Since US consular officers don’t have the time or resources to ensure that each and every bank statement presented by US-bound students is checked for authenticity, the best option seems to be an online funds verification system like FundsV (Funds Verification for International Students), created by Cheryl Darrup Boychuck, Chief Architect, FundsV. Here’s a brief description of how it works, excerpted from the FundsV website:
Students build funding profile at FundsV: Via the authorized host’s unique FundsV URL, students register at FundsV. The nominal registration fee of US$50 entitles them to access their FundsV profile for a 24-month subscription period. They may scan bank statements or other proof of income as instructed by their host authority, and upload them to their FundsV profile. The host may require specific documents, such as Certification of Finances, Affadavit of Support, or Official Scholarship Awards.
Next, students authorize bank correspondence: The core component of FundsV allows students (or their sponsors) to grant permission for their bank(s) to transmit account balance data via FundsV’s robust aggregation network. First, confirm that your bank is part of the FundsV network. Upon selection of that bank, the account holder grants permission for us to acknowledge the current balance. Account balances are not automatically refreshed each day; only the user may grant permission to refresh the account balance.
All personal identification related to each bank account is automatically purged from the FundsV system, immediately after the secure aggregation network acknowledges the balance of the authorized account. FundsV retains the minimum amount of data required to verify funds: Bank account name, bank account holder, last four digits of the account number, type of account, and the account balance on the most recent day the user authorized access.
Finally, the host reviews students’ FundsV profiles. After students submit their completed FundsV profile to their authorized host, the host may view those students’ data. The data is accessible only to the host who originally referred the student to FundsV. The host retains full responsibility in deciding how to utilize the robust set of data provided by FundsV.
Finally, the host corresponds directly with students about the status of satisfying their requirements for funds verification. The host may require further proof of funding from the student (i.e., award letters, affidavits of support or other documents) via the student’s secure Upload function at FundsV.
As this slide, taken from a FundsV training to authenticate financial documents, indicates, online verification of account balances falls on the secure end of the spectrum of “document verification vulnerabilities.” (The idea for a Vulnerability Scale came from Educational Credential Evaluators, or ECE.)
Once implemented and widely used, it will address the challenge of proving ability to pay, thus strengthening students’ applications. (This is second criterion of the US student visa process and the key to obtaining a visa to study in any country.) It is the most reliable and secure way to verify ability to pay, including financial capability over an extended period of time. For these reasons, FundsV is a triple win – for students, foreign governments adjudicating visa applications and host institutions that need students who are truly able to afford what they have to offer.