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On February 21, 2023, the U.S. Department of State announced a revised student visa application process.

For new students: Student F and M visas for new students can be issued up to 365 days in advance of the school’s Program Start Date. Previously, student visas could only be issued up to 120 days before a student’s Program Start Date. 

For continuing students: Student (F and M) visas for continuing students may be issued at any time, as long as the student is currently enrolled at a SEVP-approved school or institution and in SEVIS. Returning students may enter the United States at any time before classes start.

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country must obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence to enter the United States. Students seeking to attend high school in the U.S. need an F visa. Click here to learn more about the student visa approval process.

Additionally, the State Department published a final rule on March 28, 2023, to announce an increase in certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, including student and exchange visitor visa fees. The cost for student and exchange visitor visas will increase from $160 to $185 starting May 30, 2023.

Here are answers to questions you may have about these updates.

Questions and answers provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What can international students and school officials do to help ensure a student’s smooth reentry to the United States? 

Ensure the following before arrival at a U.S. port of entry.

  • Your child has an active I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee payment listed on Form I-20 that they are traveling under.
  • The name of the school on Form I-20 matches the name of the school on the visa. 
  • Your child’s financial information is up to date in SEVIS.
  • Your child doesn’t attempt to enter the United States more than 30 days in advance of their Program Start Date. 

How does this guidance impact Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) requirements? 

This guidance does not change the requirements for: 

  • issuing a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” in SEVIS;
  • paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee; and
  • admission into the United States. 

New students are permitted to enter the U.S. 30 days before the Program Start Date listed on their Form I-20. If students enter sooner, their visa is at risk of being canceled.

How does this guidance impact the I-901 SEVIS Fee? 

The I-901 SEVIS Fee is valid for 12 months after payment and must be valid at the time of the student’s visa appointment. SEVP advises that students pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee within one year of their intended entry to the United States. 

In certain situations, students may need to repay the I-901 SEVIS Fee, such as if they defer their enrollment beyond one year of the initial payment. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers may stop students with I-901 SEVIS Fee payments older than one year and require that they repay the Fee before seeking admission to the United States. 

Refer to the I-901 SEVIS Fee FAQ for information.

How should students and school officials ensure accurate financial information on a student’s Form I-20? 

Notify your school’s Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) of any significant changes to your family’s financial information between initial visa issuance and entry into the United States. PDSOs must update Form I-20 either before your child enters the U.S. or at the time of initial registration if there has been a substantial change to your financial situation. 


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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In our previous post, we discussed the differences between private and public schools. Today, we are focusing on private schools, which offer a diverse range of educational programs and approaches to teaching. In the U.S., however, there are several distinct types of private schools. Here is an overview of the major categories.

  1. Traditional Independent Schools

Traditional independent schools are governed by a Board of Trustees. These schools are not affiliated with any particular religious group and are free to develop their own policies and curriculum. Independent schools often have small class sizes and offer challenging academic programs and cocurricular activities.

2. Religious Schools

These types of private schools are affiliated with a particular religion and teach corresponding doctrine and core academic subjects. Families often choose a religious school because it aligns with their family values. Many religious schools have developed a reputation for academic excellence and attract students for that reason, apart from religious affiliation. When funded by a local church, such a school is referred to as a parochial school. 

3. Boarding Schools

Boarding schools are institutions where students live in home-like settings and attend school on the same campus. Students are housed in dormitories and dorm parents supervise them, living either in the dorms or in separate houses. These schools offer a comprehensive educational program, including academic classes, athletics, and cultural activities. 

Boarding schools seek to provide students with a nurturing and supportive environment to learn to live independently. This experience can make the transition to college smoother.

4. Montessori Schools

Montessori schools follow the educational philosophy developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Most only serve elementary and middle school students, focus on individualized learning, emphasize self-directed activities, and highlight collaborative play. Montessori schools often have mixed-age classrooms and a curriculum that emphasizes practical life skills, cultural studies, and creativity.

