Coming to the U.S. on a student visa - and showing the funds
April 12, 2017 2:37 AM   Subscribe

How does an international student show $50,000 in bank statements?

My Nigerian friend has been accepted to an American college! But there is a catch: she needs to show that she has access to $50,000. This could be any combination of her parents funds, her personal funds, or a "sponsor's" funds. Let's assume that she and her parents have about $10,000.

Does anyone have experience in this?

If she finds someone with a bank statement worthy of display, what obligation might that bank statement holder have to the college or to the United States of America?
posted by jander03 to Education (15 answers total)
I have no expertise in this area, but it seems like it would be useful to know who or what entity is requiring the $50k.
posted by jon1270 at 3:51 AM on April 12, 2017

How does she intend to actually pay for the school? The Embassy will want to make sure she has a credible plan to actually afford and attend (not just travel and drop out). You say she only has about $10,000. Does she have scholarships? Will she take loans? That is the kind of documentation they will want to see.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:03 AM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Assuming you're referring to the requirements for her US visa, they are looking for evidence that she can afford to go to college, and that she doesn't plan to work illegally to support herself. International students can do some paid work legally, but it's under strict rules and probably wouldn't be enough to support oneself through college. They're also not eligible for most student loan programs. So if she can't cover the college costs upfront herself, can't borrow, and can't legally earn the money in the US, they may suspect she doesn't actually intend to study in the US, but is using the student visa to get in on false pretenses (I'm not saying she is, just that it's what they may conclude). Or that she plans to work illegally once she's studying there.

As such, I suspect that they would put a lot of scrutiny on any form of funds that wasn't closely connected to her e.g. a bank statement from someone who wasn't a close relative, even with supporting documentation, because it might look like an attempt at visa fraud.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 4:26 AM on April 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Keep in mind that all international students who want to study in the US have to show similar evidence (proof of funds). Tens of thousands of students. Every year.

I bring this up because it's a pretty standard procedure, and hence, both the US visa office AND the university's international student office will have extensive guidance on what evidence is required for proof of funds.

Unless your friend has special mitigating circumstances, I'm not sure whether AskMefi is the right place to ask this, as any personal experiences we may have may be a) out of date with the latest guidance, b) may not be fully aware of all the labyrinth rules and regulations that the US home office has so kindly imposed on international students.

Your first port of call is the US visa office, and the relevant university's international student office. Keep in mind that it is in the university's interest to enroll all accepted students, so they will have useful advice.
posted by moiraine at 4:45 AM on April 12, 2017 [18 favorites]

Coming in to second the above comments.

This is not legal advice, and just adding more concrete details. (I work daily with U.S. visas and applying for sponsorship for my job). Assuming this is an F or M visa, your friend will need to be approved for sponsorship and then given an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility before she can apply for a visa. For reference, financial information is listed on this form which includes source of funds (I-20 example, see number 8). If that Funds From Another Source isn't something like family or scholarship, assuming she successfully gets an I-20 (or DS-2019 for a J visa) from the school, the Embassy will also want to be sure the funds seem legitimate.

Again, not new information, but I wanted to add specifics in case you wanted to do more research on your own to get familiar with the process.
posted by lesser weasel at 4:49 AM on April 12, 2017

I have experience in this. If somebody were to agree to be a sponsor in this context without truly intending to pay for the tuition, that's fraud. If that person were an American citizen it is likely that there would be no immediate consequences (in the sense that the school probably couldn't sue them for tuition money just because their bank statement was used, though some schools do require sponsors to provide not just a bank statement but also an affidavit affirming that they will pay), but it is possible that they could be flagged as a fraud indicator - that is, if somebody later tries to get a visa to visit this person, the intending visitor would be subject to extra scrutiny and doubt because they are visiting somebody who doesn't have a problem making untrue statements regarding visa matters.

I'll add that Nigeria is a high-fraud country when it comes to this kind of thing, and it's very likely that the proof of funds will be independently investigated and verified. Listing a random "sponsor" who has no credible reason to agree to pay for a student's tuition may be enough to get the school to issue an I-20, but it is absolutely a red flag when it comes time to actually travel and will probably make it less likely she'd be approved.

How does your friend actually intend to pay for her U.S. studies? That's what she should use to show proof of funds. If her family plans to sell investments, or has an approved loan, or whatever it might be, she should have something to show that - it's not generally so rigid as requiring that the full sum of money be immediately available in a bank checking account, but rather proof of sufficient liquid assets.
posted by exutima at 5:23 AM on April 12, 2017 [7 favorites]

As far as I remember, the local embassy will handle the visa issue and verify the documents. This may make it easier with foreign documents/languages.

