Visas For Education Abroad

March 28, 2014

 

The following information is designed to assist education abroad advisers as they guide their students to obtain a student visa to study abroad. NAFSA's Education Abroad Regulatory Practice (EA RP) Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee members review these pages regularly for accuracy, but the consulate to which the student applies for a visa may change its procedures. Students and advisers should confirm specific procedures with each relevant consulate.

Additional general information relevant to education abroad is available under NAFSA Regulatory Information.

NAFSA has two EA Visa subcommittees:

Country-specific Information

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General Visa FAQs

Keep up-to-date on the latest requirements for acquisition of foreign visas for study abroad.

Applying for a Student Visa

Is a student visa required?
In many countries students are required to obtain a visa in order to study for a summer, semester, or year. The best resource is to consult either the embassy or consulate website to find out their requirements. If a student is going through a program that has handled student visas in the past, they may be able to provide guidance and advice on whether or not your student will need a visa. Of course you can also reach out to NAFSA's EA Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee and we are happy to assist with questions when we are able to.
What is the process for applying for a student visa?
There is no single answer about process and it may vary from embassy to embassy, so it is best to contact each directly. Some things to keep in mind would be finding out the average time it takes to process a visa, and whether a student should apply in the jurisdiction where they go to school or through their permanent residence.
What are the requirements to obtain a student visa?
Each country will have different requirements; however, the items that are most typically required are things such as photos, a fee, proof of funds to support the student while abroad, proof of enrollment, proof of housing in country, fingerprints, or other biometrics, etc.

In some cases, students will need to show that they do not have a criminal background. Depending on the country this may be done through their local police station;  some countries specifically require an FBI background check. In those instances, if a student is applying to a country that you know requires an FBI background check, it may be wise to advise students to start that process before getting accepted to their program to speed up their visa process.
Is batch processing (a single institution submits visa applications on behalf of its students) possible?
If there are multiple students participating on a program, some universities or third-party providers are able to offer this service, but it is dependent on the rules of each embassy and consulate.
Does a student have to appear in person at the consulate to obtain a student visa?
For some countries a student does need to appear in person to obtain his or her visa. However, in others they may be able to use a visa service that acts as a stand in for the student. Some agencies you can consider using include Zierer Visa Service (www.zvs.com) or Perry Visa (perryvisa.com).
Can a non-U.S. citizen apply for a student visa through a consulate in the United States?
This will depend on both the country of the student and also the country the student wishes to study abroad in. Please refer to the embassy or consulate page of the country the student is looking to study in.

Processing Time

How long does a student visa take and when should my student apply?
Visa processing can take as little as a few days for some countries to months. It is important to plan time in for visa processing, particularly for students who are applying to study abroad in the spring semester when the time between finding out they have been accepted to go and leaving is very close together.
Will consulates make exceptions and allow for emergency applications if a student is leaving sooner than the standard processing time?
In general, trying to rush an application is not advised but this will vary greatly from country to country. It is best to review the website of the consulate or embassy to see if this is a possibility.

Changing Visas While Abroad

Can a student obtain a student visa once overseas?
In many cases students are able to obtain a tourist visa prior to leaving or upon entry to the country and then change it during the course of the semester. It is important to research this in advance and know the legal ramifications of coming in under the wrong visa status.
Can a student extend his/her visa in country (for a second semester, for example)?
In certain countries it is very challenging to extend. In others it is very easy to make the change. Generally speaking this is something a student should discuss with his or her host university or program in order to determine if it is feasible.
Can a student travel after the program even if his or her student visa has expired?
Each country handles this differently and some countries are very strict about travel after a visa is expired. It is recommended that students do extensive research before deciding to travel with an expired visa as fines can be costly and while they may get to one country, they may end up stuck in a situation where they are unable to return to their original country of study.

Problems with Visa Applications

If a student is having a problem obtaining his/her visa, what should s/he do?
If a student is having a problem with his/her visa, please have him/her contact the consulate directly. If the problem persists, the education abroad adviser should contact the consulate in the student's behalf to try and resolve the situation. However, if this still doesn't resolve the problem, the education abroad adviser can request assistance from NAFSA's EA Consular Affairs Subcommittee.
How do I ask for assistance from NAFSA's EA Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee?
Education abroad advisers may submit a request online in order to request assistance from NAFSA's Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee. Submit your request to www.nafsa.org/eavisahelp, and your message will be automatically routed to the appropriate NAFSA subcommittee member. NAFSA Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee members have contacts at the majority of consulates in the United States and will respond promptly to your request for assistance. The link for EA Visa Help is also at the top of this web page's sidebar.

Obtaining a Second Passport

Under certain circumstances, a second passport for U.S. citizens may be obtained.