The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. At 3.79 million square miles and with over 310 million people, the United States is the third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest both by land area and population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The U.S. economy is the world's largest national economy.

Indigenous peoples of Asian origin have inhabited what is now the mainland United States for many thousands of years. The current United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government.

Study In USA

Why Study in USA?

The USA is a top university destination choice for study abroad and hosts more international students than any other country in the world. Her’s why:

  • World renowned education

    US degrees are recognized around the world for their academic excellence and enhanced learning experiences. American universities include many prestigious institutions that are respected globally. In the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities:

    • 16 universities in the USA are ranked in the world’s top 20 universities
    • 52 US universities are ranked the top 100 universities worldwide
    • 77 American universities ranked the best 200 universities in the world

    Getting an American degree is the key to a successful future. The connections you make and the many work experience opportunities will open the door to a prosperous and rewarding career.

  • Academic choice and flexibility

    The USA has one of the world’s best university systems, offering flexible education opportunities at over 4,000 institutions. With ROYAL, there are routes to bachelor’s degrees for both high school and undergraduate (transfer) applicants, and graduate student options leading to fast-tack master’s degrees, graduate certificates, and prestigious MBAs.

    Bachelor’s degrees in the USA include core courses, such as math, history, literature, and communications in the first 2 years. This gives a broad-based knowledge across many disciplines – essential for competing in the global workplace. American curricula are flexibly designed to allow students to change their ‘major’ after 1 or 2 years. There is a huge choice of elective courses so students can tailor their degree to their interests and strengths.

    It is also common for students to change university after 2 years of study in the USA, or to transfer into a US university after studying in another country. It’s not necessary to complete all 4 years at the same institution in order to get a degree from there. This flexibility means students can improve their grades for transfer to a more selective institution.

  • Career preparation

    There will be many opportunities for you to gain practical, career-related experience during your US university studies. Cooperative (co-op) education and internship programs are widely available and often integrated into program curricula to make it easy for you to build up your resume before graduation.

  • Optional Practical Training

    Studying on an F-1 visa also allows you to gain temporary employment authorization through Optional Practical Training (OPT), either during or immediately following your degree studies. Through OPT, you can work:

    • up to 12 months full-time per degree level (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s) completed in the USA, or
    • up to 29 months per degree level if you complete a STEM degree (science, technology, engineering or mathematics)

    Many of these opportunities are paid, allowing you to start paying down the cost of your US education soon after graduation.

  • Experiencing a different culture

    Studying in the USA and exploring a culture different from your own will help you gain essential life skills such as improving your confidence, communication and social skills. You can choose to travel around, see world famous attractions and immerse yourself in the American culture and language.

  • Reference:

Education System

As you begin your school search, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the American education system. Understanding the system will help you narrow your choices and develop your education plan.

Academic Calendar

The U.S. academic calendar typically runs from September to May and can be divided into two academic terms of 16-18 weeks known as semesters. Alternatively, some schools may operate on a quarter or trimester system of multiple terms of 10-12 weeks.


More than 4,500 accredited institutions make up U.S. higher education in the United States. Unlike many countries, U.S. higher education institutions are not centrally organized or managed, but are accredited on a national or regional level by independent accrediting bodies.

The U.S. Higher Education System: Levels of Study

Prior to higher education, American students attend primary and secondary school for a combined total of 12 years. These years are referred to as the first through twelfth grades.

Around age six, U.S. children begin primary school, which is most commonly called “elementary school.” They attend five or six years and then go onto secondary school.

Secondary school consists of two programs: the first is “middle school” or “junior high school” and the second program is “high school.” A diploma or certificate is awarded upon graduation from high school. After graduating high school (12th grade), U.S. students may go on to college or university. College or university study is known as “higher education.”

A student who is attending a college or university and has not earned a bachelor’s degree, is studying at the undergraduate level. It typically takes about four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. You can either begin your studies in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree at a community college or a four-year university or college.

Your first two years of study you will generally be required to take a wide variety of classes in different subjects, commonly known as prerequisite courses: literature, science, the social sciences, the arts, history, and so forth. This is so you achieve a general knowledge, a foundation, of a variety of subjects prior to focusing on a specific field of study.

