Education in USA

Education Consultancy for study in USA

Why Study in USA

Of the 1.2 million students pursuing post secondary education outside their home countries, more than one-third choose to study in the United States. Why do so many students from all over the world choose U.S. colleges and universities? What does the United States have to offer you…?

Academic Excellence

The United States has one of the world’s finest university systems, with outstanding programs in virtually all fields. At the undergraduate level, excellent programs exist in traditional disciplines as well as in professional fields. At the graduate level, students often have the opportunity to work directly with some of the finest minds in the world. U.S. degrees are recognized throughout the world for the excellence.

Variety of Educational Opportunities

The higher education system in the United States has something for everyone. Some U.S. colleges and universities stress abroad educational principles: others stress practical, employment-related skills; and still others specialize in technical fields, the arts, or social sciences. As a result, if you are looking for an institution where you can study a particular field – no matter how unusual or specific – you can usually find several from which to choose in the United States.

Cutting-Edge Technology 

U.S. universities pride themselves on being at the forefront of technology and educational techniques, and in making available to their students the best possible equipment and resources. Even if your field does not directly involve science or engineering, you will become skilled in using the latest technology to obtain and process information.

Opportunity for Research, Teaching and Training

If you are a graduate student, you may be able to gain valuable experience in research or teaching while you help to finance your education. This practical component of your education will prove useful in your future career and may give you insights into your field that would not be possible through course study alone.

International students are some of the most valued researchers and teachers in U.S. universities because they bring new skills and ideas to the classroom and laboratory. Many graduate programs in the United States offer training that enables students to become teaching research assistants.

Flexibility

Although many programs are highly structured, you will generally find many course choices. At the advanced stages of a degree you will be able to tailor your course work to fit your specific needs. When you choose topics for independent study for a graduate thesis or dissertation, you can emphasize ideas that are important to you, your field, and your country.

Support Services for International Students

At most institutions, services from the international student office help students from abroad to live and learn in their new environment. From orientation programs at the beginning of your degree program to assistance with resumes as you get ready to graduate, you will find people at the university and in the community who are interested in your success.

Campus Life

U.S. universities provide a rich variety of academic, cultural and athletic activities that add new dimensions to your educational experience and also help you make new friends

Global Education

Experience in an international setting is a marketable commodity. Your long-term career prospects can be enhanced by and experience that develops self-confidence, independence, and cross-cultural skills – attributes in demand by employees world-wide.

Education System in USA

System of Education in USA is different from that of India. In America, higher education starts at the age of 18 after the completion of twelve years of primary and secondary schooling.

Under Graduate Study or Bachelors

A candidate who has successfully completed class XII is eligible for the Bachelors Programme or Under Graduate Study in USA. The bachelors degree or under graduate study usually lasts for 4 years. In some cases an accelerated Programme can be completed in three years, while some professional fields require five years.

The 4 year’s undergraduate study is considered as 120 credit hours. One course averages 3 credits. Subjects involving lab facilities will get 4 credits. You receive a Bachelor’s degree or undergraduate degree when you finish around 40 courses in different subjects within the span of four years.

1st year students are called Freshmen, 2nd years Sophomores, third years Juniors and the 4th or last year students are referred to as Seniors. The decision of the major’s to be taken is necessary only after the 2nd or Sophomore year. Deciding the majors is termed ‘Declaring a Major’ in US. Many colleges give an Associate degree after the sophomore year or second year of a Bachelor’s degree. It is the degree awarded after either a college transfer or a ‘terminal’, One to three year programme providing training for a specific occupation.

Graduate Study:

In USA, higher studies after taking a degree or Bachelor’s is termed Graduate study.

A candidate who has successfully completed four years of Bachelors Programme or Under Graduate Study is eligible to apply for the Master’s Degree in USA. The traditional three year degree (BA, B.Sc, B.com) holders from India are also eligible for a Masters Degree.

Masters degree is the first Graduate degree in the liberal arts and Sciences and certain professional fields requiring 30 credit hours of full-time study within a year or 2 years. You can get your Master’s degree by taking 8 courses of subjects with 3 credits each plus a thesis of 6 hours credit or 10 courses of subjects with 3 credits each without the thesis. Some Universities have a final exam. Usually Masters degree include M.S and M.A degrees.

It is not particular that you continue with the same majors that you chose for undergraduate study-in graduate study. But if you change the majors, you will have to take additional basic courses for the new subjects. These courses are called Pre-requisite courses. You have to get a pass in these courses but you may not get credits for the same.

