tests: TOEFL or IELTS
- Write SOPs and ask for LORs
- Apply to the colleges which fit your interests
- Appear for video interviews of the colleges that shortlisted you
- If accepted, apply for a student visa
Admission Essay for USA
Essays are also required to be submitted by a prospective student. Essays are an important part of the university admissions process. Students may be required to write one or two essays, along with a few optional essays too. Common topics include career aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, skills, experiences, and reasons for considering a particular school.
SOP for USA
A Statement of Purpose (SOP) is your introduction to the college and admission officers. It is always written in the first person and describes the reason for applying to a particular college. It needs to highlight why you are a perfect fit for the college and why the college should accept you. The style of writing could differ from formal to casual, but it is important to remember that it should reflect your personality as well. Do check out Sample SOP for US before applying for US university admissions.
LORs for USA
A letter of recommendation (LOR) is a reference letter written by a third party describing the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the prospective student to recommend him to the college in terms of that individual’s ability to perform a particular task or function. The third party could be a professor, direct manager, etc.
USA Application Timeline 2024
Most US colleges accept online applications and fall the fall intake each year. You will have to visit each college's website to apply. In most cases, you will have to make an account on the college website to provide your basic information, submit the scanned version of your documents, and pay application fees. You will be informed about the application process and its stages through this account. Please refer to the website of the colleges of your choice to know the process of applying.
US Intake Seasons 2024
There are two main intake seasons for US universities, the session starts mainly in September and January but some institutions have intakes in May, July, and October as well. The major intake season for the top courses in the US is September, while the minor intake season is January, which is meant for a fairly small number of courses.
You should start your admission process at least six months before the application deadline. Typically most universities have two deadlines, from October to January. It is up to the convenience of the students, which deadline to aim for. You should be done with your language and aptitude tests by three months before the deadline. The last 3 months should be dedicated to filling out the application form properly.
It is essential to ensure that the ‘complete application process’ along with appearing for interviews and visa application procedure should be complete by June or July for the September intake.
The main intake season for top colleges and courses is the fall season i.e. September. It depends on what course you are looking to pursue because many courses don’t have the January intakes.
If you are looking to get admission into vocational courses, then some courses may have admissions open in January and perhaps even May or July. Check: Which Intake Season to Choose: Fall or Spring?
English Language Exams Required for US University Admission
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), and Pearson Test of English (PTE) are all standardized language tests, which are required to be taken to get admission to colleges. These follow different formats, structures, and result bands. These tests are all different in various ways but many colleges ask for any one of the results. So it's up to the student to decide which exam to appear for.
Repetition of exams: IELTS can be taken an unlimited number of times. TOEFL can be retaken as many times as wished but cannot be taken more than once in 12 days. Same with PTE, it can be taken as many times as desired. You must wait to receive your scores before you can book your next test.
Fee: The standard fee for these exams is INR 15,500 for IELTS, INR 15,700 (US $190) for TOEFL, and INR 14,700 for PTE.
Time to apply: Ideally, if you are aiming at the September intake you should appear for these exams by November so that you can apply before the first deadline. The universities you will be applying to will mention which exam results they will accept. But if they give you a choice to go for either of these, then the choice depends on you. The time required to prepare for IELTS/TOEFL/PTE would depend on the existing English language proficiency. You may require 2 to 4 months of preparation before the exam date.
Standardised Exams Required for US Admissions
The following standardised exams are required level-wise if applying as an international student to the USA:
GMAT - The Graduate Management Admission Test is used to measure the abilities of the potential MBA aspirant to undertake higher education in the field of business or management. It measures the mathematical, English, and reasoning skills of the student.
GRE - The Graduate Record Examination is another test required to be taken by students applying to graduate schools to pursue MA or MS. Increasingly many business schools are also accepting GRE scores to grant admission for MBA.
LSAT - The Law School Admission Test is a standardized test and is an integral part of the law school admission process. It provides a measure of reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use in assessing applicants.
SAT - The Scholastic Assessment Test measures literacy and writing skills that are needed for academic success in college. This test assesses how well the test takers analyze and solve problems-skills they learned in school that they will need in college. The SAT is typically taken by high school students to get into UG courses.
The university you will be applying to will mention which exam results will apply to the course of your choice. But if they give you a choice to go for either of these, then the choice depends on you.
Repetition and Fee: You can give GMAT as many times as you want, subject to five times a year and a gap of 30 days between two tests. You can take these tests with a gap of 30 days from the first time. The cost of GMAT is Rs 22,750 (US $275), GRE is Rs 18,850 (US $228) and LSAT is Rs 17,790 (US $215).
