Immigration and Visa Issues
The first step is to complete the Confidential Financial Statement.
PLEASE NOTE: The resources you show on the Confidential Financial Statement should total at least $89,655 for your year of study here (plus $4,500 for a spouse and $2,000 per child). These numbers may increase at any time, so the sooner you can submit the form, the better. Visa applications NOT approved before the amount changes must show resources at the new, higher amount.
If your bank will not stamp the Confidential Financial Statement with their official stamp, you may attach an official bank statement to the form, showing the funds available in your account.
When the Confidential Financial Statement is complete, please upload your form to UCLA Dashew Center for International Students & Scholars website, per their email instructions.
Processing your student visa application CANNOT begin until you have paid your enrollment deposit and submitted all the required documents and forms including the SIR and Confidential Financial Statement. After all your documentation is complete and verified, the UCLA Dashew Center for International Students will work with the U.S. Government's student visa system to approve you for an I-20 form. UCLA Dashew Center for International Students typically begins issuing I-20s shortly after you have submitted your Confidential Financial Statement to them. Once UCLA issues this I-20 form, it will be sent to you via email. At this point, you can set up an appointment to take your I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to get your actual visa.
Please see U.S. Immigration for more details.
If your company sponsors you for more than half of your total support, you should apply for a J-1 (vs. the F-1) visa for yourself and a J-2 visa for your spouse. This may allow your spouse to work in the U.S. (F-2 spouses are not allowed to work here). Ask the MFE office to help you obtain two DS-2019 forms (one for you and one for your spouse). The school normally issues only one DS-2019 with both of your names on it. Having two DS-2019's will allow you and your spouse to travel separately. With just one DS-2019, you will have to cross the border together and there are no exceptions to this rule.
Re-entering the U.S.
If you are neither a U.S. citizen nor a green card holder and plan on leaving and re-entering the country, you MUST have a valid signature from DCISS (Contact DCISS). A valid signature is one that has been dated within three months of when you plan to re-enter the United States. This also applies to individuals crossing the Mexican border. Even if you are going on a short weekend trip to Tijuana, you need this signature.
If your F-1 visa stamp (the visa in your passport) is only valid for one year, you will need to renew it if you leave and re-enter the U.S. after it has expired.
UCLA Dashew Center
All International students must check in at the UCLA Dashew Center for International Students & Scholars (DCISS) when they arrive. This campus center facilitates the development of cross-cultural understanding among multi-national UCLA students/scholars and the community-at-large. Throughout the year, DCISS develops and implements programs to foster friendships and expand effective connections between UCLA students and others.
Social Security Number
A Social Security Number is very helpful in the United States to get credit, telephone service, etc. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has recently limited the ability of students to get a SSN. Therefore, most international students (except those few on a J-1 visa) will have to start by getting the Social Security Denial Letter, and use that in place of a SSN wherever possible. The Denial Letter can be used to get a California driver's license, rent an apartment and do most other vital activities that require a SSN. Later in the summer, if you get an internship, you can apply for a SSN at that time.
The Dashew Center for International Students & Scholars (DCISS) will help you with the Social Security Denial Letter process. Follow their instructions to apply for a SSN with the U.S. Government (usually at the nearby Federal Building). The Denial Letter will be sent to you shortly after you apply, and, if necessary, you can use the MFE office address (110 Westwood Plaza, Entrepreneurs Hall - Suite C401, Los Angeles, CA 90095).
After receiving the Denial Letter, only those students receiving financial aid can subsequently apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This is like a substitute SSN, which can be helpful in situations where a SSN would normally be required. However, not everyone can qualify for an ITIN either, and DCISS will advise you on that application after you get your Denial Letter.
Four of the largest local banks are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and Citibank. Please refer to their websites to see their different options in personal checking accounts. You can open an account without a SSN in these banks. Usually they offer a free checking account but you need to have a minimum balance in any combination of checking and savings accounts. Even if you rarely go to the bank's branch office, pick a bank that is close to your home and has several ATMs throughout town since there are fees for withdrawing money from ATMs of other banks.
If you wish to open an account, it is recommended that you do so approximately two weeks before you leave, so that you have time to make the necessary money transfers. You can also inquire about the possibility of getting a credit card with a security deposit upon your arrival. This is very important in order to start building a credit history in the U.S.
If you have more than $1,000 in your account, it's usually free of charge. You will also get a VISA debit/ATM card (not a credit card), which you can use to withdraw cash and make purchases in stores. This will not count toward your credit history and you will need to have sufficient funds in the account.
If you only want a credit card to delay payment on purchase and you have a credit card in your home country, you can usually use your international card in the U.S. as long as it is internationally recognized (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, etc.). Check with your local credit card provider. Keep in mind you may lose money on the currency exchange, and you will have to continue to pay your credit card bills in your home country either by phone or Internet. Your international American Express also might work for you. You can pay your balance before the due date at any American Express center in L.A.
However, use of your international credit card doesn't build U.S. credit history. For that purpose you need credit cards issued in the U.S. When it comes to borrowing money in the U.S., from credit cards to car financing to mortgages, you will need good U.S. credit history, usually at least a year long. As an international student without credit history, applying for a credit card in the U.S. can be difficult. The dilemma is that sometimes you cannot get a credit card without credit history, yet you cannot build credit history without having had credit and showing you can pay off your debt. Here are some options for building credit history in the U.S.:
1. Some banks (including Bank of America and Capital One) will give you a credit card if you make a deposit into a "locked" account.
You only will be able to spend up to this amount. Unfortunately, this is not a true credit card, since you have to pay the money up-front. However, this is one way of building your credit history.