Research (Doctoral Degree) – The highest degree awarded in research-oriented academic disciplines, usually requiring 3 to 6 years of full time study besides the Bachelor’s degree as preparation for University level teaching and research. Indian students with a Master Degree can apply for Ph.D.

Universities:

Universities are larger institutions that include several undergraduate colleges, graduate schools, and professional schools. Graduate school involves 1 or 2 years of study and offers advanced programs in arts and sciences which give Master’s degrees like M.A or M.S, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) etc.

Professional schools are institutions which specialize in a single field of study such as medicine, pharmacy, business administration, law etc.

Junior College or Community Colleges:

These colleges award only Associate Degree of Arts (A.A) and Sciences (A.S) which involves 2 year of study. After receiving Associate Degree, students must join a 4 years college or University to complete the Bachelor’s Degree.

Vocational and Technical Institution:

These institutes specialize in training for the skilled trades and technical fields of employment. Duration of the courses depends on the particular subject. After completion, they will be awarded a certificate of completion and they can straight away join for a job.

Classes in USA

Usually, for most Universities and colleges the year begins in late August or early September and ends in May or June. The academic year is divided into semesters, trimesters or quarter depending on the institution. The semester system divides the year into 2 equal terms of 16 weeks. Each semester is 4 months. Trimester system has three equal terms of 16 weeks each, including a summer term. Quarter system divides the year into 3 equal terms of 11 weeks each. Classes are lecture-based with practical (lab or practicum in U.S). Overhead projector, computer projections, multimedia are used along with the lectures. Printed notes and additional information on topics (Handouts in U.S) are given. Professors or advisors are always available to clear doubts. Interaction in class in encouraged.

Each student will be assigned an ‘advisor’ who is a member of the faculty. This advisor will help the students to select the courses to be taken in each semester, plan the whole program and monitor the student’s progress. The students register for the particular courses with the permission of the advisors.

Class Size

The average class size at the undergraduate level, in most universities is 100-150 for introductory courses. Advanced level classes will be smaller in size. Master’s degree classes have an average of 20 students and Doctoral classes have an average of only 10 students.

Tests

Each semester has an average of 4 tests. Test range in style from multiple choice (objective type) format designed to gauge your knowledge of the subject and reasoning ability to essay or problem-solving type tests. There are 3 kinds of tests – open book tests, closed books tests and take home tests. In the 1st type, you can refer notes, text book, reference material etc during the test. 2nd one is usual tests that we have in India. In the 3rd one you take the question paper home and answer at your convenience before the dead line set by the professor. Take home tests often have essay-based questions.

Grading

In American Universities, they give grades instead of ranks or classes for courses. The grades are A, B, C, D, E, F, I. A is the highest grade. Grades from A to D are considered as pass. Grade I-incomplete. Grade I is granted when students stop the course in between with the teachers permission. If it is without permission this can become F grade.

Grade Percentage A 92%–100% B 83%–91% C 74%–82% D 65%–73% E / F 64% and below Each grade has points. 4 points for A grade, 3 for B and 2 for C. The average points taken for all the courses taken together are the GPA (Grade Point Average). It is the general score on a scale of 1.0(lowest) to 4.0 (highest). It is difficult to get admission for graduate study if you don’t have at least a G.P.A of 3.0.

Popular Programs

The Popular subjects are: Computer Science
Pre-clinical dentistry Electrical Engineering
Classics Biotechnology
Pre-clinical medicine Physiotherapy
Other ancient languages Hospitality
Other or unspecified modern languages Other creative arts
Latin Creative therapies
Veterinary science Building/construction
Mathematics Computer systems engineering
Genetics Other topics in education
Pharmacy Ceramics and glass
Engineering Librarianship
MBA Social work
Phd
IT and allied fields
Sports, Sports Management

USA Universities Admission Requirements

Minimum requirements for Undergraduate admissions

Twelve years of education is the minimum requirement for admission to an undergraduate course in the US. So whether it’s a state board or the CBSE, the ICSE, what you need is twelve years of schooling, excluding your nursery and kindergarten years!

On the other hand, there are no minimum marks requirements, nor any specific subject requirements. TOEFL is the only proof you need to show that you know English well enough to cope with the anyway atrocious American accent.

Admission to internationally known institutions is highly competitive. You will need to have excellent academic records and high scores on academic entrance examinations and the TOEFL examination, if you apply to such institutions.