5. Waldorf Schools

Waldorf schools follow the educational philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner. Waldorf schools focus on holistic education, emphasizing creativity, hands-on learning, and the integration of art and music into the curriculum. Waldorf schools rely upon their strong community to emphasize cooperation and social responsibility.

6. Special Education Schools

Many parents whose children have special needs prefer to enroll them in private special education schools. In these institutions, students receive more personalized attention from educators and experts who have extensive knowledge of the necessary adjustments, treatments, or therapies these children require

The primary responsibility of teachers in special education schools is to evaluate each student’s abilities and learning needs and determine the most effective approach to accommodate them. They often create Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) and collaborate with parents and school staff to monitor and track the progress of each child.


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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Whether your child is completing their academic program or is preparing to study abroad in the U.S. for the first time, they likely are experiencing varying degrees and forms of stress. For adolescents—especially in our post-pandemic world—having access to and understanding healthy coping skills is critical. When a situation feels painful or overwhelming, students may default to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as:

  • avoidance—attempting to avoid a stressful situation; 
  • misdirected anger—using rage or aggression to mask sadness or release other difficult emotions; 
  • social media overuse—as a distraction from painful feelings;
  • substance abuse—as self-medication for anxiety, trauma, or depression;
  • self-harm—as a way to release feelings of pain, tension, and anxiety; and
  • disordered eating—as a form of self-control when teens feel out of control.

Healthy alternatives to handling stressful situations give students a better way to process what they’re experiencing. The more they practice healthy coping skills, the more they see how effective and positive these tools can be.

Here are some techniques you can introduce to your child.

Healthy Coping Skills

While there are many approaches for coping, the most effective generally help a person approach rather than avoid the source of their stress. Here are the top five strategies.

Problem-Focused Coping 

This involves taking direct action and works best when a child is dealing with a very specific, solvable problem (as opposed to unfocused anxiety or stress). 

In these cases, encourage your child to learn as much as they can about the situation and seek people who can support them in finding a solution. This could be a family member, school counselor, advisor, or faculty member. Another strategy is to break down their problem into manageable pieces or elements, and address each of them one step at a time. 

Emotion-Focused Coping

Your child’s reaction to their thoughts and feelings plays a significant role in whether they think a situation is stressful. Here are three emotion-focused coping strategies your child can use to manage their response.

  • Breathing and relaxation practices: Slow, deep breathing has an immediate soothing effect and regulates the nervous system.
  • Creative expression: Music, art, or dance can help your child process their emotions productively and positively.
  • Movement: Engaging in any form of activity—walking, playing a sport, stretching—provides a physical release of emotions, and can help your child focus on something other than the immediate situation.

Social Support

Turning to others is one of the most helpful coping skills when handling a problem or stress. Encourage your child to connect with a close friend, a parent, or a trusted adult. 

Reframing the Issue

This approach involves taking a new perspective on a situation. In conversation, try looking at the circumstance from a different view to see positive or meaningful aspects. Another way to do this is through journaling—encourage your child to write down their feelings or write out the situation, as this can help bring perspective and make sense of what they’re experiencing.


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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This achievement is a testament to you and your child’s hard work and dedication, and you take pride in their success. However, their acceptance to a U.S. high school is only the beginning. 

As a parent, your role is to ensure your child has a smooth transition to their new school. In this blog post, we provide strategies you can use to help them thrive in their new environment.

Do Some Research

After celebrating your child’s success, it’s time to prepare for their move abroad. Research travel plans, like flights and transportation, as well as currency exchange.

Get familiar with the high school campus and the local community. Locate nearby medical facilities where your child can seek care. Review the school’s student handbook to understand policies, rules, and guidelines. Communicate with the school about the housing options that are available—such as host family arrangements—and any preparatory steps you should take.

Obtain Necessary Documentation

Your child will need a passport, visa, and any other supporting documents, such as an acceptance letter from the school. The school’s admission team will provide a list of necessary items as well as support with the process.

