A student visa or residency permit may be necessary for students to enter and study in a host country. A visa is an official stamp or document affixed within a passport, issued by a foreign government.
Typically, students planning to study in a host country for 90 days or more are required to obtain a visa though some countries require all students to apply for a visa, regardless of the length of the program. Check the official Consulate website (some listed below) for the country in which you plan to study and the U.S. Department of State website for country-specific information.
The Global Education Office at the Reves Center can provide guidelines for obtaining a visa for most countries. Please stop by anytime between 11 am and 4:30 pm Monday – Friday to obtain further information. Please note that the Reves Center offers guidelines only, and students MUST check the official Consulate website for the most-up-to-date requirements.
Applying for a Visa
If your host country and/or length of stay necessitates that you have a visa, you will need to apply to the regional Consulate that has jurisdiction over your home state. Some countries will allow students in Virginia to apply through the Washington D.C. Consulate.
Visa applications may be processed in person or by mail. Each Consulate sets its own timeline for accepting and processing student visa applications. Students must be aware that there may be a deadline before which they are not allowed to apply for visas (typically 60 or 90 days prior to the commencement of the program), as well as a deadline after which they are no longer allowed to apply for visas (many Consulates require “at least” 60 days prior to the commencement of the program for visa applications and processing). Some Consulates may also require background checks and other documents BEFORE allowing students to apply for visas, which may take up to 10-12 weeks. Check the visa requirements for your host country immediately upon acceptance to your study abroad program to avoid delays. Also do not apply earlier than allowed because the Consulate may not process or return the documents, which means you would have to apply again!
Students studying abroad in the fall semester may want to apply for a year-long visa if there is any possibility that they will extend their programs for the spring semester. Not all countries allow this, and some countries will not allow students to renew visas while abroad which means students will need to return to the United States to renew visas for another semester. Again, check carefully!
Visa Application Materials
Each country has different application requirements, so read instructions carefully. Items you MAY need to submit include:
- Application form – Forms may be obtained from your host country's Consulate website and may be online or require printing. Students filling in hard copy forms must write clearly with a dark pen, never a pencil.
- Valid passport - Visas are usually stamped or attached to the inside of your passport, so be prepared to temporarily surrender your passport to the Consulate. Once you do this, you will NOT be able to leave the United States until your passport is returned to you.
- Application fee - Verify how the Consulate will accept payment. Most will NOT accept a personal check and will only accept money orders in U.S. dollars or credit cards.
- A driver's license
- One or more passport-sized photos
- A letter from the Reves Center confirming your registration on an official study abroad program. Request a Visa Letter if needed.
- An official letter of acceptance from your overseas institution or program provider. Many Consulates require the original letter, not a copy.
- A letter of financial support (from your bank) to prove that you have enough funds for your time abroad. Most Consulates require the original document. Do not black out account numbers on bank documents unless the Consulate has given permission or instructions to do so. Some Consulates require the money to be an account with your name and not your parents.
- Documentation of your travel plans (i.e. round-trip ticket or copy of itinerary).
Before submitting your completed visa application, make two or three copies of all forms and supporting documents. Some Consulates require you to submit an original and one photocopy. You should leave one photocopy set at home and take the other set abroad with you, in case you lose your passport. Be aware that some Consulates require notarized documents as part of an application packet. Submit materials in the order listed in the instructions. Do not staple if instructions ask you to glue, and visa-versa, as this could delay processing
If a Consulate requires a student to appear in person to submit a visa application then appointments may need to be made weeks ahead of time. Some Consulates allow students to “walk in” during specific times. When and how visas and supporting documents are returned to applications also varies from country to country.
Traveling and Visa Requirements
If you plan to travel while you are abroad, you should find out whether tourist or student visas are required for the countries you intend to visit. It is wise to investigate visa regulations before you depart the U.S., so that you are aware of how much time to allow for the process.
Miscellaneous Visa Websites
Visa to the United Kingdom: UK Border Agency
Visa to France: Campus France
Visa to Spain: Washington D.C. Consulate
Visa to Australia: Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Visa to Italy: Embassy of Italy in Washington