Entry to some fields of study is also highly competitive. To apply for study in these fields, which are also some of the most popular fields that US students pursue, you will need outstanding grades and test scores.

Minimum requirements for Graduate admissions

Bachelor’s degree in Arts or Science after fifteen or sixteen years of education, will be eligible for a Master’s degree course in the US immediately after such a BA or B.Sc degree.

Academic program admission requirements (see below) may be in addition to, or more rigorous, than the Graduate School requirements.

Grades

A minimum undergraduate grade-point average (GPA) of 3.00 on the equivalent of the last 60 semester hours (approximately two years of work) or a master’s degree with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00. Applicants from an international institution must have a strong academic performance comparable to a 3.00 for an undergraduate or master’s degree. All GPA’s are based on a 4.00 scale. We use your institution’s grading scale; do not convert your grades to a 4.00 scale.

Degree

A bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution, or a comparable degree from an international institution. International applicants must have a degree comparable to a regionally accredited U.S. bachelor’s degree.

English Proficiency

Every applicant must provide an English proficiency test score. Your score is considered too old, and will not be accepted, if it is more than 2 years old from the start of your admission term.

The English Proficiency Tests are:

  • TOEFL
  • MELAB
  • IELTS

Application Process

Applying for a course in a US University requires you to fulfill certain eligibility criteria. Here we discuss about the application process for a graduate course in a US University.

The US academic year is usually divided into 4 semesters – Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. The semesters are usually 13 weeks long. The Fall semester starts somewhere between August and September and ends in late December or early January. The Spring semester starts in January and ends in May. The Summer semester starts in late May or early June and ends just before the Fall semester begins.

Not all universities have a Winter semester but if they do, it is a very short semester squeezed between the Fall and the Spring semesters. The semesters correspond very roughly with the eponymous seasons.

Most universities in the U.S. accept applications only two times in a calendar year for the Fall and the Spring semesters of the academic year. Some universities only entertain applications for the Fall semester. The application process for the Fall semester usually starts one year before your joining during October and ends on December or January.

For applying for a graduate program in US universities you need to take the General Record Examination (GRE). Apart from this you also need to take a Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.

There are a number of documents you need to submit with your application. All Universities have detailed and specific guidelines in their application brochure about the documents required. Here is a list:

  • Test Scores: You need to submit your GRE and TOEFL scores along with your application. In most of the cases, these scores are send by ETS directly to the University.
  • College Transcripts: A transcript is another name for a mark sheet provided by your college or university at the end of each semester that lists in detail the courses taken and the grades obtained in these courses. Since you will usually send out your applications before you have graduated from your college, you can provide the mark sheets only up to that semester.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Most universities require you to provide three letters of recommendation. The faculty members in your department are the best people to ask for these letters. However, if you did an internship at another institution or corporation, getting a letter from your mentor or supervisor would be a big plus.
  • Statement of Purpose: This will possibly turn out to be the most important document in your application. A statement of purpose can best be described as a document for your academic past and the future. It should clearly describe why you chose your particular academic discipline, why you are interested in pursuing graduate study in that discipline and why you are interested in a different discipline than the one you did your bachelor’s degree in. It should also clearly outline the ideas you have about what you would like to do and what you are interested in researching.
  • Financial Support Statement: Another important document is the financial support statement. This is usually in the shape of a form provided with the application. In this document, you will usually provide declare your financial assets to show that you will be able to support the first year of your graduate education at the university. You will probably need to provide notarized bank statements along with this statement. However, it is entirely possible that you may not need to submit this until you have been granted an admission to the university. It usually depends upon the university admission policy.

Note: Apply to at least 5-6 US universities. Your decision should be a mix of Excellent, Good and Safe. Excellent universities are those which have extraordinary rankings but are difficult for you to get in due to your academic records. These should be kept to a minimum. Good universities are where you have a fair chance of getting selected. Apply mostly to these universities. Safe universities are those which are not as good but you have an almost definite possibility of getting admissions. You should keep them to a minimum but don’t ever leave these out.

Also, do keep in track with the application deadlines of the University of your choice.

Typical Applications require:

Applications can usually be accessed via the Institution website.

  • Personal details
  • Subject/ major/ course choices
  • Education details (for example high school name, address and qualifications)
  • Standardized test details
  • Work experience (if applicable)

Application Check List for Undergraduate Admission

Completed Application for Admission, either internet-based or paper version.

