So you wanna study in America?
The first thing you have to think about is can I afford it? Most schools across America average $10k or more for international students a year. This is not including books; gas; food etc.
As an international student, you cannot work legally anywhere except at your school, but most schools will favor second-year students before the first years.
The next thing you have to think about is a sponsor. Who is going to sponsor you and can they afford to. A lot of schools have a sponsored requirement. Generally, a sponsor has to have between $20-40k in the bank. It has to be “cash on hand” where they can draw it out if needed so like a savings account is good.
You can also actually have more than 1 sponsor. A sponsor is needed for the actual schooling and then living aspect.
You want your host family to sponsor you. Okay, you need to sit down and have a conversation with them. Are they willing to sponsor you? Will they continue to pay you as normal or pay you more? Will they pay for your college or is that on you? What are the options?
Personally, my host family will continue paying me the same amount and I have to pay for everything myself. That’s just a personal decision. I will help out as much as I can with a full workload.
I’m still allowed to stay with them and do what I’m doing now.
Once you have a sponsor, you need to apply for school. I will always recommend applying to a community college as they’re cheaper and more accessible.
You need to apply as an international student and the school generally has a specific person who liaises with international students. They will mostly always advise you to get a lawyer to do this process but that’s up to you.
Once you have been accepted, you need to think about the different options. Will you go home and apply for everything and then come back? Will you do a change of status and just stay in the country? If you go home and come back, you will have a visa in your passport and will be able to visit home more often. The downside of this is that you may get denied a visa. This is the downside to both options but apparently more people get denied in their home country.
If you stay in-country and have a change of status, once you have submitted your documents, you CANNOT leave the country for ANY REASON! They will trash your visa application. If your visa gets approved you can’t go home. Most people who have had a change of status and then gone home, have been denied to come back to the states. You have to apply again for your visa while you’re visiting because you technically do not have a visa in your passport, just a piece of paper.
If you change your status in the USA, please remember that you have to have 6-12 months left on your visa so that there’s enough time for the processing and government to make a decision. If you don’t have enough time on your visa, they can actually deny your change of status.
Once you have decided that, you have to wait for the school to get your papers from the government, and then you can apply for your change of status if you’re in-country. This is what I’ve done so I can only talk about this.
Once the school got the relevant paperwork, you’re able to apply for your change of status.
You have an online application that you have to submit. This is a very LONG application and it has to be perfect.
Once you have that done, submit it, print it and pay the fee ($350 from what I remember)
You then have to pay another fee (also $350 I think) and have that. It’s the sevis fee.
You then have more paperwork you have to submit in an envelope to whatever address they give you, mine was Texas but other people submitted in other places. This includes an essay as to why you want to study in the USA and what you will be doing with your degree in SA.
Once that is done, you mail it and wait. I got a letter saying I had to go for biometrics so that’s what I did. Then it’s the waiting game.
If you change your status you need 6-12 months on your current visa as this is enough time to get the change of status. Sometimes they can deny you based on how much time you have left on your visa. So watch for that
I will do a follow up post on the paperwork needed and what I submitted, so look out for that.
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