As you begin your journey of preparing to study in the United States, you may be considering the option of consulting service providers to help you in this process. Depending on where you live, such services could include a recruiter, broker or agent who charges fees or receives a commission for such things as helping you obtain a student visa, housing or other services. A recruiter is often known as Zhongjie in China and Yeo Haeng Saa in Korea.
You do not need to use a recruiter in order to obtain a United States student visa. Free information about applying for an F or M visa is available from the Department of State's website.
It is important to know your rights and responsibilities and the problems you could encounter by hiring an agent or recruiter.
- You must ensure that your living arrangements in the United States are adequate for your needs. The arrangements a recruiter makes for you may not match how the recruiter describes them to you. A recruiter cannot prevent you from moving to a new living arrangement. Also, the fees paid for your housing should not be tied to the agent or recruiter.
- You must ensure that the school where you enroll meets your educational objectives. If it does not, a recruiter cannot prevent you from transferring to another school.
Be aware that the U.S. government cannot force recruiters to refund fees you have paid to them for not meeting your expectations (such as bad living arrangements or the school program not providing what you expected).
What if I choose to use a recruiter?
If you choose to use a recruiter, the following information comes from students who had successful experiences with their recruiters:
- Look for a recruiter with a legitimate reputation in your home community. Ask peers, current teachers or other people who have used the recruiter about their experience.
- Be wary of recruiters that do not detail what services will be provided for a particular fee or who do not provide sufficient detail about their background, training or experience in the industry when you ask them.
- Be wary of any recruiter who promises that you can work without restrictions while attending school. The designated school official (DSO) at your Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school can authorize some types of employment for you and must do so before you can begin. For other types of employment, you need your DSO’s recommendation and authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). There is no employment that you can legally do in the United States without coordinating with your DSO. Any work pursued outside of this process may be grounds for termination from the school.
- Do your own research on the schools with which the recruiter partners and determine how the academic community, both in your country and in the United States, perceives the school. Before you work with the recruiter, determine for yourself if the school is right for you. EducationUSA has more than 400 advising centers in 170 countries around the world. These advisors can help you choose a school and a program of study. There are no fees for receiving their services.
- Verify that the schools with which the recruiter partners are SEVP-certified. An F or M student may only attend an SEVP-certified school. You can use the Study in the States school search page to make sure the school in which you are interested is SEVP-certified.
- A recruiter should not offer to write an admissions essay or significantly alter an admissions essay for you on the presumption that a school’s admissions department can be “fooled.”
- Make sure that the school’s credits will transfer to other schools in the United States. You can ask the DSO to identify schools that accept their credits and then contact those schools to confirm this agreement between the schools.
What else should I know?
- You should have direct contact with a DSO at the school you are considering attending. When a school accepts you, the DSO will directly issue you a Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status." For this reason, when you apply to the school for admission, you should give them the address where you receive mail, not the address of your recruiter.
- A recruiter has no proper role in handling your Form I-20. A recruiter does not issue a Form I-20, nor should the recruiter hold onto your Form I-20 for any reason. Be wary of a recruiter that promises you guaranteed acceptance at a school. The recruiter is not involved in the Form I-20 process nor can the recruiter influence your acceptance at a chosen school – your admission to a school will be based upon the your qualifications as submitted with your application to the school.
- You must go in person to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a visa interview. During this visit, you must bring your valid passport, Form I-20, and I-901 SEVIS fee receipt. Additional documents may be required. See the Department of State website for details about applying for a student visa.
- All documents used to support your eligibility for an F or M visa should be yours. A recruiter must not make or supply any of your required documents. Any documents that you present which are altered or identified as fraudulent may make you ineligible not only for your F or M visa but also, possibly, for a future U.S. visa.
- During your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, consular officers will you ask a variety of questions. For instance, you may have to explain why you want to study in the United States. A recruiter must not tell you what to say or not to say during your visa interview. Making false statements during a visa interview could make you ineligible not only for your F or M visa but also, possibly, for a future U. S. visa.
- For additional tips on what else you should know, familiarize yourself with the Rights and Protections page on the Department of State's website.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact or visit an EducationUSA advising center.
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