  • Non-refundable application processing fee>
  • One Letter of Recommendation from a teacher or counselor
  • Proof of English proficiency (typically TOEFL or IELTS test scores)
  • Official, certified secondary school transcripts in English.
  • College/university transcripts must be professionally evaluated (If required).
  • SAT/ACT scores will be considered for scholarship award, but are not required for admission.
  • The Confirmation of Financial Resources & Affidavit of Support form must be submitted with a certified bank statement from within the past 6 months.

Application Check List for Graduate Admission

  • Non-refundable application fee
  • Three official Letters of Recommendation (LOR)
    • Each LOR must be on official letterhead stationery and signed by the recommender.
    • Three LORs must be submitted from professional sources, who are acquainted with the applicant’s academic ability.
    • You may also want to have letters sent on your behalf from employers.
  • Official transcript(s) from each undergraduate, graduate and/or professional school attended.
  • Official report of scores for the GRE, as well as the TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Personal Statement
    • It should be no less than one page and no more than two pages in length.
    • You should use this essay to explain your reasons for considering a career in preferred course of study, what makes you a potential asset to that particular University and any significant accomplishments or additional information that you feel would be useful to the Admissions Committee in evaluating your application.
    • Plagiarism is an academic offense and will disqualify you from consideration.
  • Current resume or CV.
  • Passport-size photo.

Average Tuition Fees

The Tuition Expenses of a University depends on which category it falls, under which are broadly categorized as Public University which are entirely supported by the state and secondly the Private University which are independent institutions. Though the fees of Public university’s is lesser than private ones, it also varies for different universities and their respective courses. The annual tuition fees here range from $5000 to $35000. The average tuition fee is broadly mentioned below;

  • State Institutions at High cost- $20,000
  • State Institutions at Low Cost- $10,000
  • Private Institutions at High Cost- $35,000
  • Private institutions at Low Cost- $15,000

Living Expenses

Apart from just the tuition fee, there are several other expenses which substantially influence the cost of living of a student. For instance, Application fees by any one university or college may vary from $20 to $80 and the cost of books may vary from $400 to $1000. Along with these basic ones, Health insurance may cost about $500 per semester and some extra fees for stationary, field work, sports facilities etc. Though it is recommended to check the tuition fees of the respective university along with the course to which one is applying for.

As for the Expenses on Living Cost it entirely depends on the individual lifestyles and requirements. But an approximate estimate can be charted out with the basic requirements which include accommodation along with day to day expenses.

  • Accommodation Rent- Depending if you wish to live alone or share it, the cost would approx at $400. In-campus accommodation at times serves as a cheap and comfortable option of accommodation.
  • Groceries- Depending on individual eating habit is about $100 monthly.
  • Utilities- at about $100 monthly.
  • Phone- Depending on your usage at approx $100 monthly.
  • Sundry- at approx $200 monthly.
  • Transport & Recreation – at approximate cost of $150 each is incurred.

It is very important to prioritize and plan as a tool for budgeting as to be able to cut costs it is a good idea for students to do some Part time work as the average cost of living in this country is approximately $10,000/year and $700 to $1000/ month.

VISA Requirements

Requirements for Student visa (USA, F1 visa)

For F1 student visa applicants must have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment, should be sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, should have been accepted for a full course of study by an approved educational institution, and be able to prove that sufficient funds are or will be available to defray all living and school expenses during the entire period of anticipated study in the United States.

They should also be able to establish to the satisfaction of the Consulate that they have binding ties to a residence in their country which they have no intention of abandoning and that they will return to their home country when they have completed their studies.

VISA Process

If a student desires to enter into any short-term course or any full time course, requires USA student visa.

There are two main categories of non-immigrant visa for the international students who wanted to study in United States. These categories are “F” visa, “M” visa and “J”. “F” visas are especially reserved for those non-immigrant students who want to take admission in the academic studies or language training programs.

Following are the steps for USA student visa procedure:

  • Before applying for the visa, the student should verify that the respective institution is approved by the USA Citizenship and by Immigration Services (ICE).
  • Once verified, the student sends application to the school. Once the application is accepted, their school fills up and sends SEVIS I-20 form back to the student. SEVIS I-20 form is also known as Certificate of eligibility.
  • Then the student has to either apply for USA student visa.
  • Every student must apply for F-1 or M-1 student visa at US consulate. When the students applying for the F-1 or M-1 visa have to show their acceptance at SEVP certified institution.
  • The students applying for F-1 visa are not required to get healthcare insurance policy. However, some colleges consider it compulsory.

