Financial Matters


How to Open a Bank Account

Having a checking account will assure safe and quick deposit of foreign checks and free the account holder from carrying large amounts of cash. Banks provide monthly and/or online records of individual transactions from the checking account, thus allowing easy tracking of one's finances. Checks are typically used to pay monthly bills like rent, telephone, and electricity or certain retail purchases if accompanied by identification. Cashed checks are returned to the account holder after they are cleared by the bank, and may serve as proof of payment. It is a serious matter to write a check without having sufficient funds in the account. In addition to the various fees the bank will charge, the individual may suffer serious financial consequences and will be vulnerable to legal action.


Once you arrive to Southeastern, you may choose any local bank to open your account. Many banks require an individual to have a Social Security Number before opening an account. If you are not eligible for an SSN, please contact the ISO for further information. You should also bring your passport, I-94 card, and I-20/DS-2019 with you to open the account at the bank.


General Information

It is important that students and scholars plan their finances carefully and not rely on earning a great deal of extra money after arrival in the United States. Employment in most non-immigrant visa categories is highly restricted by US government regulations, so new students and scholars should come prepared to meet all of their expenses. Moreover, financial assistance is usually not available to international students after arrival.


Another factor to consider in one's financial planning is that federal, state, city, and/or social security taxes will be deducted from most US-source salaries, scholarships, and stipends. With tax deductions typically ranging from 14 to 30 percent of the total income, one's available income may be significantly less than expected. The amount of tax deducted depends on the individual's earnings, tax status and whether he or she is a beneficiary of a tax treaty. All individuals with US-source income are required to report their annual earnings to the Internal Revenue Service by April 15 of the following year. Anyone who has overpaid taxes during the year will receive a tax refund after filing the tax return. For more information on how University payments to foreign nationals are taxed, please see the ISO.


The financial demands on new students and scholars are typically highest at the beginning of the academic year because tuition, health insurance fees, and housing finances are due before the first day of class. Tuition and fees must be paid in full unless a payment plan has been arranged through the Controller's Office. Initial household expenses, cell phone, food, and books are other extra expenses to take into account. Thus, it is advisable to come prepared to cover all of these costs which will range from $2000 to $5000.


Currency Restrictions

Some governments restrict the amount of money that can be taken out of the country. Others may restrict funds for students until an enrollment confirmation letter from the admitting US institution has been received. Before leaving home, it is advisable to determine whether any documents are required from the University in order to authorize the transfer of funds. In some cases the ISO can provide students the necessary documentation upon seeing proof of full-time student status.


Money Exchange

One should be aware of the home country's requirements for exchanging money and the value of the home country currency in the United States. Travelers must declare currency amounts over $10,000 at US customs upon arrival. United States coins are different diameters and represent different proportions of one US dollar: penny (1/100th), nickel (1/20th), dime (1/10th), quarter (1/4), and dollar (1). American paper money is green and all bills are the same size. The following are common bill denominations: $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100.


It is recommended that one obtain a small amount of American currency in coins and bills before arriving in the United States to cover miscellaneous initial expenses such as cab fare and meals. Most major airports have banks available for currency exchange and automated teller machines (ATM's) for those who decide to obtain US currency after arrival.