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Financial aid and student visa requirements in the USA

Updated 14 Aug 2018

Most American colleges welcome expat students and won't treat them differently for most of the admission process. However, financial aid and visa requirements for international college admissions are two logistical hurdles that expats should consider well in advance.

Cost of college in the US

American colleges vary dramatically in cost. Tuition costs, along with housing, books and personal expenses, should be considered. Some colleges are residential, meaning that students are required to live in a dorm room for at least one year. Colleges usually have comprehensive fee schedules available online. When calculating monthly expenses, it can be helpful to research the cost of living in that particular city in order to draw up a rough budget.

Application for a US student visa

In order to gain admission into a US tertiary institution as an international student, it is necessary to apply for a student visa as well as provide proof of being able to pay the required tuition. When a student applies to a college, there is usually a statement of finances form that is required for such proof. Students who cannot support themselves through their college years will need to apply for financial aid.

In recent years, visa requirements for international students have become more stringent and the application process more tedious. Expats planning to apply should note that it takes time to wind through the cumbersome maze that is the application process. Once accepted, the student needs to obtain supporting documentation from the school, confirming their place there. This is used to apply for an actual visa. There are fees involved with this, though some wealthier institutions pay those fees for students who applied for financial aid.

Getting financial aid in the US

American students who need financial aid can access it through various federal programs. However, these programs are largely limited to US citizens and permanent residents since they are funded by US taxes. International students are therefore usually not eligible for such aid.

Instead, expat students will need to apply to the college of their acceptance and apply directly to the college for financial aid. Unfortunately, US colleges only have a limited foreign financial aid budget, so applying in a timely fashion may be crucial to a student’s chances of securing such aid.

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