 Click here for a full list of documents required in the visa approval process. You’ll also need to obtain health insurance and vaccination records for your child before their departure.

Prepare Emotionally

Saying goodbye to your child is never easy, but it helps to stay positive and support their decision to study abroad. Before they leave, spend quality time with them and have open, honest conversations about your expectations and concerns. 

Keep in touch with your child through regular phone calls, video calls, and text messages. They will experience homesickness and culture shock in their first few weeks abroad, and consistent communication with you can be a comfort during these times. Encourage them to seek out the resources the school provides. 

Remember that high school is a momentous time in your child’s life, so stay involved, be supportive, and celebrate their success!


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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If you’re considering sending your child to the United States for college or university, you’re looking for the best options and helpful guidance. Have you thought about sending them abroad to first study in high school?

Here are some advantages of starting your child’s studies abroad in high school.

Cocurricular Activities

High schools in the U.S. offer a range of activities outside school, including sports, music programs, and clubs. These can help international students develop leadership skills and socialize with other students. Participating in these activities can also help students find their passions and explore their interests, which could lead to a college major or career path.

College Readiness

High schools in the U.S. provide academic and cocurricular programs designed to prepare students for college. International students have access to a variety of academic programs, career development opportunities, and college preparation resources offered by the school they are attending. Through these resources, students get help with college applications, essays, and scholarships. They learn the importance of academic integrity, time management, and research skills, which are all critical to their success in college.

Partnering with guidance counselors—either through their school or through another organization—is another way students can prepare for college.

Improved Language Skills

Your child will be immersed in the English language and use it in various contexts, which helps them increase their proficiency. These language skills make it easier to adapt and excel in a college setting.

Many high schools also offer English as a Second Language to assist nonnative English speakers. Students may also have access to English language tutors who can work one-on-one with them.

Independence

Last, attending high school in the U.S. helps international students develop independence. They must learn to navigate their way around campus, manage their time, and take responsibility for their academic success. These skills are invaluable when they transition to college, where they will have to be even more self-sufficient.

Attending high school in the U.S. provides international students an excellent foundation for college. They will arrive at college with greater confidence in their language skills, social skills, academic abilities, and cultural competence—all essential skills necessary for success.


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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Finding the right school for your child can be a daunting task, especially in a country that’s not your own. The United States offers various K–12 school options, including public and private schools. In this post, we explore and discuss the differences between the two.

Funding

Public schools receive money from the government, which means they are typically free or have low tuition fees. 

Generally, private schools do not receive government funding and instead rely on tuition fees and donations from individuals and organizations. Several factors contribute to a private school’s tuition cost, including quality of instruction, breadth of programs, and facilities. Many private schools offer financial aid and scholarships. Always check with the school’s Admission Office for support options. 

Location

Most public schools serve students within a neighborhood boundary, and students must be within the zoning district of the public school. Private schools are not location-dependent—students and families come from a wider radius.

Admission

Private schools have an application process that can include a tour, application, academic assessment, and interview. Admission can be selective with specific criteria based on educational philosophy, diversity, student conduct, or academic goals. 

Public schools educate all students regardless of academic profile, religious affiliation, or developmental level.

Curriculum

Public schools follow a state-mandated curriculum designed to meet the educational standards of the state. 

Private schools do not have a required curriculum and therefore can cater to specific academic interests and may have specialized programs that are not offered in public schools. Private schools may also prioritize cocurricular activities, languages, and other aspects of education that public schools cannot accommodate. They also have the freedom to integrate intellectual, philosophical, and religious programming into the curriculum beyond state regulations. 

Special Programming

Special programming can impact overall student success and should be considered when evaluating private versus public schooling. Public schools have a responsibility to teach all students benchmark curriculum—often leaving less interpretation for specialized learning. Depending on the district and available funding, they most likely will offer programs for children with learning differences—whether academic or developmental. 

Private schools will most often have specialized programs that vary depending on the area of focus, such as religious instruction, concentration in the arts or other skills, or a military program. 