Many students choose to study at a community college in order to complete the first two years of prerequisite courses. They will earn an Associate of Arts (AA) transfer degree and then transfer to a four-year university or college.

A “major” is the specific field of study in which your degree is focused. You will be required to take a certain number of courses in this field in order to meet the degree requirements of your major. You must choose your major at the beginning of your third year of school.

A very unique characteristic of the American higher education system is that you can change your major multiple times if you choose. It is extremely common for American students to switch majors at some point in their undergraduate studies. Often, students discover a different field that they excel in or enjoy. The American education system is very flexible. Keep in mind though that switching majors may result in more courses, which means more time and money.

Presently, a college or university graduate with a bachelor’s degree may want to seriously think about graduate study in order to enter certain professions or advance their career. This degree is usually mandatory for higher-level positions in library science, engineering, behavioral health and education.

Furthermore, international students from some countries are only permitted to study abroad at a graduate level. You should inquire about the credentials needed to get a job in your country before you apply to a postgraduate university in the USA.

A graduate program is usually a division of a university or college. To gain admission, you will need to take the GRE (graduate record examination). Certain master’s programs require specific tests, such as the LSAT for law school, the GRE or GMAT for business school, and the MCAT for medical school.

Graduate programs in pursuit of a master’s degree typically take one to two years to complete. For example, the MBA (master of business administration) is an extremely popular degree program that takes about two years. Other master’s programs, such as journalism, only take one year. The majority of a master’s program is spent in classroom study and a graduate student must prepare a long research paper called a “master’s thesis” or complete a “master’s project.”

Many graduate schools consider the attainment of a master’s degree the first step towards earning a PhD (doctorate). But at other schools, students may prepare directly for a doctorate without also earning a master’s degree. It may take three years or more to earn a PhD degree. For international students, it may take as long as five or six years.

For the first two years of the program most doctoral candidates enroll in classes and seminars. At least another year is spent conducting firsthand research and writing a thesis or dissertation. This paper must contain views, designs, or research that have not been previously published.

A doctoral dissertation is a discussion and summary of the current scholarship on a given topic. Most U.S. universities awarding doctorates also require their candidates to have a reading knowledge of two foreign languages, to spend a required length of time “in residence,” to pass a qualifying examination that officially admits candidates to the PhD program, and to pass an oral examination on the same topic as the dissertation.

Characteristics of the U.S. Higher Education System:

Classroom Environment

Classes range from large lectures with several hundred students to smaller classes and seminars (discussion classes) with only a few students. The American university classroom atmosphere is very dynamic. You will be expected to share your opinion, argue your point, participate in class discussions and give presentations. International students find this one of the most surprising aspects of the American education system.

Each week professors usually assign textbook and other readings. You will be expected to keep up-to-date with the required readings and homework so you can participate in class discussions and understand the lectures. Certain degree programs also require students to spend time in the laboratory.

Professors issue grades for each student enrolled in the course. Grades are usually based upon:

  • Each professor will have a unique set of class participation requirements, but students are expected to participate in class discussions, especially in seminar classes. This is often a very important factor in determining a student’s grade.
  • A midterm examination is usually given during class time.
  • One or more research or term papers, or laboratory reports must be submitted for evaluation.
  • Possible short exams or quizzes are given. Sometimes professors will give an unannounced “pop quiz.” This doesn’t count heavily toward the grade, but is intended to inspire students to keep up with their assignments and attendance.
  • A final examination will be held after the final class meeting.


Each course is worth a certain number of credits or credit hours. This number is roughly the same as the number of hours a student spends in class for that course each week. A course is typically worth three to five credits.

A full-time program at most schools is 12 or 15 credit hours (four or five courses per term) and a certain number of credits must be fulfilled in order to graduate. International students are expected to enroll in a full-time program during each term.


If a student enrolls at a new university before finishing a degree, generally most credits earned at the first school can be used to complete a degree at the new university. This means a student can transfer to another university and still graduate within a reasonable time.

