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Study Guide to the States

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I want to study in the states!


before school
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If you are interested in studying in the United States, research the school or program that interests you the most. The Department of State’s EducationUSA helps prospective students learn about the types of education available in the United States, including community colleges, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and more.

Once you determine the level of education and degree you would like to earn, you can apply to schools. Only schools certified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can accept international students. You can use the Study in the States school search page to make sure the school you are interested in is SEVP-certified. You can also view the SEVP 101 tutorial to learn more about the various U.S. government roles in the international education process.

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Find a School

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I have been accepted!


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After your acceptance to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, you need to follow these steps before arriving in the United States:

getGet a Form I-20: Once you receive acceptance to an SEVP-certified school and provide evidence of financial support, as well as any other supporting documents, that school’s designated school official will send you a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status.” You will receive a Form I-20 from every school that accepts you.

payPay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service (SEVIS) Fee: All international students must pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee. You can pay your fee at FMJFee.com. For more information, view the Form I-901 Fee Payment tutorial.

applyApply for a visa to travel to the United States: You can apply for a visa to travel to the United States at your designated U.S. embassy or consulate. Make sure you bring all required documents with you.

Learn more about how you can get ready to go!

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get ready to go

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I have arrived in the United States.


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Arriving in the United States should be a smooth experience if you have all of your documents with you.

You cannot arrive more than 30 days before your program start date. When traveling, always hand-carry all of your documents (such as your passport, Form I-20 and Form I-94). Do not pack any documents in your checked baggage.

Once you arrive, remember to contact your designated school official as soon as possible.

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I am ready to start studying

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How do I maintain my status?


during school
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There are important things you need to do in order to maintain your student status while you are in the United States:

  • You must enroll in a full course of study within 30 days of arriving in the United States.
  • You must make progress toward your educational objective (e.g., diploma, degree or certificate).
  • Speak with your designated school official about any issues or if your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System information changes.

Learn more about maintaining your status.

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What benefits can I apply for?

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How do I apply for benefits?


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You may be eligible to work or drive while you are in the United States.

Driving: Every state has different rules for obtaining a driver’s license. Check out our Driving in the United States page to learn more.

Working: You may be eligible to work while you are in the United States. Check out our Working in the United States page to learn more about the rules and regulations pertaining to international student employment.

Social Security Number: In order to work in the United States, you will need a Social Security number (SSN).

Talk with your designated school official to find out more information.
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What is next?

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I finished my program.


after school

Status Change

When you finish your program of study, there may be other opportunities for you in the United States.

School:

If you want to continue your education after completing your studies, your designated school official can help you with the next steps. Make sure you complete any additional study at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified institution. Use the SEVP School Search tool to find a school.

Work:

You may be eligible to participate in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). If you graduated in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics program of study, there are additional OPT options available.

Change of Status:

You may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your immigration status. This USCIS Fact Sheet provides assistance.


Departure

If you are an F student, and have maintained your status and finished a course of study, you have a 60-day grace period after your program end date to prepare for departure from the United States.

The specific period of time that an M student may remain in the United States includes a 30 day grace period.

Looking for more information? Visit our blog for frequent updates and information addressing many common questions. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.