Ideally, if you are aiming at the September intake you should appear for these exams by November so that you can apply before the first deadline. The preparation duration for these exams generally ranges from 4 to 6 months.
Average Scores: The average GMAT accepted across universities is 547. The average GRE score is 155 for Verbal, 167 for Quantitative, and 5.0 for Writing. The average LSAT score accepted across universities is 162.
It is important to note that these numbers are just for reference purposes, the actual scores may differ from university to university.
Cost of Living in USA
On average, a student spends approximately INR 93,000 in a month to fulfil living costs in USA. The cost of living in USA is 224.3% higher than the cost of living in India also the rent in USA is 769.9% higher than in India. Thus, it is natural that the cost of living in the USA is very high for an Indian student. The costs of living in USA also heavily depend on what part of the US will you be living in along with how much you will need extra expenses for maybe socializing or for personal expenditures. Some of the basic elements for living as an international student in the US are:
|Items||Costs to be Incurred (Monthly)|
|Restaurant Meal for 2||USD 20|
|Soft Drinks||USD 2.34|
|1 L Milk||USD 1.03|
|500 gm Bread||USD 3.53|
|1kg White Rice||USD 4.22|
|Dozen Eggs||USD 4.45|
|1kg Local Cheese||USD 11.90|
|Chicken Fillets (1kg)||USD 11.97|
|Fruits 1 kg||USD 3.0 - USD 4.0|
|Rent||USD 1,300 - USD 3,050|
|Total Cost of Living in USA||USD 3,600 approx in a month|
This is just a monthly expense, based on miscellaneous or personal expenses, applicants may have to expend more or less based on their requirements.
Cost of Studying in the USA
The cost of studying in the US is based on the applicant's choice of course and its level too. If the applicant is Indian (or international) then the cost of studying in the USA may be a notch higher. If the applicant wishes to study an undergraduate course in the USA then the tuition should cost around USD 30,0000 to USD 60,000 and a postgrad course in the USA can cost international students around USD 18,000 to USD 65,000. The cost of studying across various types of US institutions can also vary, let's check them out below:
- Private non-profit four-year colleges: USD 36,000
- Public four-year colleges (out-of-state fees): USD 26,300
- Public four-year colleges (in-state fees): USD 10,250
- Public two-year colleges: USD USD 3,660
Health insurance for International Students in USA
Insurance Policy is mandatory for international students and accounts as part of the cost of attendance at US universities. As international students have to stay and study abroad for a long period. Insurance costs are generally around USD 500 - USD 1,000 per year. Before getting insurance make sure that it covers medical expenses, personal accidents, dental treatment, study interruption, passport loss, etc. Insurance is cashless so a student does not need to pay money at the time of hospitalization.
Scholarships to Study in the US
Fee waivers are awarded to international students on the criteria of merit and need of it. Candidates with strong academics, good performance in standardized exams, and extracurricular achievements would be eligible for scholarship awards and financial assistance. In some cases, the US universities offer financial aid or external scholarships can be availed. To benefit from these opportunities, one has to make sure to send all the required documents by particular deadlines. In addition to this, the presentation of the application is also important because one is judged by the image one projects.
Documents required: The documents are usually needed for scholarships available for international students to study in the USA. The scholarship application may require the following documents:
- Academic transcripts and photocopies
- A recent CV
- A letter of intent, which acts as a cover page
- Certificate of Language Proficiency (TOEFL or IELTS scores)
- Letters of Reference (LOR)
There may be a requirement of proof of funds from international students getting a scholarship in the USA for understanding the financial background of the applicant. This is mandatory for need-based scholarship students in USA. Apart from this, there are a couple of need-blind universities in the USA which can also be considered by Indian students.
Education Loan to Study in the US
The eligibility criteria for an international student applying for an education loan should remember these things - the first thing is to be aware of whether you are eligible to apply for the loan or not. The general eligibility criteria that are followed by all the banks are:
- You should be an Indian national
- You must have a strong academic record
- You must be seeking admission to a professional, technical or another course of studies. Most banks maintain that the selected course should be job oriented.
- You must have secured admission to foreign university institutions.
- You must be above the age of 18 years or else your parents can avail of the loan.
Eligibility of course: You may not get a loan on every course. Here are the kinds of courses that qualify for the education loan.
- For Graduation: Job-oriented professional or technical courses offered by reputed universities
- For Post Graduation: MCA, MBA, MS and also diplomas
- These courses could be from foreign universities or institutes approved by the state and central government.