When the student arrives in USA with F-1 visa will receive Form I-94 which will include admission number to USA. This form shows Arrival and Departure records of the student. The admission number is written on the I-20 form by immigration inspector. The first and second pages of I-20 form are further sent to the school showing a record of legal admission in USA. The third and forth page of I-20 form is known as I-20 ID is kept with the student. This will be the document showing the proof allowing the student to study under student visa in USA. The student should also take care of I-94 form which is the proof of legally entering US under student visa.

Every time the student move out or in US, will require getting new I-94 card describing their official stay in USA.

How to apply for a Student Visa

  • Download the F-1 Student Visa Application Guide.
  • Select where in the Unites States of America you would like to live and study.
  • Choose the type of school you would like to attend, such as: University, College, Graduate School, ESL (English as Second Language) or Vocational School.
  • Contact the school and start the admission process.
  • Upon acceptance by school, the school will issue you an I-20 form (the required document you need to apply for F-1 student visa).
  • With the I-20 form and the F-1 Visa Application Guide you can apply for a student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are already in the Unites States you may be allowed to change your immigration status to student.
  • You may be legally authorized to work in the United States while on an F-1 student visa.

VISA Check List

  • Form I-20A-B , Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.
  • Appointment Confirmation Form receipt
  • Online Nonimmigrant visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • Passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States One colored photograph 2 X 2 inches square for each applicant, showing a full face, without head covering, against a light background.
  • Original TOEFL scores and SAT, GRE, GMAT scores. (As applicable) Students going to the United States to earn a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree should bring their most recent mark sheets or graduation certificates.
  • Students going the United States to earn a Ph.D. degree should bring their original undergraduate degree and mark sheets/Transcripts.
  • Leaving letter from the employer where you are already working (If Applicable)
  • Spouses and minor children accompanying the student to the United States should bring marriage certificates, wedding photos, and birth certificates with them to the interview, to prove the relationship between themselves and the principal applicant.
  • A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
  • The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.

Financial Documents:

  • Liquid funds proof
  • Moveable assets proof
  • List of all the documents which serve as collateral security to obtain the loan or other sources of income valuation reports of the fixed assets and its proof.
  • Proof of income received from sponsors.
  • Sponsor relation proof.
  • Financial statement received from Chartered Accountant

Survival Tips for Students in USA

  • When you feel “overwhelmed”, you should talk to people. One on one especially with someone who has the time and patience to listen, and then gradually into groups where you will meet new people”. Or you may want to “hang out with people from a common background, other international students who can empathize with your feelings”. While designing the orientation program, the International Programs Office should provide relaxation sessions such as social/tea/coffee hours, movie night, or “buddy night” for international students.
  • To prepare for “homesickness”.

    Students recommend buying international phone cards as a ‘must-have’ because talking to loved ones can really strengthens you through hard times. Also, bringing some memorabilia, photos, posters, music, or artwork from your country can make the transition as smooth as possible. The more you can imitate the feeling of home in your room, the better you will be able to cope with homesickness. You can also keep yourself occupied with studies, work, by hanging out with friends, or volunteering in student or community organizations. The busier you are, the less you will think of home.

  • Be patient and open-minded. It takes time to “use” a new language, “slang”, or to get used to the food, customs, and “live in a culture”. “Don’t hesitate to ask questions. Americans are always friendly and willing to offer help”. “Those who are ashamed to ask will eventually lose their way”. Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Try to initiate a conversation at appropriate times. Sometimes simple American greetings like “what’s up?” or “what’s cooking?”, and a “high-five” gesture can go a long way in “fitting-in”. It shows your effort of learning the culture.
  • Stay active and healthy, get involved, and be inclusive. Although you may feel comfortable speaking your language, hanging out with friends from your own country, and participating in the international student organization, try to include Americans in your activity or discussion. Speak English when there are other students around, and avoid building an “exclusive club” of your group. Be proud to be your cultural ambassador. Americans are eager to learn from you about your culture. Eat, sleep and exercise to stay both physically and mentally healthy. This will sustain a positive attitude while adjusting and adapting to a new culture.

Lastly, remember that you come to study in the States “not only for grades and degrees, but also for a social life and community, and learning the culture”. Allow yourself to be integrated into an on and off campus community, and participate in departmental and student activities, registered student clubs, and other volunteer organizations. If resources are available, take advantage of the time you are in the States, go travel and see different parts of the United States. This will enable you to enjoy your experience!

Accommodation

There are a number of different types of accommodation available to international students at US universities and institutions.