Types of U.S. higher education

1. State College or University

State colleges and universities, also called "public universities," were founded and subsidized by U.S. state or local government governments to provide a low-cost education to residents of that state. Public universities generally offer access to research opportunities and classes in a wide variety of fields of study. These universities tend to be very large and generally admit a wider range of students than private universities. Each student's interests will guide his/her choice among the many possibilities.

2. Private College or University

These schools are privately run as opposed to being run by a branch of the government. Tuition will usually be higher than state schools. Often, private U.S. universities and colleges are smaller in size than state schools. Religiously affiliated universities and colleges are private schools. Nearly all these schools welcome students of all religions and beliefs. Yet, there are a percentage of schools that prefer to admit students who hold similar religious beliefs as those in which the school was founded.

3. Community College

Community colleges are two-year colleges that award an associate’s degrees (transferable), as well as certifications. There are many types of associate degrees, but the most important distinguishing factor is whether or not the degree is transferable. Usually, there will be two primary degree tracks: one for academic transfer and the other prepares students to enter the workforce straightaway. University transfer degrees are generally associate of arts or associate of science. Not likely to be transferrable are the associate of applied science degrees and certificates of completion.

Community college graduates most commonly transfer to four-year colleges or universities to complete their degree. Because they can transfer the credits they earned while attending community college, they can complete their bachelor’s degree program in two or more additional years. Many also offer ESL or intensive English language programs, which will prepare students for university-level courses.

4. Institute of Technology

An institute of technology is a school that provides at least four years of study in science and technology. Some have graduate programs, while others offer short-term courses.

Regardless of the institution type, in the United States, students typically earn credits for courses they take and these credits count towards the completion of a program. Courses are often divided into "core" subject areas to provide the foundation of the degree program and "major" courses to provide specialization in a subject area. Students can also take "elective" courses to explore other topics of interest for a well-rounded educational experience.

Grading System

In the U.S., measurements of your academic achievement is done in “grades” and “grade point average” (GPA) . Courses are commonly graded using percentages, which are converted into letter grades.

The grading system and GPA in the U.S. can be confusing, especially for international students. The interpretation of grades has a lot of variation. For example, two students who attended different schools both submit their transcripts to the same university. They both have 3.5 GPAs, but one student attended an average high school, while the other attended a prestigious school that was academically challenging. The university might interpret their GPAs differently because the two schools have dramatically different standards.

Therefore, there are some crucial things to keep in mind:
  • You should find out the U.S. equivalent of the last level of education you completed in your home country.
  • Pay close attention to the admission requirements of each university and college, as well as individual degree programs, which may have different requirements than the university.
  • Regularly meet with an educational advisor or guidance counselor to make sure you are meeting the requirements.

Your educational advisor or guidance counselor will be able to advise you on whether or not you must spend an extra year or two preparing for U.S. university admission. If an international student entered a U.S. university or college prior to being eligible to attend university in their own country, some countries’ governments and employers may not recognize the students’ U.S. education.

Living / Working in USA

Most international students in the United States hold an F-1 visa, which is the U.S. non-immigrant student visa. F-1 students are allowed to work in the United States, but only under certain conditions and in accordance with complex guidelines and restrictions issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

With all employment is contingent on remaining within the terms and restrictions of your F-1 visa, there are several categories of employment during the term of your stay as an F-1 student in the United States.

On-campus employment is the most freely available, and then there are four categories of off-campus employment

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT)
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
  • Economic Hardship
  • International Institutions

On-Campus Employment

On-campus employment is the category most freely permitted by the USCIS regulations, and it does not require USCIS approval. However, although F-1 status includes an on-campus employment privilege, on-campus employment opportunities at most schools are limited. Even if you can obtain a job on campus, you may not rely on it to prove financial resources for the year, and often these jobs are not related to your studies. Many schools do require that you obtain permission from the International Student Office prior to accepting any on-campus employment, and may not permit such employment in a student's first semester or year.

