Preparing to Come to the United States to Study: What You Need to Know

As an International Student coming to study in the United States, the experience may be either very easy or difficult depending on how prepared one is for it. If you have your heart set on studying in America, there are a few essentials to keep in mind this will ensure that you have the right documentation and have also applied for the right visa. This will help in striking a balance that will ensure you enjoy your stay even as you study without hitches.

A. The Visa
As an international student coming to the United States, there are three types of student visas that you could be issued: F1 Visa, M1 Visa or J1 Visa. The F1 and J1 visas allow one to get gainful employment when they stay in the United States, the M1 Visa does not allow for employment.

The J1 Visa
The J1 visa is issued to students who want to get practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. J-1 student status allows for similar employment as the F-1 visa, with similar restrictions, as long as permission is given by the exchange visitor program sponsor.

The F1 Visa
The F1 visa is for academic studies. It is issued to students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program. They are the most common form of international student visa in the U.S. F1 visa students must maintain the minimum course load for full-time student status. Students are required to complete their studies by the expiration date on the I-20. F-1 status allows for part-time, on-campus employment (fewer than 20 hours per week). Additionally, students can work on optional practical training (OPT) for up to one year after completion of their academic program.

The M1 Visa
An M1 visa is issued to a student who intends to attend a non-academic or vocational school. M-1 visa holders for technical and vocational programs are not permitted to work during the course of their studies. The M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.

One needs to be familiar with the visas available for issue and how they would affect their finances while studying in the United States. One also needs to be familiar with the process of application and arrival.
As you begin to thinking about the visa you may require to study you need to be aware that the type of visa you apply may affect your funding sources. This may in turn affect your educational and living expenses during your time of study in the United States, remember that you cannot count on working in the United States unless you have been granted a teaching or research assistantship. Immigration regulations are very strict with respect to working while carrying a student visa, and when you submit evidence of your financial resources, you cannot rely on potential income. The income on which you base your application must be assured, and it must be equal to or exceed the costs of the first year of your studies.
Careful long-term and short-term planning is necessary to ensure that you will have a rewarding educational experience in the United States. If you are realistic about your financial needs, you will be better able to enjoy the exciting academic and cultural experience of living and learning in the United States.

B. Healthcare
Unlike many other countries, the United States does not provide socialized health care. It will be helpful for you to learn about the local health care system before it is actually needed. The American health care system is one of the best (and most expensive) in the world. Health care for a major accident or illness can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; therefore, most Americans have health insurance to minimize the costs.
Yet the U.S. health care system is difficult to understand, even for Americans. New and pending legislation within the federal government complicates matters even further. Quality health care is available everywhere in the country from a variety of sources. The key lies in knowing the proper procedures, and in knowing where to go for specific kinds of care. This knowledge can save an international student significant amounts of time and money.

Health Care On Campus
Most college and university campuses offer some type of general medical care; services vary from basic first-aid and treatment of minor ailments to sophisticated multi-doctor primary care centers offering x-rays, laboratory tests, prescription drugs and access to specialists. The cost of on-campus medical services is normally not very expensive.During your first week on campus, take a copy of your medical records (including immunization and vaccination records and prescriptions) to the school’s health care center or infirmary.

Going Off Campus for Health Care
If you prefer to visit a medical practitioner off-campus, you have several choices (though the cost is generally higher). Private doctors treat non-emergency patients by appointment during regular office hours, typically 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Minor emergency clinics do not require appointments, and are usually open on weekends and holidays.
In case of serious emergency, go to the nearest hospital emergency room — by ambulance if necessary. Hospital emergency rooms are designed to treat life-threatening ailments; this is typically the most expensive place to receive care.

If you need to use a medical facility, but are uncomfortable with your English skills, ask a friend to go with you. Proper communication is very important!

What You Need to Know About Health Insurance
Many colleges and universities have their own health insurance plans for their students. According to a recent independent study, larger U.S. schools tend to have better international student insurance programs than smaller schools. Participation in the plan is often mandatory, especially for non-U.S. students. If you are sponsored by an organization such as USAID or one of the Fulbright programs, that organization may have its own health insurance policy. If health insurance is not provided, the International Student Office at your new institution will be able to help you find a suitable plan that fits your needs, or visit International Student Insurance for more information.
A number of private companies offer insurance plans specifically designed for international students. The quality of these programs varies, so request advice from the on-campus International Student Office and other international students, especially students who have had experience with insurance claims.

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