It is customary once an international application has been accepted for the institution to send a welcome pack to the student. Within this welcome pack will be an explanation of the various accommodation options as well as a housing application.

The USA government advises international students to return the housing application as quickly as possible to give the student a higher chance of obtaining their desired living environment.

On-Campus

On-campus accommodation is a popular choice for international students as it can be a very sociable environment and an opportunity to integrate into US culture. Another advantage to on-campus accommodation is convenience, generally on-campus accommodation is located in close proximity to the university therefore reducing on time and commuting costs.

Residence halls/ dormitories

Dormitories or ‘dorms’ are the most popular accommodation for students. They are appropriate for single status students as they are often shared with a roommate. The facilities available depend upon the institution but students should expect basic furniture including storage, a desk, a bed and a shared bathroom. Some universities provide students with the option of single sex dorms, it is best to enquire directly to the student’s institution to confirm whether this is an option.

Apartments

University owned apartments are usually self-catered and shared with a group of students. Priority is given to post-graduate students or students in the final stages of their course as it is a quieter way to live and therefore easier to study.

Fraternity and Sorority houses

Fraternity and Sorority houses are a type of single sex student accommodation affiliated with a particular organisation. These houses are only available to students who are apart of the club in which the house is affiliated with.

Off-campus

Off-campus accommodation is housing which is privately owned and is therefore unaffected by university semesters. This means students have the option of living in this accommodation during the entire contracted year. Off-campus accommodation is suitable for independent international students as well as students with families.

Off-Campus Dormitories

In populous student areas, private companies often provide students with accommodation that you would expect on-campus; these are often referred to as off-campus dorms. The costs are likely to be comparable to on-campus dormitories and are appropriate for students who were not offered a place on-campus.

House share

Students often share houses with friends near their institution in their final years of study as it is a good way to cut the cost of utility bills.

Living with a US family

International students often have the option of living with an American family whilst studying in the USA. These home stays are often organised through international advisers and can be beneficial to international students as the cost of living is much cheaper.

Travel to USA

If you’ve obtained your US student visa, congratulations. You’ve taken the first step towards the journey of a lifetime. Before you go, however, you need to make pre-departure preparations to ensure everything goes smoothly. First of all, make sure to double-check the visa stamp placed by the US consulate in your passport.

Check:

  • If the visa stamp has your correct name and date of birth.
  • Whether the visa shows the correct type — F-1, M-1 or J-1.
  • If the letter ‘M’ is included to ‘indicate multiple entry’ to the US. This will allow you to leave and return to the US after a short visit back home, or anywhere outside the country if required (for a wedding, holiday etc).
  • Whether the name of your US University is accurately indicated.

If there is error in any of these categories, you should rush to the Visa Facilitation Services office in your city and request for the necessary change to be made from the nearest US consulate.

Do make a few photocopies of your passport, including the page that shows the US student visa so that, in case you lose or misplace your passport, you have proof that you have been granted a US student visa.

You may leave a couple of copies with your folks at home in India, in case of any future reference or need. In addition to your original passport, do carry a few photocopies of the relevant pages from your passport as well.

Foreign exchange

As a student, you are allowed to carry your full US tuition fee; however, this amount should not exceed $100,000. Of course, it is not advisable to carry such a large amount with you. Instead, fees can be remitted through wire transfer; and you can also pay your fees online.

It is best to have money sent from home to the United States in installments. As you only need to pay tuitions per semester, or twice a year, you do not need such a large sum of money at once.

To avoid lengthy currency exchanges at the airport, don’t convert money just before your flight. Instead, secure the money in advance from an authorized bank or from a trusted financial institution.

It is recommended to take $200-$300 in cash for personal use, making sure to get bills in multiple denominations. Insist on a few one-dollar bills, as you’ll need them when landing in the United States for tipping and luggage carts.

Also, bring $1,000 to $3,000 (depending on individual choice and need) in travelers’ cheques. Keep at least three copies of the numbers of these cheques and place of issue, separately in your pocket, handbag and luggage. This way, in case of loss, you’ll have at least one copy of the required information for the bank upon arrival.

Booking Tickets

If this is your first international flight, seek the help of a good travel agent for all formalities. You can book directly through the airline, but agents tend to find the best deals and allow you more options. Unless you are an experienced traveler, go for the added security of an agent.

There are usually two categories of travel agents — IATA (International Air Transport Association) recognized and non-IATA agents. Non-IATA agents are sub-agents who approach IATA agents to book your tickets. For international travel, IATA agent bookings are widely accepted and recommended.