For on-campus work, an F-1 student is subject to the following rules:

  • You must maintain valid F-1 status
  • You can work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session
  • You can work full-time on campus during holidays and vacation periods if you intend to register for the next academic semester
  • The employment may not displace (take a job away from) a U.S. resident

The definition of on-campus employment includes:

  • Work performed on the school's premises directly for your school (including work affiliated with a grant or assistantship).
  • Work performed for on-location commercial firms which provide services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria (Employment with on-site commercial firms which do not provide direct student services, such as a construction company building a school building, is not deemed on-campus employment for the purposes of the rule).
  • Work performed at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. The educational affiliation must be associated with the school's established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level. In any event, the employment must be an integral part of the student's educational program.

International students in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status are permitted to work off-campus in optional practical training (OPT) status both during and after completion of their degree. Rules established by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) govern the implementation of OPT, and all OPT employment requires prior authorization from USCIS and from your school’s International Student Office.

You can apply for OPT after being enrolled for at least 9 months, but you cannot begin employment until you receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS and you have been enrolled for at least a year. You do not need to have a job offer to apply for your OPT EAD, and your OPT employment can occur anywhere in the US.

Start early—USCIS takes up to 90 days to process your application—and make sure you work closely with your school’s International Student Office. As with everything you will do while in the U.S., permission is based on maintaining lawful F-1 status and your International Student Office is there to help you maintain that status throughout your stay.

General OPT Requirements:

  • 1. Employment must be "directly related" to the student's major
  • 2. Student must maintain lawful F-1 status
  • 3. Student must apply for OPT before completion of all work towards a degree
  • 4. Students who have engaged in 12 months or more of full-time Curricular Practical Training (CPT) are not eligible for OPT
  • 5. OPT is permitted for up to 12 months full-time in total – part-time OPT (while still in school) reduces available full-time OPT by half of the amount of part-time work (for instance, if you work part time for 6 months, you can work full-time for up to 9 months)

Students can be authorized for 12 months of OPT for each successive level of degree achieved – for instance, you can do 12 months of OPT after receiving your undergraduate degree, go back to graduate school, and then do 12 months of OPT after receiving your graduate degree. Pre-completion OPT (students are still in school) and post-completion OPT (students have completed their degree) each have different rules:

OPT before completing a degree:

  • Students must be enrolled in school full-time
  • Students may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session
  • Students may work full-time during summer and other breaks (as long as the student will return to school after the break)
  • Student may work full-time after completion of all coursework, if a thesis or dissertation is still required and student is making normal progress towards the degree

OPT after completing a degree:

  • After completion of your degree, OPT work must be full time (40 hours/week)
  • All OPT must be completed within 14 months after completion of your degree
  • Applications for post-completion OPT must be received by USCIS before the completion of the degree.

One Final Note – Be mindful of the travel regulations governing F-1 students on OPT. If you leave the country after completion of your degree, but before receiving your EAD and obtaining a job, you may not be readmitted. You can leave the country after completion of your degree if you have your EAD and a job, but make sure you bring everything that you’ll need to get back in (including valid passport, valid EAD card, valid F1 visa, all your I-20s with page 3 endorsed for travel by your international student advisor within the past 6 months, and a letter of employment, including dates of employment and salary).

OPT Update - April 2008

In April 2008, the Department of Homeland Security updated their OPT requirements for students who are studying certain degree programs so that OPT can be extended for an additional 17 months, up to a total of 29 months of OPT. This was instituted to plug the gap between students who completed their OPT and did not have a chance to file for an H1B visa due to the time frames and visa caps that exist on the H1B visa. Students can now extend their OPT so they still have the opportunity to apply for an H1B visa.

The special extension of the OPT program is only available to those who are employed by companies who are enrolled in the E-Verify program, and you have to be studying one of the following subjects:

  • Actuarial Science
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Engineering
  • Engineering Technologies
  • Life Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Military Technologies
  • Physical Sciences
  • Full list of STEM Designated Degree Programs

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is an off-campus employment option for F-1 students when the practical training is an integral part of the established curriculum or academic program.