Loan amount: If your total fee is Rs 10 lakh, the bank may offer to give a loan of 80% of the amount and you will have to put in the balance 20%. This is called the margin amount. The maximum loan amount offered by public sector banks for studying abroad is generally around Rs 20 lakh. However, many private banks offer loans amount more than Rs 20 lakh as well, it depends on the total of the institution you have applied. Some banks charge a processing fee, while others don’t. It may be a fixed amount or a percentage of the total loan amount. So if the bank charges you 1% as a processing fee, that will be an additional cost you’ll have to cover.
Documentation required: You will have to provide the acceptance letter sent by the University reflecting that you have been selected for the course and the schedule of fees. You will also need to show the mark sheet of the last qualifying examination to show your academic record.
All banks have different requirements for documentation, so you need to confirm with the bank first.
Repayment: Repayment starts only after the course period. If the student got employed within one year after completion of the course, the repayment should start immediately after the expiry of one month from the date of employment.
If you do not secure a job within a year of completing the course, then repayment starts irrespective of whether or not you are employed. The loan is generally to be repaid in 5-7 years after the commencement of repayment. If the student is not able to complete the course within the scheduled time, an extension of time for completion of the course may be permitted for a maximum period of two years. Generally, you will get up to a maximum number of 10 years to repay the loan.
What are the Visa types in the US?
There are three types of student visas to the US based on the type of course the international student is applying for:
1. F1 Student Visa
- Students applying for a program which requires more than 18 hours of study in a week require an F1 visa. This includes all undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs like MS, MBA, etc.
- Spouses or children accompanying F-1 visa recipients will travel on an F-2 visa. Please note that spouses are not able to work but may accompany and/or apply for their visa to the U.S. to work or study.
2. J1 Exchange Visitor Visa
- The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for students, visiting scholars or lecturers pursuing an exchange program. For example, Fulbright scholars and many students on short-term study abroad programs from Indian universities will travel to the U.S. on a J-1 visa.
- A J1 visa is usually sought by a working professional who goes to America on an exchange program, hence the name Exchange Visitor Visa. These may include a 10-month vocational training or some research fellowship, etc. Whichever the case, the applicants would be notified of the same by the respective institutions.
- Spouses or children accompanying J-1 Visa recipients will travel on a J-2 Visa. Please note that spouses are able to work when permission is obtained in advance.
3. M-1 Vocational/ Non-Academic Student Visa
- The M1 visa is a type of student visa reserved for vocational and technical schools. While the process remains similar to an F1 visa, the difference is that on entering, the M1 visas are time stamped and students cannot overstay their visit. Most of the flying schools in the USA also require M-1 visas.
What are the requirements for Student Visa in the US?
The US Student Requirements for a US Student Visa include the following. If you want to attend a university or college in the US you will need a student visa called F1 visa. And requirements for a US Student Visa include
- Valid Passport - Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Application fee payment receipt, as you are required to pay before your interview
- Photo – The US consulate will upload your photo, and for the same purpose you will have to fix an appointment with the consulate. You will have to visit the Consulate Center. A digital photograph of yours will be taken and along with that, all your fingerprints will be scanned. You’ll have to carry an approval receipt given by the consulate after successfully taking your photograph and finger scan.
- Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - Your school will send you a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 once they have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and your school official must sign Form I-20. All students, their spouses, and minor children if they intend to reside in the United States with the student, must be registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS).
Note: Additional documentation may be required. During the personal interview, additional documents may be requested by the interviewer. These may be documents to prove evidence of academic or financial status. These include:
- Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended
- Scores from tests that your US school required, such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, or GMAT
- Your intent to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study
- How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs
How to get a US Student Visa?
There are several steps to applying for a visa. These include
Complete the online Visa Application Form DS-160
After completing the online visa application, you will be required to pay the non-refundable visa application fee. You are required to pay for it before your interview. It can be paid online or through a bank transaction as well.
Print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
Schedule a biometric appointment and Interview appointment.
For the Biometric appointment, you will be required to appear in person to get your photograph clicked for the visa and get your fingerprints scanned.
At the Personal interview, the interviewer will ask you questions about your choice, of course, college, finances, and intent of coming back. If s/he is convinced, they will keep your passport with them to get the visa stamped.
F-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days before the starting date of your course of study. However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States on F-1 status earlier than 30 days before your start date.
USA Post-Study Work Permit
During the first year of studies, students cannot accept off-campus employment at any time. Under certain circumstances, the US Citizenship Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant permission to accept off-campus employment after one year of study, but this is very rare. F-1 students may accept on-campus employment in your university without seeking prior permission from USCIS.
Students cannot work more than 20 hours per week. During holidays, breaks and summer sessions, the student may work up to 40 hours per week. The student can work for a commercial firm that provides services to the college, such as a bookstore or cafeteria. Working for more than 20 hours will lead to problems involving the reinstatement of student status to deportation.