The choice of airline is yours. Obviously, most passengers seek the least possible air-fare with the best possible facilities. An overnight stay (layover) on the way from India to the US at airline expense is possible under certain conditions which your travel agent will explain, if you desire to make a halt on the way.

Check with your agent and your airline if you need a transit visa for the country in which your aircraft halts on route to the US, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Baggage

For travel to the US, the free baggage allowance is based on a ‘piece’ concept. Each airline has different regulations, but here’s a general idea: Two ‘pieces’ of checked baggage: The dimension of each bag is limited to 62 inches or 157.5 centimeters (length+width+height), and the weight to 23 kilos each. Checked baggage may include lotions, creams, perfumes and other liquids.

One ‘piece’ of hand baggage: The dimension of carry-on baggage is limited to 45″ (L+W+H); the weight must not exceed five kilos. Approximate dimensions of carry-on baggage are 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 56 cm x 35.5 cm x 23 centimeters. Baggage seizers are often installed to test acceptable cabin baggage size at the check-in counters. Lotions, creams, perfumes and other liquids may NOT be included in your hand baggage.

The following items may be carried on board the aircraft in addition to baggage at no extra cost. Some airlines only allow ‘one’ of these personal items.

  • Purse — male or female
  • Food (non-liquid) to be consumed on the flight
  • A laptop computer
  • Coat or jacket
  • Umbrella
  • One item of reading material
  • Briefcase
  • Camera

The following items may NOT be carried on board an aircraft in addition to baggage at no extra cost

  • Gifts/ presents for loved ones and friends
  • A large handbag
  • Any item exceeding 36 inches in total dimension
  • Musical instruments
  • More than one coat or jacket

Medical insurance

Take medical insurance cover during your study period from your university. It is the cheapest and most convenient method for two reasons. First, most universities count medical insurance as part of your tuition fee and second, the medical centre will be on campus and close by in case of emergency or medical need.

You can get health insurance from an outside company in America or India, but this is not advised. Also, you can take out travel insurance for your flight in case of loss of baggage, injury while travelling, etc. It costs up to $200 (approximately Rs 8,800), and is often difficult to claim. This is also an individual decision; research shows that most students do not take this type of insurance.

Check-in at Indian airports

You will be required to fill in an ’embarkation card’ at the check-in counter. It asks for personal information, such as date of birth and home address, destination and purpose of your travel.

This form will be taken by the Indian immigration officer when you clear immigration and customs before moving on to security and boarding the aircraft.

Be sure to avoid carrying liquid items in your hand baggage as they will be confiscated at the security gate.

Carry following items with you in your hand luggage to be shown to the immigration inspector when you land at a US airport:

  • The letter from your university that is offering you admission.
  • Your university’s I-20 Form.
  • SEVIS form I-901 that show you paid the $200 SEVIS fee. SEVIS is a computer system that monitors foreigners in USA.
  • Contact details of your foreign student officer (telephone, email, cell numbers).
  • Contact details of friends/ relatives, if any, living in the US, for when you land at a US airport.
  • Contact details of your family/ friends in India for reference purposes.

It’s an exciting time in your life, going to study in America. But, in order to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, make sure you follow these guidelines.

Working in the USA after Graduation

Many students who come from other countries to study in the US wish to stay and work after graduation. This allows them to continue their exploration of a different culture, while at the same time develop professional experience that will further their careers.

The following is an overview of employment options for foreign national students graduating from US colleges and universities, according to the type of visa they hold. Note that these options can change at any time so students should check with the resources included below for the latest regulations and details or if appropriate a professional service specializing in assisting international students and workers in the US.

Student Visas for US Employment

Both undergraduate and graduate students can apply to remain in the US for employment-based training for 12-18 months after completion of their studies, depending on their visa status. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly known as INS) defines this training as employment related to the student’s course of study. Without proper authorization, off-campus employment is illegal.

Optional Practical Training for Foreign Student Visa (F-1) Holders

Most international students are Foreign Student Visa (F-1) holders. After they have completed a course of study, F-1 students can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows them to work up to 12 months following the receipt of a degree. (Each degree, starting with the bachelor’s, must be a higher degree than the previous one.)

