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Spending a semester or two abroad can help students expand their educational horizons while picking up some valuable life experience. If you'll soon be sending yours off to study in the U.S., it can be helpful for both of you to know what to expect. Keep this checklist handy as you prepare your child to take their studies across the border.

Documentation and Entering the U.S.

The first thing your student needs for study abroad is appropriate documentation.

One question you might have is, do they need a visa? The answer is no — but there are some other things they will need to have to enter the U.S., including:

  • A valid Canadian passport.
  • An I-20 or DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility from the school or exchange program they’re attending.
  • Proof of payment for the 1-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.
  • Proof of ties to Canada, such as a letter from their current school.
  • Documentation showing their ability to pay living expenses while in the U.S.

Students are issued an I-94 Arrival/Departure number automatically by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. This verifies their legal status while they’re in the country.

Tuition and Fees

Once you get the paperwork handled, the next step is paying your student’s tuition and fees. If you’re paying these costs out of pocket, you can pay them directly to your student’s school. Familiarize yourself with the exchange rate first so there are no surprises when you pay.

If your student needs financial assistance to attend school in the U.S., you can try these options:

  • Government of Canada student loans and grants.
  • Private student loans from Canadian banks and lenders.
  • Loans offered by your student’s home school.
  • Canada-based public and private scholarships and grants.

You can also look into student loans offered at the school your student will attend in the U.S. Additionally, scholarships and grants offered by U.S. organizations may be an option; just keep in mind that preference for those awards may be given to U.S. students first.

Living Expenses and Other Costs

Tuition and fees aren’t the only things you’ll need to plan for. You’ll also need to work out a budget with your student that includes things like:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Insurance and medical care
  • Textbooks and other necessary school supplies
  • Entertainment and recreation
  • Clothing
  • Miscellaneous needs/pocket money

If your student plans to live on-campus, you may pay for housing costs and meal plans when you pay tuition and fees. But if they’ll live off-campus or with a host family as part of an exchange program, your budget may include rent, utilities or a hosting fee.

When setting a budget for living expenses, consider using a U.S. cost of living calculator as a guide. This can give you a more accurate idea of what things will cost.

Employment and Taxes

If your student wants to work while they’re studying in the U.S., there are important things to know.

First, they’ll need to talk to the designated school official (DSO) at the college or university they plan to attend. The DSO can tell them:

  • If they’re eligible to work while studying in the U.S.
  • Whether they’re eligible to work on-campus, off-campus or both.
  • What type of jobs/fields they’re eligible to work in.

Second, if they get the green light to work, you’ll need to consider what that means at tax time.

Generally, income your student earns in the U.S. would be subject to U.S. income tax and they’d have to file a tax return. If you still claim them as a dependent, however, you’d want to check with your account or tax preparer to make sure you’re filing your returns correctly.

Insurance and Travel

Your student may be on your Canadian health insurance policy but coverage may not extend to their time outside the U.S. The school might provide some coverage but you may also want to get a separate travel insurance policy in case they need emergency care while they’re away.

Also consider what your student may need in the way of travel costs and transportation. For example, you may need to pay for:

  • Airfare to and from Canada.
  • Baggage fees for anything they’re taking along.
  • Snacks and meals for the trip.
  • Cab or ride-sharing fares from the airport to the school.
  • Bus far or other local transportation fees while they’re at school.

Staying in Touch

Having your student far from home might be a little nerve-wracking and of course you’ll want them to check in with you. As you wrap up your study abroad game plan, consider whether their cell phone is sufficient or if they’ll need one that allows for international calls when it’s time to touch base.

And look into other options for staying connected, aside from phone calls. For example, there’s texting, email, video chats. Work together to come up with a schedule for keeping in contact. You’ll be giving them space to enjoy their time abroad while also getting some peace of mind for yourself.

RBC Bank is RBC Bank (Georgia), National Association (“RBC Bank”), a wholly owned U.S. banking subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada, and is a member of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”). U.S. deposit accounts are insured by the FDIC up to the maximum amount permissible by law. U.S. banking products and services are offered and provided by RBC Bank. Canadian banking products and services are offered and provided by Royal Bank of Canada. U.S. deposit accounts are not insured by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (“CDIC”).