While getting the required grades, writing the application essay and finally getting accepted onto a study abroad program is the hard part of becoming an international student, for most of you the work isn’t over yet… now it’s time to crack on with your student visa application.
Not all international students will be in need of a visa – EU students studying within another European country, for instance – but those who do need one should make sure to begin their student visa application well in advance.
Below is an overview of how to start your student visa application, as well as key information about common student visa requirements. For country-specific student visa guidelines, scroll to the bottom of this article.
The most important thing about your student visa application is that you get it done well in advance of when you plan to leave your home country. In some cases the process can take up to six months, or even longer for visa applications with missing information, so it’s advisable to start as soon as you gain acceptance onto a study abroad program.
How to begin your student visa application
To get your hands on the application forms and other useful information about student visa requirements, you should visit the official embassy or consulate website of your country of study. This website should have all the information regarding visa applications, forms, documentation and interviews. If you’re struggling to find the guidelines, contact the embassy or consulate by phone, email or in person.
If you have any other queries about the type of visa you need or any more general questions regarding the practical side of studying abroad, you can also ask for help from the university you plan to attend. Most universities will provide support for international students going through this process. In some countries you can even apply for your visa through the institution, meaning that much of the bureaucratic work is done by the university itself. To find out if this is the case, contact the international admissions department of the university, and ask whether they can help you at all with your application.
Filling in your application
To ensure you give yourself the best chances of success, make sure to fill in your student visa application as thoroughly as possible, taking into account all the specific student visa requirements for that country. If you make a mistake in your application, make sure you correct it as soon as possible. If you fail to supply a required document or make an error filling in the forms, this may lead to your application being delayed or even rejected.
Once you have sent your application, be ready to promptly answer any further questions the visa authorities may have (check your phone, emails and post regularly) and make sure you have some free time to attend an interview in the coming weeks.
Meeting with the embassy
Although procedures vary, a face-to-face interview held in your home country is common among many countries’ student visa requirements. This interview is intended to ensure you are serious enough about your study abroad program and to gauge whether you were completely honest in your application. For this arranged interview, you will need to provide a number of documents. These typically include the following;
1. Proof of funding for the entirety of your stay
This is required to prove to the authorities that you have enough money to cover tuition fees, rent and living costs, either by showing evidence of a student loan, scholarship, savings or a family member who is funding you. The amount required varies significantly depending on the country in which you plan to study abroad.
2. Proof of acceptance onto your program
This will most likely be in the form of a letter, and must come from a recognized university or higher education institute.
3. Valid passport
This is your way in and out of the country, so don’t lose it. Often it is required that your passport be valid for at least six months after the end of your studies abroad.
4. Other requirements
In some instances you will also be asked to provide a clean bill of health from your doctor, English-proficiency test results, and proof of your intention to return home after completion of your studies (i.e. a return flight ticket).
Other factors to consider
Length of study
When applying for a student visa you should make sure to take into account how long your studies will last. Often if your course or program lasts less than six months, you will be eligible for a shorter-stay visa, while for very short study programs you may just need a regular tourist visa or no visa at all.
With this in mind, you should also think about whether you want to extend your visa to allow yourself some extra time to travel or work in the country after completing your study abroad program. If your visa expires before you leave the country, you may encounter some stern officials on your departure and maybe even a fine!
Student visa fees
Not many countries give out visas for free, so make sure you’re ready to pay an application fee. Although this differs from country to country, expect to pay in the region of US$100-$400.
In special cases, student visa fees can be waived, dependent on your country of origin.
Student visa guides
For more specific information, visit our guides to getting a student visa for the following study destinations:
US & Canada