Steps to apply for OPT include:

  • Make an appointment with an international student advisor that is scheduled at least 3 months before the end of the period of study
  • Obtain a Practical Training Recommendation form from the school’s international student services
  • Ask an academic advisor to complete the form
  • Complete USCIS Form I-765
  • Photocopy both sides of Form I-94
  • Write check or money order for $180 payable to USCIS
  • Obtain two passport photos of the student, and photocopy all passport pages
  • Photocopy Form I-20
  • Go to appointment with international student advisor with all of the above materials

Once the OPT application has been submitted, it takes 2-3 months to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Upon receipt of the Optional Practical Training authorization card, graduates can legally work. After the EAD has been issues, the approved period of time cannot be changed. Therefore, students who have not completed their studies by the date provided on their application will not be able to begin working full time until all their studies are completed, and they will not get back time lost.

In some cases, once an employee reaches the end of their OPT, an employer may wish to sponsor them for an H1-B Temporary Worker Visa (see below). This allows the employee to continue to work for that company an additional 3-6 years.

Academic Training for Exchange Visitor Student Visa (J-1) Holders

Exchange Visitor Student Visa (J-1) holders can apply for Academic Training (AT), which allows them to work off-campus in full-time, paying jobs related to their field. The total amount of time allotted for AT is 18 months (regardless of the number of degrees obtained while studying in the US) and can be completed either before or after a graduate’s period of study. Both undergraduate and graduate-level students are eligible. Post-doctoral fellows are allowed to apply for an additional 18 months, for a total of 36 months of AT.

Steps to apply for AT includes

:

  • Applications for AT should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the date employment is scheduled to begin
  • Obtain a job offer letter from an employer that includes job title, brief description of employment “goals and objectives,” dates and location of employment, number of hours per week, salary amount, and name and address of supervisor
  • Ask the international student services office for a recommendation form, and give to an academic advisor along with a copy of the job offer letter; the advisor’s recommendation letter should note that the AT is an integral part of the student’s academic program
  • Schedule an appointment with an international student services advisor and bring the above materials along with a current passport
  • If the J-1 Responsible Officer evaluates the AT program and decides it is warranted and appropriate, he or she will authorize the AT and issue a new DS-2019

If one period of AT ends, or if the job ends, a new application must be submitted and authorization granted for any new period of AT. Some J-1 students may have a “two-year home country residence” requirement, which prevents them from continuing employment with an H-1B visa (see below) after academic training, unless the requirement is waived.

Worker Visas for Long Term Employment

H-1B Temporary Worker Visa

Once a period of Optional Practical Training or Academic Training is completed, Federal regulations require that employment be terminated. However, graduates may continue their employment if the USCIS approves a change in visa type to H-1B Temporary Worker, the most common type of work visa. There is a quota of how many H-1B Visas can be granted per fiscal year (between October 1 and September 31). Some non-profit research institutions and universities are exempt.

H-1B Visa holders must be sponsored by their current or prospective employer, and the position must be a professional one. The sponsoring organization petitions the USCIS and the Department of Labor for the H-1B, which can take 4-6 months before the employee’s new immigration status is granted. Employees cannot change companies without jeopardizing their visa status, and the visa ends when employment with that company ends, or after six years, whichever is shorter.

Finding an Employer

American employers often see International Students as assets, as they possess both multicultural and multilingual skills, and an education from a US institution. Additionally, when they hire a foreign national with a student visa, organizations are not required to prove that there is no American available for the position (which they have to do with green cards).

However, some employers are reluctant to interview F-1 Visa holders because they know their worker will have to leave in one year, unless the employer is willing to sponsor a change to H-1B Visa status. Potential employers may also be concerned about their own lack of familiarity with the process, and hesitant to invest money in training an employee who, sooner or later, will want to return to their home country.

The following tips can help in securing an F-1, J-1, or H-1B job:

  • Work while in school – Take advantage of Curricular Practical Training (CPT) internships during school to gain valuable experience
  • Communicate well – Become as fluent as possible in spoken and written English
  • Develop an excellent resume – Design targeted resumes according to American expectations (keep to one page; address only ability, skills and experience; do not include personal information such as race, age, or parents’ occupations)
  • Keep an open mind – Consider less desirable field-related jobs in addition to ideal opportunities — they can lead to more desirable positions later
  • Educate employers – Assure employers that the government issues a specific number of H1-B visas each year, so if a visa is not issued to the current student, it will go to another student for another company – the employer will not be depriving Americans of jobs
  • Sell uniqueness – Communicate to employers the benefits they will receive by hiring an international student (resourcefulness, determination, ability to adapt, multilingual, overcoming challenges, etc.)

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