Coming to the U.S to study is no easy task. From securing international student loans to dealing with cultural barriers, international students studying in the U.S have their work cut out for them.
That’s without kids. If you add children into the mix studying abroad can be an absolute nightmare. Visa issues, schooling dilemmas, the U.S government really doesn’t make it easy.
Hopefully this brief article will give you a solid introduction into studying abroad in the U.S with young children. If you want to make your American dream come true, trust me it’s still possible, but it will take a lot of hard work, dedication and resilience.
The first thing you need to do before coming to the U.S to study is secure a visa for both you and your children. If you’ve been accepted to a U.S institution to study, then you’ll be given an F-1 visa.
Then, in order to bring your kids with you to the U.S you’ll need an I-20 Form from your university. This form allows dependents to apply for F-2 status, based on your F-1 visa.
You’ll need to prove financial stability in some way in order for your dependent to receive their F-2 visa. You can do this through bank records, student loans, scholarships, OPT(more on this later), or a mixture of the lot. If you can prove your financial stability and visa status, your child should be given an F-2 visa, which will grant them the right to live and study in the U.S.
Think About Preschool
If your kids are under age 5, then they won’t be eligible to attend kindergarten at a public school just yet. If this is the case, you might consider private preschool programs that can help your kids learn and grow while you’re earning your degree.
The reality is childcare is extremely expensive in the U.S. For example, if you’re coming to study at Arizona State University(one of the most popular schools for international students) in Phoenix, the average cost of nanny care is $13.36 per hour. That can add up quickly. For the average 40 hours of week of nanny care, you’ll be spending over $2000 a month on childcare alone. Most international students simply can’t afford that.
That’s why so many parents in the U.S turn to private preschools like the Phoenix Children’s Academy. Although you will still be paying hundreds per month, taking your children to a private preschool is far less expensive than at home childcare.
Only schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can accept international students with F-1 visas, but their dependents with F-2 Visas can attend their local public school at any grade level.
That means as soon as your little one turns five they can go to public school with all the other kids. Public schooling in the U.S is free too, so this should save you some money.
If public schools aren’t up your alley you can also consider private options. Private schools will usually provide a better education with more variety of educational opportunities, including field trips, study abroad programs, etc., but they come at a hefty cost.
In fact, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average price of a year of a private elementary school is $7,770, and it goes up to $13,030 for private high schools.
Working In the U.S as a Student
If you’re bringing your spouse with you to the states they won’t be able to work while they’re here. That’s because F-category visas only allow immigrants to study in the U.S, not work.
Thankfully, the U.S does offer an Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) program for international students with F-1 visas for up to 12 months, and an additional 17 months for STEM majors. If your spouse can’t work this can be a lifesaver because you might need to make up the income by working while you study.
Consider Getting Extra Student Loans
Finally, you if you have dependents and are coming to the U.S to study, you might consider biting the bullet and getting some extra international student loans.
This shouldn’t be your first option, but if you can’t get approved for your F-1 visa because of financial requirements, then it may be the only choice.
MPOWER Financing offers some of the best international student loans on the market, without the need for a cosigner, collateral, or credit history. They also focus on their social impact, providing scholarships to international students, so consider applying for those to help with tuition as well.
At the end of the day, coming to study in the U.S as an international student with children isn’t going to be easy. There is a lot to consider and this list of tips is really just the beginning. That being said, studying in the U.S has so many amazing benefits. So don’t be afraid to give it a shot, you’ll be glad you did.