5 Things To Do Before Studying Abroad:
3. Applying for a Study Abroad Student Visa
The application process for a study abroad student visa can be confusing because it’s different for different countries. With that being said, if you follow these basic guidelines as well as those from the state department of the country where you’re going to be studying, you should have no trouble.
Unfortunately, unlike a passport, there is no single application for a Student Visa as the requirements differ from country to country. You’re first step should be to take a look at the U.S. State Department’s International Travel Country Specific Information page. This won’t take you directly to the visa application, but it will give you an overview of things like the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices; whether you need a visa; crime and security information; health and medical conditions; drug penalties; and localized hot spots among other things.
Your next step should be to visit the Border Agency website of your host country. This is where you can find your visa application. While all of their websites differ, they can be navigated fairly similarly. Look for a section titled “Students” or “Studying in…” There should be a frequently asked questions, or FAQ, section and a section explaining both the parts of the application and the terms used in the application. Don’t be afraid to use the glossary. As you will soon find, English usage isn’t the same everywhere in the world.
Many applications are done on a point based system. Provided that you meet the financial requirement and are sponsored by an accredited institution, then you should have the required amount of points needed for the visa. Like I said earlier, there is no general application for a visa, so below I’ve written suggested tips that should clarify a few aspects of the applications in general and hopefully make the whole process a little smoother for you. In addition to the basic online application, here is what is often required for a study abroad visa; however, be sure to check with your host country for specific guidelines and requirements.
Standard Visa Application Materials:
- A letter from your abroad institution on their own letterhead stating that they are sponsoring you. It should include things like tuition and room and board costs, proof of housing, etc.
- Written proof that you have a certain amount of money in a bank account with your name on it with which you will use to live. This is separate from room and board costs so there is no way around it. When I went to the UK, the required amount was $5,400. If you don’t have that much money, asks your parent, guardian or close relative if they might deposit the cash into your account, and you can pay them back at a later date. Again, just as with the letter from your abroad institution, the letter from your bank needs to be on their letterhead.
- Proof that you have some way of paying your tuition. I was lucky enough to pay tuition through my home college who then transferred the money to my abroad school. All I needed was an affidavit letter from my school on - you guessed it - their official letterhead. If you’re not going through your home college or university but rather an independent study abroad program, then you’ll need to be able to prove that you’ll be able to pay some other way.
- Obtain your biometrics. This is a fancy word for fingerprints. Once you finish your application online, you will automatically sign up for an appointment to get your fingerprints taken. On that day you will need to go down to the nearest immigration center, consulate, or wherever they require you to go, and get your prints electronically. It’s a fairly straightforward and simple process.
- Your passport. At this point, you should already have a passport. You will be required to mail it in along with the rest of the documents proving that you have the means to live in that specific country for a summer, semester or year. You will get your passport back with the visa inside.
- Passport quality photos. You should be able to find every county’s specifications on their respective visa website. As you did with your US passport, you can probably get your photos at any local CVS, Walgreens, etc. Don’t attempt to take your own photo. You only have enough time to apply for your visa once, and you can’t afford to have your application rejected due to a poor quality photo.
A few more tips: Send out your application at least two months in advance. There’s nothing worse than not having your visa the day you’re supposed to leave for the best experience of your life. Also, make copies of everything! Don’t be surprised if something gets lost in transit. Having copies of all documents will save you time, energy and most important, money.
If you’d like a step-by-step description of how I applied for my UK Student Visa, check out The Study Abroad Blog and read my post “Getting the Infamous Visa”.
Check out Global Visas for more information and guidance when applying for your study abroad visa.