CPT employment is defined as “alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with the school.” To qualify, the work experience must be required for your degree, or academic credit must awarded. You can get paid for CPT employment. Prior authorization by your school’s International Student Office and notification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is required.

To be eligible for CPT employment:

  • 1. You must have been enrolled in school full-time for one year on valid F-1 status (except for graduate students where the program requires immediate CPT)
  • 2. The CPT employment must be an integral part of your degree program or requirement for a course for which you receive academic credit
  • 3. You must have received a job offer that qualifies before you submit your CPT authorization request
  • 4. Your job offer must be in your major or field of study

Your International Student Office must authorize you for CPT. Once you receive CPT authorization, you can only work for the specific employer and for the specific dates authorized (unlike with OPT or severe economic hardship off-campus employment, where you can work anywhere in the US). Your CPT authorization will also specify whether you are approved for part-time (20 hours per week or less) or full-time (more than 20 hours per week) CPT employment. While in school, you can only be approved for part-time CPT.

Regardless of whether you are approved for full or part-time on CPT, there is no limit to how long you can work. However, if you work full-time on CPT for 12 months or more, you are not eligible for OPT. If you work part-time on CPT, or full-time on CPT for less than 12 months, you are still eligible for all of your allowable OPT. So make sure you watch the dates and hours closely – don’t jeopardize your OPT!

Many schools in the United States offer work and study programs that coordinate immediate employment through CPT programs. Not only does this give international students the opportunity to help cover the costs of their education, but they will at the same time gain valuable work experience and obtain their masters degree.

Any F-1 student suffering "severe economic hardship" as defined by USCIS is eligible to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session, and full-time during breaks.

To be eligible under "severe economic hardship", a student must:

  • 1. Be in valid F-1 status for at least one academic year (9 months)
  • 2. Be in good academic standing
  • 3. Provide evidence of economic hardship based on unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control
  • 4. Show that on-campus employment is neither available nor sufficient
  • 5. Make a good faith effort to locate employment on campus before applying

Examples of Severe Economic Hardship:

The rule gives examples of the types of things that could be considered "severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student’s control." These circumstances may include:

  • loss of financial aid or on-campus employment without fault on the part of the student
  • substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate
  • inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs
  • unexpected changes in the financial condition of the student's source of support
  • medical bills or other substantial and unexpected expenses.

You must apply for an "employment authorization document" (EAD) with the help and guidance of your International Student Office -- you do not need a job offer before you apply for the EAD. But several forms and documents are required, together with fees and photos, etc., and processing can take up to 12 weeks or longer -- and you cannot start work until you receive the EAD. Once you receive the EAD, you may work for an employer at any job, anywhere in the United States. Employment authorization is automatically terminated when a student fails to maintain valid F-1 status.

The final category of employment for international students in the U.S. on F-1 visas is employment with a "recognized international organization." To qualify, an organization must be on the official State Department list, and listed organizations include the Red Cross, African and Asian Development Banks, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and many other similar but less well-known organizations. Because it does not have the universal application of OPT or CPT, this category of employment is often overlooked. Only students with a job offer and sponsorship from one of the listed organizations are eligible. However, for those lucky students who do have such sponsorship, there are clear benefits of this employment category.

Requirements to work for an international organization:

  • 1. The student must have an internship/employment with a “recognized international organization.” Click here to see a recent listing of all "recognized international organizations."
  • 2. The employment must be within the scope of the organization’s sponsorship, and within the student’s field of study.
  • 3. The student must have been in valid F-1 status for at least one full academic year.
  • 4. The student must be in good academic standing.

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). You can start to work only after you receive your EAD, which can take up to 3 months.

Advantages of this type of employment when compared to CPT or OPT:

  • Employment does not have to be for-credit nor required for your degree program.
  • Regardless of how much or how long you work, this type of employment will not take away from your 12-month post-completion OPT.

English Proficiency Requirements

Regardless of citizenship, applicants whose first language is not English must generally take one of the following exams and achieve the indicated scores in order to demonstrate English proficiency.

