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Using the MGI Bill in a foreign country

Written by Travis

The Montgomery GI Bill (AKA MGI Bill) is a scholarship/grant given by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs to veterans of the United States Military. If you’re not an honorably discharged veteran of the United States military then this post isn’t going to be useful to you.

I’m just going to get right to it. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning on using the MGI Bill at a foreign school:

You can only use the MGI Bill at accreddited higher education institutions that have been approved by the MGI Bill. Most major universities in the world have already been approved.  I used to have a link that showed all the approved foreign schools, but that link is dead now, and I can’t find one that works. So you’ll need to contact the VA and ask for the link/list if you can’t find it online. Note that it takes them 1-3 weeks to respond to E-mails (if ever). It’s quicker just to call them, but be prepared to wait on hold for a long time.

Every school that’s approved by the VA has someone who is already authorized/designated as the point of contact between that school and the VA. Chances are it will be someone in the foreign student office. That person doesn’t work for the VA. They’re just a person who is designated as the school’s liaison with the VA, and they may not be very familiar with how the MGI Bill works, but they can get all their answers by contacting the VA themselves. So when you find out who your school’s VA rep is, make sure you give them all the contact information for the VA that exists. You won’t actually file any paperwork with the VA yourself. It’s the liaison’s responsibility to do all that stuff. So you don’t have to worry about that. You just have to worry about keeping your liaison on task.

The VA can tell you who the VA rep at your foreign school is. Find that out before you arrive on campus so you can go to the student services office and ask to see that person by name. Or, once you have that person’s name, you can find their E-mail address from the school’s website and start E-mailing him/her before you even show up in-country. But if you just show up at the student services desk at your foreign school one day and ask to see “the VA rep who handles the MGI Bill” they’re not going to have any idea what you’re talking about, and you’re going to spend a very frustrating day running around trying to find that person.

Not only does your school have to be approved, but so does your degree program. If it’s not already approved then your MGIBill liaison at the foreign school will have to submit an application to have it approved. Unless a US veteran has already used the MGI Bill for your degree program at your school then you’ll have to get your liasion to request that it be approved. As long as you’re going to an accredited school this isn’t a big deal. The liasion just needs to turn in the paperwork, and in a few weeks the program will be approved. Nobody really scrutinizes the program with a fine tooth comb (afterall, the program is already an accredited program at an accredited school). The VA just has to process the paperwork as a formality. But it’s important to make sure this is done well before you start your classes or you may not get your first semester funded.

To get your BAH (personal living expenses money), the VA will either mail a check to your foreign address (which can take weeks) or they’ll direct deposit it into an American bank account. They won’t direct deposit it into a foreign account. I had to have my BAH deposited into my American account and take the cash out from an ATM when I needed it. So make sure you still have an American bank account and an active ATM card.

The VA pays your tuition directly to the school. So you don’t have to worry about that, but they send the school a check, which takes weeks to arrive, and the exchange rate will change during that time. Plus, you’ll likely be charged an exorbitant exchange rate. Between those two factors, the check might not cover the cost of your tuition. If that’s the case, you just eat the cost yourself. On the other hand, if the exchange rate swings in your favor you could get to keep some extra money, but don’t hold your breath on that ever happening.


7 Responses

  1. Hi Travis,
    I am going through this process right now. I am waiting to hear back if the program at Concordia University will be approved. A school official sent them the request for approval. They told them that it would take 4 months, how accurate is that? A few weeks is a better answer, but I’m not going to rely on that since its the VA. Give me your take on the processing time. Do you think it could take up to four months?

    • If they mailed their application form then it could be in transit for a month or two. You might ask about that, because I’m pretty sure there’s a way to submit it electronically that is a little faster. If I remember correctly my course took about 4 weeks to get approved. The V.A. is a notoriously slow bureaucracy. So you can always expect long waits for everything, but four months seems a little excessive.

      • Are you referring to the application for benefits or the approved program application?

      • I’m referring to the approved program application.

  2. Thanks for the info. I am going to inquiry about it and see where they are at with my request.

    • My request was approved a day after posted my last comment. I am so happy about that. It took two months as you said. Thanks, Donna

      • I’m very happy that it worked out for you. There are so many things that can go wrong when trying to anything internationally.

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