Applying for your Student Visa

Deciding to study abroad is the easy part (I think everyone should!). Checking off everything you need to do in order to actually study abroad is the hard part! Prior to departure you will have tons of paperwork to fill out and lots of things to think about, like insurance, medical requirements, and packing (oh the packing). You will also need to secure a study visa.

Americans are pretty lucky when it comes to visas and travel. Very few countries most Americans travel to for vacation require a visa for entry. So we simply aren't used to having to get one. For as much as I have travelled and studied abroad, I never needed a visa until now (well I needed one for Turkey, but you purchased it for $20 when you got off the plane, so it felt more like an entrance fee than a visa). For example, Americans get 90 days in any Schengen country in the EU without a visa, but if you are from Ecuador (like the very nice lady I met at the consulate) you'll need a visa just to visit Italy for a two-week vacation.

Applying for a study visa can be a confusing and overwhelming process, and the worst part is that it is different for every. single. country. Fortunately, the template of what you'll need and the basic process are the same for most countries. I thought I would share what I learned through the process.

Last week I traveled to Miami to secure my study visa for Italy and thanks to a lot of research and planning it was a seamless process (my visa was in hand five days later!). This is the first thing you should note, unless you live in New York, Chicago, Miami, or L.A. you might have to travel to get your visa since many countries require you to appear in person. Italy is one of those countries. I was lucky that Miami was nearby, but it was still 4.5 hours away and I wanted to make sure I was prepared so I didn't have to make the trip more than once.

So here we go...
(Make sure you start the process at least two months prior to your departure date! Some countries, however, will only allow you to apply within a 90 day window prior to departure.)

Step 1 - Search online for the border agency website for your host country. This is where you will find entry requirements and the application. You can find Italy's here.

Step 2 - Gather the specific materials your host country asks for. These should be listed on their website and will generally (remember it is different for every country) consist of the following:

Step 3 - Send in your materials or travel to your host country's consulate or embassy. Whether mailing in your application or appearing in person, odds are they will send your visa (already placed inside your passport,) in the mail. It helps to bring a self-addressed envelope or money to pay for shipping.

If you want to learn more about the visa process, this is a great site. And this is a great post about getting a study visa for the U.K. Finally, don't forget that your study abroad coordinator at your university is your best friend as you prepare to study abroad!

I have heard lots of visa horror stories over the years, but being prepared and doing your homework makes it a pretty seamless process.

Does anyone else have tips for applying for a student visa, or studying abroad in general?

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