Undergraduate Applicants

All applicants (including US citizens) whose first language is not English can prove English proficiency by one of the following:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) - TOEFL code 5007
    • - Internet based test (iBT) score of 80 or higher.* (Sub-scores for each section of the TOEFL should be 20 or higher.)
    • - Paper-based test score of 550 or higher
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
    • - Composite score of 6.5 or higher. (Sub-scores for each section of the IELTS should be 6.0 or higher.)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE)
    • - Score of 53 or higher
  • SAT Critical Reading score of 530 or higher
  • TOEFL/IELTS is not required of non-native English speakers who are educated in US or IB secondary schools inside or outside the US, or in countries** where English is the native language, for at least 4 consecutive years (grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 or equivalent) where English is the only medium of instruction and no ESL courses have been taken.
  • Undergraduate Transfer applicants who have completed two academic English writing courses from a U.S. college or university with a grade of "C" or better from regionally accredited, AG rated institutions or a "B" or better from provisionally accredited, AP rated institutions, are exempt from submitting scores from these examinations.

*To be considered competitive, a 90 iBT score or above is recommended. Sub-scores for each section of the TOEFL should be 20 or higher.

**English speaking countries include: UK, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada (except Quebec).

Graduate Applicants

The general English Proficiency requirements for graduate study at American University are given below.

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) iBT: Score 100 or higher (600 on the paper-based test)
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System) - Score 7.0 or higher
  • Applicants who have completed a bachelor's or master's degree from a US-accredited institution in the United States (or abroad) may be exempt from the English-language proficiency test requirement.
  • Please see your individual school or college for more information on the English Proficiency Requirement.

Students Visa Guidance

The visa category for most international students is F1, and we have more information on that and other categories below. International students visas are issued and regulated by USCIS, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, and the whole process of obtaining a visa to either study in the USA or to work can be quite daunting.

There are general requirements to gain entry into the USA, in addition to the specific requirements of each visa category. In general you must be:

  • Healthy - No inoculations are required to enter the US, unless you were recently in a country with epidemics such as cholera and yellow fever.
  • Law-abiding - Criminal behavior is grounds for deportation.
  • Able to support yourself financially during your stay.
  • You intend to leave the US after you complete your studies.

Visa & Documents

The F1 Visa is the most popular/ common visa that is issued to incoming students into the USA. Generally it is issued to students who are coming to the USA to study on an academic program or to come to learn English as a Second Language. F1 students must maintain full-time student status.

The J1 Visa is issued to students who need to have practical training as part of the academic program; however, there is also a large program called the “Work/ Travel Program” under the J1 Visa where students can come to the USA for three to four months to gain employment and travel the USA.

An M1 visa is issued to a student who is going to attend a non-academic or vocational school.

If you are applying for an F-1 Student Visa from your home country, you will begin by selecting a school in the U.S. where you want to study and applying to the school. You may also want to begin looking into housing information at this time.

If your application is accepted you will obtain Form I-20 from the DSO (Designated School Official) and pay the I-901 SEVIS receipt. You will be added to the SEVIS database with an individual ID number.

After the school enters your information into the SEVIS database, you will receive Form I-20 and schedule the "Initial Entry Visa Interview" with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.


A prospective foreign student is required to demonstrate Proof of Availability of Funds when he applies for F-1 student visa in or outside of the United States. USCIS or an Officer at the local US Embassy need to be sure that the student can live in the US and pay his tuition without working, which is permitted for foreign students only under rare circumstances. Proof of Availability of Funds can be demonstrated either by the prospective student directly, or through Sponsorship.


The official title of SEVIS form I-20 is "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – For Academic and Language Studies." This form tells USCIS who you are, where you live, what you want to study, when your classes begin, how long your studies are going to take, and how you are going to pay for your tuition, room, and board while you are in school. If you are granted F-1 status, your form I-20 is the most important document you will posses, in addition to your Form I-94. Current form I-20 also serves as evidence of the legality of your presence in the U.S.