Off-campus employment like hotels, motels, gas stations, liquor stores, etc is illegal. If caught, that could lead to deportation or problems during future immigration-related work authorization.
Visa for Spouses of F1 Visa
The spouse or children of the student get an F2 visa, which is a dependent visa. A spouse on F-2 status may not enrol for a full course of study but can take classes that are vocational or recreational like pursuing a hobby or interest, such as cooking or tennis. A child on F2 status is allowed to attend elementary, middle, or high school as a full-time student. They may not enrol in a full-time course of study at a college or university. The spouse and children of students cannot accept employment at any time.
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USA Pre-Departure List for International Students
Prepare yourselves and do the following things before flying to the US:
- Book airline tickets
- Buy travel and health insurance
- Arrange accommodation in the US
- Arrange transportation to/from the airport to home in the US
- Arrange your banking – consider buying traveller’s cheques
- Check baggage and customs limitations
- Clear all paperwork with your home educational institution
Get your documents in order and make photocopies to store in your baggage and keep at home, including:
- Airline tickets
- Travel insurance certificate
- Letter of Acceptance by the educational institution;
- Key addresses and phone numbers
- A bank statement showing proof of funds
- Prescriptions for any medication you are carrying
- Traveller’s cheques—if applicable
- Medical and immunization records
- Academic history and university transcripts
After Arrival in the USA
After arriving in the USA, applicants can do the following:
Shopping in the US: Large shopping malls and supermarkets like Wal-Mart and Target in the US are one-stop shops for all of your daily needs. Be vigilant to ensure that all of your shopping is properly billed and that you keep the bills with you.
Learning basic cooking: Cooking for yourself will save you money. Indian food is expensive in the US. It will also satisfy your urge to eat ‘your food’ during moments of homesickness. Indian spices are not commonly available in smaller cities, but you may find shops on campus where you can get ingredients used in most Indian food.
Travel: Each large city in the US has and provides different methods of public transportation, such as buses, taxis or trains. However, public transportation services are poor. The frequency of stops is less and places are not well connected. You might have to rely on a private car for transportation in most cases. Even with the rising cost of petrol, private cars are the most economical and convenient mode of transportation because you get a lot of flexibility and freedom with your car. You can travel wherever and whenever you want, and don't have to depend on the schedule of public transport. However, before you buy your own car, you will have to use public transportation or ask friends for rides.
Stay on Student Visa: When you enter the US, you may remain in the US as long as you are enrolled in the school to complete your academic program. After the program ends you will have 60 days to leave the US you can look for employment opportunities during this time or you can depart from the country to come back to India.
OPT (Optional Practical Training)
If students want to stay back in the US to gain practical knowledge in their subject, they have the option to do so through OPT. it is temporary employment permission allowing students the opportunity to gain practical experience in their field of study for 12 months.
- Pre-completion OPT
- Post-completion OPT
If the students want to do work related to their field of study, they can do so through pre-completion OPT. Students currently pursuing studies acquire work authorization through this permit and the work may be part-time during classes and full-time during vacations.
Duration - Students are allowed 12 months of OPT for all Bachelors's and Masters's degrees. Those pursuing STEM courses get an additional 17 months (making a total of 29 months) under the STEM OPT extension.
Students who have completed their education, and want to work more than 20 hours per week require post-completion OPT. This OPT is granted for full-time employment. While on OPT, students cannot pursue a new course of study, unless they are PhD students.
Applying for OPT - The student needs to initiate the request for OPT by having their DSO (Designated School Official) recommend OPT. For this the DSO needs to:
- Endorse Form I-20
- Making appropriate notes in SEVIS.
After that, the student files Form I-765, which is the application for EAD (Employment Authorization Document). Once approved, the student is issued EAD. The student can start working once the EAD is issued.
Read more on the Difference between CPT and OPT
Co-Op Education Programs in US Universities
In a Cooperative program, the period of study alternates with work. The Student Co-Op Program is a formally structured program where the intent is to recruit students, while still in school, to fill permanent positions upon graduation. Co-op programs are generally undertaken at colleges and universities. The salary will most probably be given on an hourly basis and depending on your choice of course or major, you can make around $10-$16 per hour.
Placements in the USA
Indian students are used to the concept of campus placements and on-campus recruitment for getting jobs. There is no concept of placements in America. Most US universities have a cell called a Career Services Center, which helps you get jobs and helps you prepare for interviews. The on-campus recruitment is always driven by student interest. Companies that recruit through the university do not offer a job directly. What they offer is an internship or co-op. Companies like to see your work for a few months before they hire you full-time.
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