School and Class Size

Public schools have an average class size of 24 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of 16 to one. Private schools tend to have a smaller average class size of 18 students and a student-to-teacher ratio of 12 to one. 

When inquiring at a school, be sure to ask these questions.

  • How many children will the classroom teacher be responsible for? 
  • What is the overall student-to-teacher ratio? 
  • What amount of individualized attention does each student receive? 

Many parents choose a school for their child’s learning style and family values. Be sure to research your options. This helps you select the best learning environment for your child’s needs and ensures their future is bright.


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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Most U.S. schools provide a “spring break,” which is typically one to two weeks off from school in March or April. During this time, students enjoy a well-deserved break from the classroom, and international students are no exception. 

If your child is staying close to campus for spring break, here are some ways they can make the most of their time off. 

Explore the Local Area

Living in a new country can be overwhelming at times, but there’s no better way to get to know an area than by exploring it. Students can spend a day or two during spring break visiting local sites and learning more about their city or town. Many cities offer free walking tours or discounted student tickets to local attractions. A change of scenery—and getting outside for fresh air—can be just what students need after months of studying.

Catch Up—or Work Ahead—on Assignments

While it may not be the most exciting option, spring break can also be a good time for students to catch up on any missed assignments or get ahead on upcoming projects. By taking care of schoolwork during the break, they can enjoy the rest of the semester without the stress of looming deadlines.

Connect With Friends and Family Back Home 

A flexible schedule during the day provides a wonderful opportunity for international students to connect with friends and family in their home country. Catch up and spend some quality time over a video or phone call.

Prepare for College

If your child is a high school junior or senior and thinking about attending college in the U.S., spring break is an opportune time to research options, explore scholarships, and, if possible, schedule a virtual tour at a university or college they’re interested in. Creating an application timeline is especially helpful—noting necessary test dates and deadlines for applications and scholarships can alleviate some stress that comes with admission season.

If you have any questions or concerns about your student, be sure to contact the International Student Program Coordinator at their school.


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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International students face culture shock, language barriers, difficulty understanding their teachers, and myriad other challenges—including maintaining good mental health—as they leave all they know and everyone they love behind. A lack of access to their normal support system can trigger distress while living in a country far from home. 

When students feel overwhelmed and stressed, they need someone they can turn to for guidance and counsel. For international students new to the U.S., cultural differences and simply being unaware of available support make approaching mental well-being concerns more difficult. 

Telehealth Helps Students Receive Mental Health Support

Telehealth is the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. While it isn’t a complete replacement for in-person mental health care, it offers an advantage for both students and schools.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research recently conducted a study to determine if telehealth platforms could successfully reduce suicidal ideation among enrolled patients, compared to a control group of individuals that did not receive similar care. The results revealed that patients in the telehealth group were 4.3 times less likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Telehealth Provides Connection Anytime, Anywhere

If a student has a mental health crisis at any time—in and outside of the regular school day— access to telehealth enables them to interact with a mental health professional through an app, video call, or phone call in their time of need. If a student feels uncomfortable seeking help from their school counselor, or if that counselor is unavailable at the moment they need help, the student can chat or text a provider through a telehealth platform.

The ability to connect with a professional on their terms and through technology they’re familiar with can also reduce the social stigma teens may feel regarding mental health support. They can receive care without worrying about being seen by someone else at their school counselor’s office or traveling to a therapist with their host family.

GeoBlue’s Global Wellness Assist Program

ISM’s International Scholar Protection is provided by our partner, GeoBlue. Included with all student plans is their Global Wellness Assist—a telehealth program for students who are studying internationally. This program provides access to free, confidential assistance any time, anywhere. 

Professionals are ready to assist with any issue. Topics include, but are not limited to: 

  • harmony between academic and personal life; 
  • managing life changes; 
  • bullying and harassment; 
  • managing anxiety and depression;
  • substance use;
  • surviving the loss of a loved one; and
  • handling stress.

