study in the USA

If you’re a prospective international student, you’ll need more than just a valid passport to study in the USA; you will also need to certify your finances. What exactly does it mean when a US university asks you for evidence of adequate financial support? As non-immigrant visa holders, international students are required by law to demonstrate proof of sufficient funding a.k.a. “certification of finances.” This documentation allows universities to get more information about the funds available to students wishing to study in the United States.

Generally, after being accepted to a US university, students wishing to apply for an international student visa must provide the university with financial documentation demonstrating the availability of funds equal to or exceeding the standard Cost of Attendance (COA) at that university. Sometimes this requirement must be met prior to the school even granting a student their acceptance, and some schools that use the CSS Profile will require students to complete the College Board’s International Student Certification of Finances form. Universities expect that the reported funding source(s) will be available to students upon arriving to campus. Since students are required to document adequate funding in order to study in the USA, most universities do not expect international students to need any financial assistance while enrolled. (For those of you interested in learning more about financial resources that are available to international students studying in the USA, read our blog post Are International Students Eligible for Financial Aid?).

Once you’ve been admitted to a university and have made the required tuition deposit to confirm your intent to enroll, you should forward the necessary paperwork to the International Student Office so it can issue the appropriate certificate of eligibility for immigration purposes.

Here are some tips for gathering the necessary financial documentation that will facilitate the process for obtaining your student visa:

  • Provide an official signed letter from the bank verifying the amounts
  • Gather official bank statement(s)
  • Provide a letter from parent/sponsor stating they are willing to spend this money for student’s college costs
  • Provide official notarized translations of any non-English documents
  • Provide scholarship letters from the US institution, if applicable
  • All amounts need to be expressed in US dollars
  • Account(s) should be in parent’s or sponsor’s name
  • Student loans may be submitted as evidence of financial support if they are from reputable lenders willing to provide a letter showing a commitment and final approval of funds.
  • Finally, any money earned from on-campus work does not count toward available funds. While international students are entitled to work 20 hours a week on campus and full-time in the summer, there is no guarantee the student will actually have a job once they arrive, so this income is excluded.

Remember to check in with the International Student Office at the college in question. There will be a Designated School Official (DSO) who will provide guidance on next steps for obtaining your student visa. There may also be specific school requirements for you to meet regarding financial documentation, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete all the necessary paperwork.


Written by Robyn Stewart
Robyn Stewart is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance experts. Prior to joining College Coach, she worked as a former financial aid officer at College of the Holy Cross.