Designated School Official (DSO)

Each school approved by USCIS to educate foreign students must have at least one Designated School Official (DSO) who is responsible for the school’s compliance with the USCIS rules regarding foreign students and foreign applicants. The DSO creates and updates an electronic record for each foreign student in SEVIS. The DSO is involved in enrollment, change of major, change of school, practical training, visa extension, visa reinstatement, school completion, and school withdrawal processes concerning the foreign student. The DSO issues and signs all necessary SEVIS forms including form I-20. Every foreign student interacts with the DSO either directly or through the Admissions of Foreign Students office staff.

Cost Of Studying in USA

Both the tuition costs to study in the USA and living costs vary considerably between different universities/colleges, educations and cities. Tuition is usually between $5,000 and $50,000 per year. Costs for food and living are normally between $5,000 and $11,000 dollars per year. In addition to paying tuition, you need money for travelling, course literature, and personal expenses.

Student Accommodation in the United States

There are three accommodation options for students in the United States:

  • On-campus accommodation: you live on the school’s campus in a student room or student apartment. This accommodation can be more expensive, but you get to know a lot of students very fast. On-campus accommodation can be good for your first year at the school to be a part of campus life and meet other students. Meals may also be included in your on-campus accommodation.
  • Off-campus accommodation: You hire a private/shared apartment outside of campus, usually for a lower price than living on-campus. The International Office at the university can usually help you with information about private apartments and where to look for them. It can also be useful for temporary accommodation in the first few weeks upon arriving.
  • Host family accommodation: This accommodation alternative is only offered by a few universities. It is more expensive compared to living off-campus, but gives you the extra support of a family and ingrains you in American culture quickly.

English Language Recognition

If you have completed a qualification where English was the primary language of instruction, you may be eligible for an English language exemption. Check our Guide to English Language Requirements (PDF, 123 KB) to find out if you qualify for an exemption

If you fall into one of the following student categories, you are exempt from providing evidence of English language proficiency requirements with your visa application:

  • students enrolled in fulltime school studies as a principal course, including secondary exchange programmes; postgraduate research courses; standalone English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS); and Foreign Affairs or Defence sponsored students
  • students who have completed at least five years’ study in one or more of the following countries: Australia, UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, or the Republic of Ireland
  • citizens and passport holders of one of the following English speaking countries: UK, USA, Canada, NZ or Republic of Ireland
  • students who have successfully completed in Australia in the English language either the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education or studies at the Certificate IV or higher level, in the two years before applying for the student visa.

Packaging English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) There is no limitation on the maximum duration of ELICOS study that can be undertaken. Genuine students are able to undertake as much ELICOS study as either a standalone course or prior to their principal course, as required.

Student Visa Guidance

There are several classes of student visas for Australia - the one you need depends on the type of study (eg: English language course, graduate degree, vocational training,higher education, etc.) you are planning to undertake.

Student visa options.

Student visa (subclass 500) If you intend to study in Australia, you will need to apply for the Student visa (subclass 500).

You can apply for the following types of study on this visa:
  • English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS)
  • school – primary or secondary
  • secondary school exchange program
  • vocational Education and Training (VET) courses –a registered VET course or a registered course for the award of an advanced diploma
  • higher education courses –a bachelor or associate degree, a graduate certificate or graduate diploma, a masters degree by coursework or a higher education diploma or advanced diploma
  • postgraduate Research degrees –a masters degree by research or a doctoral degree
  • non-award courses – non-award foundation studies courses or components of a course that do not lead to an award
  • students sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs or Trade or the Department of Defence.
  • Visa requirements

    The student visa you need depends on your chosen course of study. As a guide, the typical key requirements you will need to meet are:

    • Issued an electronic Confirmation of Enrolment (eCoE) certificate.
    • Meet the Genuine Temporary Entrant requirement. Read more about this on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (opens in a new window) website.
    • Sufficient funds for airfares, course fees and living costs.
    • English language proficiency.
    • Meet health and character requirements.
    • Acceptable Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC).

Cost Of Study

Australia uses Australian Dollar or AUD as its currency.

As it is a very popular study destination, applying for scholarships in Australia is highly competitive. If you are planning to finance your studies yourself, you should be aware of the costs associated with studying and living in this destination.

As with most other countries, the cost of education in Australia is dependent on the type and duration of your studies.