Global Wellness Assist is staffed by licensed therapists, including native speakers of 70 languages, meaning your student can talk to a provider in the language their most comfortable with. The program’s staff members are bound by professional standards regarding confidentiality and do not disclose details of individuals who have contacted the service. Any information your student provides will not be shared with the plan sponsor. Once matched, your student can meet with the same therapist for each following appointment. 


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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As parents of international students, the health and well-being of your children are among your top priorities. One main concern during winter months is the increase in illness. COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold are currently prevalent in the U.S. Knowing the symptoms of each can help you better identify when your child should simply rest and stay home from school, or should seek medical attention.

Symptoms of All Three Illnesses 

Before we dive into the differences between these conditions, let’s first look at some of the typical symptoms they share. These include: 

• Fever 

• Cough 

• Sore throat 

• Runny nose or congestion 

• Fatigue or tiredness  

However, even though these illnesses have the same symptoms doesn’t mean they should be treated similarly. Distinguish between them so that proper treatment is administered and infections don’t spread. 

The Difference Between COVID-19 and the Flu 

Although COVID-19 and the flu both cause fever and cough, there are other key differences in presenting symptoms. For example, COVID-19 is more likely to cause body aches than the flu. Someone with COVID-19 may experience diarrhea more often than someone with the flu does. While both illnesses can lead to serious complications if left untreated—especially for those who are immunocompromised—COVID-19 is far more dangerous.

The Differences Between the Flu and a Common Cold 

The common cold and the flu share many symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu is caused by influenza A and influenza B, while the common cold can be caused by over 200 different types of viruses. Colds are more common, result in a milder illness, and typically resolve without treatment. The flu is a more severe illness and can be treated with antiviral medications and over-the-counter medications for symptom relief. 

The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. 

Knowing the differences between COVID-19, the flu, and a common cold helps you determine what steps your child can take to mitigate the spread and what type of care they should seek. Be sure to also consult the school’s policies regarding illness as you communicate with your child.


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.

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Medical insurance claims can be complicated and confusing. Unfortunately, many people find their claims are denied for a variety of reasons. If a claim you submit for your child’s medical care is denied, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next. Don’t worry; we are here to help. In this blog post, we will discuss why these denials occur and how to manage them.

Common Reasons Why Claims Are Denied 

There are several common reasons why medical insurance claims are denied. Most often it is because the claim has been filed incorrectly or the paperwork was incomplete. If any information is missing or incorrect on the documentation you submit with your claim, it could be denied automatically. This includes details like the patient’s name, ID number, or date of service. It’s also important to make sure any supporting documents such as receipts or X-ray reports are included with the claim form when submitting it to the insurer. Carefully review all forms and documents before submitting them to avoid this issue. 

Another common cause of denial is that the treatment requested is not covered by the plan. Before undergoing any treatment, it is important to understand what your plan covers and what it does not cover so you can make an informed decision about how best to proceed with treatment. Your doctor’s office should be able to help with this by suggesting acceptable options.

Finally, some plans require pre-authorization for certain treatments or services for them to be covered by insurance. This means that before receiving such treatments or services, you must contact your insurer and provide them with the necessary information so they can determine whether they will cover the cost. This authorization must be confirmed before treatment begins.       

What To Do Next 

If your medical insurance claim has been denied, don’t panic! First, read the denial letter carefully so you understand why your claim was denied and what steps need to be taken next to have it approved. Many times, an appeal process will be outlined in the letter; if that’s the case, follow those instructions carefully to submit an appeal as soon as possible. 

Additionally, contact your insurer directly if you have questions or concerns about why a specific treatment was not covered under your plan, so you can better understand their policies and procedures in the future. You can also work with your child’s school for support and help with this process.

Navigating medical insurance claims denials can seem daunting at first, but with a little knowledge about why these denials occur and how best to file an appeal (if necessary), it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Additionally, understanding why claims are denied will help you avoid these circumstances during your child’s year in the U.S. 


When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care (offered by the Blue Cross Blue Shield® PPO network) no matter where they are in the U.S.
Contact insurance@isminc.com for more information.