When I went to the states, the bank wrote a letter that "sufficient funds in the amount of x are available". This was a small community bank and the US visa was issued in Europe. Being in Nigeria won't make things easier I assume.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:53 AM on April 12, 2017

moiraine and exutima have very good advice.

Providing your bank statement to help her secure the visa and then not paying for her education is fraud.

This could be any combination of her parents funds, her personal funds, or a "sponsor's" funds.

I'm confused by your quotey-quotes here. Sponsors aren't a dogdey made-up concept. I work in a program with a high number of sponsored students - these are students whose educational and living expenses are entirely paid for by a third-party entity. For us, these are international students sponsored by their governments or by government-run oil companies.

If you're a wealthy oil company, by all means sponsor this student. Otherwise, you're messing around with requirements you don't understand.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:15 AM on April 12, 2017

I need a visa to travel to the US and the last time I applied, I didn't even need to show that I had any money, a plane ticket or even accommodation in the US. Nor did they ask. But I had prior visas from all over the place and they were confident that as a business owner, I wasn't going to throw it all just to be an emigrant.

The same logic will apply to your Nigerian friend. The US Embassy wants her to prove that she can genuinely afford to study in the US for the duration of her degree without having to work illegally. Even if her parents don't have $50K sitting at the bank, they need to prove that their income is such that they can fund her to the tune of $20,000 a year for tuition and living expenses. Note that the money or proof of income should come from someone who has a good reason to pay for your friend's education. Parents. Husband. Tutor. Scholarship. A distant uncle or "an American friend" isn't going to cut it. And the money better be legitimate too. A civil servant with an official salary of $1,000 per month who comes up with the kind of money that is required would raises suspicions.
posted by Kwadeng at 7:20 AM on April 12, 2017

Great advice above but just wanted to add a warning about something that's not been covered yet. In my experience, the immigration authorities' first filter is to look for any "inconsistencies" as a quick and easy way to classify you as a forever "No". In other words, if you get caught in a lie, you will forever be denied any and all entry to the US, even if the application basis has changed - for example, you are no longer applying to college and want to enter on a fiancee visa now. Saying that you have $50k for your college and living expenses only to drop out of college after a year or two because you don't actually have that money will likely be considered as lying on your application to the INS and result in denying future entry to the U.S.

Good luck to your friend!
posted by rada at 8:43 AM on April 12, 2017

Sorry for the double post, I just wanted to clarify my answer. Your last question was:

If she finds someone with a bank statement worthy of display, what obligation might that bank statement holder have to the college or to the United States of America?

If the account holder is a U.S. citizen, the INS does not really have any leverage over them. If the account holder is not a U.S. citizen, and they provide the bank statement as proof of funds designated to pay for your friend's college - but then refuse to pay - they may not be able to enter the U.S. in the future. Your friend however will almost certainly be blacklisted, forever, because she "lied" about her guarantor.

For what it's worth, I've always found the INS call center to be tremendously helpful. Of course you can't call them and ask them to tell you how to cheat the system but you can certainly ask about "scenarios", such as, what would happen to you and to your friend if you were to provide such a statement but then your circumstances were to change so you no longer could afford to pay for her college.
posted by rada at 9:02 AM on April 12, 2017

When I had to do this in '96-00, my "sponsor" (wealthy Granduncle in HK) just got his bank manager/president (can't remember) to write a short letter on 'official' bank letterhead stating something like, "Mr. porpoise's granduncle routinely maintains a balance in the mid 6-figures in his primary account in addition to capital investments."
posted by porpoise at 11:15 AM on April 12, 2017

To clarify, as it might cause some confusion - the INS ceased to exist in 2003. I assume the answerer above intended to refer to USCIS, not INS.
posted by needled at 11:31 AM on April 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I did this my parents were my sponsor, so we got the combined bank statements of mine (which didn't have that much) and my dad's, my dad's income tax statements, and letters from my dad's bank stating that he has more than enough to cover my expenses for school. I don't recall the embassy looking at it in great detail in my interview, but it must have been noted somewhere because on my I-20 (which you get once your visa is sorted and you're enrolled) it does mention something about where the funding is coming from.

My school didn't so much care where the money was coming from as long as it showed up, but it was also a small hippie school.

Your friend's International Students Advisor would know way more about this so ask them.
posted by divabat at 4:20 AM on April 13, 2017

(oh and I'm a Malaysian passport holder if that makes any difference)
posted by divabat at 4:21 AM on April 13, 2017

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