The list below gives you an indication of the range of course costs for different types of qualifications.

  • School - $7,800 to $30,000
  • English language studies - Around $300 per week depending on course length
  • Vocational Education and Training (Certificates I to IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma) - $4,000 to $22,000
  • Undergraduate Bachelor Degree - $15,000 to $33,000*
  • Postgraduate Masters Degree - $20,000 to $37,000*
  • Doctoral Degree - $14,000 to $37,000*

Note: This does not include high value courses such as veterinary and medical. Please visit institution websites directly to see costs for these courses.

Scholarship information

The Australian Government and Australian Universities provide a large number of scholarships for international students wanting to study in Australia

Australia Awards Scholarships

Australia Awards Scholarships, formerly known as Australian Development Scholarships (ADS), are long term development awards administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They provide opportunities for people from developing countries, particularly those countries located in the Indo-Pacific region, to undertake full time undergraduate or postgraduate study at participating Australian universities and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions. The scholarship benefits generally include: full tuition fees, return air travel, establishment allowance, contribution to living expenses (CLE), Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), etc.

See also Australia Awards Fellowships

Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship Awards The Endeavour Postgraduate Awards provide full financial support for international students to undertake a postgraduate qualification at a Masters or PhD level either by coursework or research in any field of study in Australia. The scholarships include tuition fees, travel allowance, establishment allowance, monthly stipend as well as health and travel insurance.

See also Endeavour Executive Fellowships

International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (IPRS) The IPRS program enables international students to undertake a postgraduate research qualification in Australia and gain experience with leading Australian researchers. The scholarships are available for a period of two years for a Masters by research degree or three years for a Doctorate by research degree. The scholarship covers tuition fees and health cover costs.

Australian University Scholarships »

University of Sydney International Research Scholarships The University of Sydney invites candidates who are eligible to undertake a Postgraduate Research Degree or Master’s by Research program at this University to apply for the University of Sydney International Research Scholarship (USydIS). The USydIS will cover tuition fees and living allowance for up to three years with a possibility of one semester’s extension for PhD students.

Macquarie University International Scholarships

The Macquarie University Vice-Chancellor’s International Scholarship provides a partial tuition fee scholarship for outstanding students to study an undergraduate or postgraduate degree at Macquarie University North Ryde campus. The scholarship amount is varied up to AUD$10,000.

Melbourne Research Scholarships

The Melbourne Research Scholarship (MRS) was established by the University of Melbourne and is awarded to high achieving domestic and international research students. The benefits of the Melbourne Research Scholarship vary depending on your circumstance and may include one or more of the following: fortnightly living allowance, relocation allowance, paid sick, maternity and parenting leave, full fee remission (international students only) and Overseas Student Health Cover (international students only). Also see Melbourne International Undergraduate Scholarships

Adelaide Scholarships International

The University of Adelaide offers the Adelaide Scholarships International (ASI) program to attract high quality international postgraduate students to areas of research strength in the University of Adelaide to support its research effort. The scholarships includes course tuition fees, annual living allowance, and health insurance.

La Trobe Academic Excellence Scholarships for International Students

La Trobe’s Academic Excellence Scholarships (AES) are targeted towards high achieving international students from all countries across all of La Trobe’s undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programs. The scholarship is worth between $10,000 and $20,000 and goes towards tuition fees.

Monash University International Merit Scholarships

Monash University is offering a number of scholarship programs including the Monash University International Merit Scholarships for outstanding international students who wish to pursue an undergraduate or postgraduate degree at Monash University. The scholarship is valued at $10,000 for a full time study load, paid per year. See also Monash University International Leadership Scholarships and Monash International Scholarships for Excellence

Flinders International Postgraduate Scholarships

Flinders International Postgraduate Research Scholarships (FIPRS) are awarded to suitably qualified applicants to pursue a full-time research higher degree at Flinders University – up to two years for a Research Masters degree and up to three years for a Research Doctorate degree. The scholarship covers the international student tuition fees, living allowance, establishment allowance, relocation costs and airfares. Reference:

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