Visa applicants must prove that sufficient funds are or will be available from a reliable financial source to pay for all living and school expenses during the entire period of study in the US. Specifically, applicants for the F-1 visa must prove they have enough readily available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study, and that adequate funds will be available for each subsequent year of study. Applicants for the M-1 visa must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of study. In some cases, schools will require proof of sufficient funds for the entire course of study even for the F-1 visa.
Funds outside the United States
If an applicant indicates that funds will be coming from a source outside the United States (for example, from parents living in the country of residence), the consular officer must determine whether there are restrictions on the transfer of funds from the country concerned. If restrictions do exist, the consular officer must require some evidence that these restrictions will not keep the funds from being available during the applicant's projected period of study.
Financial sponsorship and assurance of support
Various factors are important in evaluating assurances of financial support made by sponsors:
- The financial sponsor must ensure that the applicant will not need to seek unauthorized work while studying in the United States.
- The sponsor must provide evidence (in the form of documents) of the financial resources that are necessary for the student to complete the course of study.
- If the sponsor is in the US on nonimmigrant status, then the sponsor's financial situation will be examined with even greater care. Important issues include whether the sponsor may need to obtain unauthorized work to finance the student's education, and whether the sponsor will remain in the US at least as long as the student.
- The factors that would motivate a sponsor to honor the financial commitment will be carefully considered. For example, if the sponsor is a close relative of the applicant, there may be a greater probability that the obligation will be honored than if the sponsor is not a relative.
Financial sponsorship by an American
If the student will be sponsored by a US citizen (such as a relative), the sponsor will need to complete Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support). This form requires the sponsor to pay for all expenses that cannot be covered by the student. The relationship between the sponsor and the applicant is an important consideration in this case. A sponsor who is not a relative of the student is generally less credible. A copy of the form can be downloaded from the INS website.
Funds from fellowships and scholarships
The institution that the student will attend may arrange for the student to conduct research, give lectures, or perform other academic functions as part of a fellowship or scholarship, so long as the student also maintains a full-time course load.