2. If you already have a credit card in your home country with a provider that also exists in the U.S., you may be able to get a U.S. credit card from this provider by referring them to your credit history back home.
Examples of these providers include American Express and MBNA. Past international students have obtained a U.S. credit card this way.
3. After approximately six months, you can apply for a credit card (a student credit card is recommended because it's easier to obtain).
Usually you will be given $300 to $500 revolving credit to start. Be patient, as the process of building credit history is long. Your credit will be increased as you comply with your payments and, using this credit history, you can start asking for new cards with higher credit limits.
For the options above, you are required to have your SSN and an American address.
Please do not underestimate the importance of having U.S. credit history. If you plan to stay in the U.S. for a longer period of time, it is worth building your credit history as soon as possible. It will come in handy later if you want to get a car loan or mortgage.
Cars and Insurance
Purchasing Used Cars
Listed below are good sources for information on buying a used car from owners in the L.A. area. Usually, this provides a better price than going through dealers, and is also a lot less stressful, though it may involve more risk:
Tips on buying a used car:
When buying the car, you may want to inspect it with a fellow student and/or a mechanic for about $60-$100 to ensure that the service history is on track.
A good web site to check the history of a car is Carfax. If you know the VIN (vehicle identification number) of the car (ask the owner for it or it can usually be found on the dashboard of the car), you can then check it's history and see if it has been involved in any accidents, was a prior rental car, etc. Use of this site requires a paid registration. It's a small investment, but a smart one. You may notice that some cars are cataloged as "salvage" which means that they were a complete loss from an accident for insurance purposes. These cars have almost no value for Americans if you try to sell them at a later date. Weigh that in your decision before you buy the car.
After buying the car you will get a "pink slip" which represents the transfer of ownership. This transfer needs to be finalized by the DMV (again, see dmv.ca.gov). You will also need to pay a transfer fee that is around 8.5% of the total purchase value. (Note that the value you write in the pink slip does not necessarily have to match the real purchase value).
California Department of Motor Vehicles
Basic liability insurance is mandatory by California law. Many students have received good deals at State Farm, AIS and Progressive, but there are many options.
Your insurance premium is based on a number of factors, including the amount of driving experience you have and your driving history in the USA. A traffic violation (e.g. from speeding) during a short period of stay in the U.S. can more than double your premium. Some insurers accept letters of recommendation from your previous international insurance company or Department of Motor Vehicles (or Transportation).
This could reduce your premiums drastically from around $1,800 - $2,200/year to $800 - $1,200/year. This statement must be dated recently (e.g. 30 days, depends on the insurer) to show it to your Californian insurance company. Bring as much documentation as you can in order to reduce your premiums. It is possible to buy a car and insurance without needing a U.S. driver's license.
The same difficulties of credit cards apply here - no credit history means no credit to finance a car. However, there are ways around this depending on where you go. For example, a car dealer may want to make that extra effort in order to sell you a car. One scenario is: you are buying a car from a dealer (e.g. a Ford dealer); they provide their own credit (e.g. Ford credit), not through a bank; and they have operations in your home country (e.g. Ford Germany). In this case, they might be willing to verify your credit history via their subsidiary in your home country and provide financing. This has happened, so it is worth a try. Car finance certainly helps you build a credit history in the U.S.
Working in the United States and Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
To receive CPT authorization, you will need to compile these documents between March and June:
An I-538 form with Section A completed and signed by the student, and an I-20ID copy of your I-20 form and one photocopy. You may not start working until you receive your I-20ID from DCISS with a stamp indicating authorization to engage in CPT.
If you have obtained a graduate degree at an American university and have already had a year of Practical Training after graduation, you are NOT eligible for OPT after you graduate. You MUST obtain company sponsorship in order to continue working in the U.S.
If you are planning on getting an internship or working in the United States during the summer, this will be considered Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT authorizes employment that is either required as part of the curriculum or given academic credit. UCLA Anderson deems CPT to be part of the curriculum.
Employment for more than 20 hours per week is considered full-time CPT regardless of whether the student is enrolled full-time or part-time. Students who receive one year or more of full-time CPT are ineligible for post-graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT). Part-time CPT does not limit post-graduation OPT. UCLA's Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars (DCISS) must review and endorse all curricular practical training requests.
Can I apply for CPT and Internships before starting the MFE program?
Internships are an important and valuable opportunity for MFE students to apply and further develop their skills with a wide range of financial firms. Until students at US institutions have started their academic program, there is no work authorization offered prior to matriculation. As for taking part in internships during the MFE program, students need to complete 2 academic quarters before they are eligible to request approval from the MFE program to participate in a part-time internship (up to 20 hours) in the Spring quarter or their final Fall quarter. The MFE program is rigorous and this is to ensure academic success as CPT is only available to students in good academic standing.
All students will participate in an internship or project over the Summer term. There are specific dates students can request to participate in an internship during each of the mentioned terms. We will outline these dates and provide additional details on the application process once students arrive. We also have the Career Summer Series, which will outline the full range of career development, including preparing for applications and what you can do over the summer and in the Fall to set yourself up for success in your internship and job search.
We would recommend reviewing the Dashew Center resources for Newly Admitted F-1 Students.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) is available to eligible F-1 students interested in engaging in employment in the U.S. directly related to their major field of study after their degree completion. F-1 students are eligible for an initial 12 months of OPT per higher degree achieved. Furthermore, the UCLA Anderson MFE program qualifies as STEM, which can extend an international student's OPT by 24 months - for a total of 36 months.