A visa is official permission granted by the authorities of the countries where you will study or travel, which allow you to enter and remain in that country. The visa is your entry or residency permit which usually appears as a stamp in your passport. Most students going on programs for 90 days or longer need a visa; some programs of shorter duration also need visas.
In most cases the visa will be stamped inside your passport. Most consulates require you to submit your passport along with your visa application. If you don't already have a valid passport you should apply for one as soon as you decide to study abroad, even before you apply for your program. This process can take several weeks to several months, depending on the time of year when you apply.
If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your program ends.
When applying for a passport for the first time you have to submit your application in person. Everything you need to know about U.S. passports (how to apply, how to get a rushed passport, how to renew your passport) here.
If your passport was lost or stolen and you are departing imminently or if you need your passport to apply for a visa within two weeks, you may call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) to schedule an appointment to apply in person at a Passport Agency.
It is your responsibility to determine visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad, including countries that you plan to visit before or after your study abroad program. For information on entry requirements for a specific country, please go to the Entry/Exit Requirements section in the Country Specific Information pages on the U.S. Department of State Website.
After you have checked out the information in the Entry/Exit Requirements section using the website given above, you should then determine which consulate you should use to apply for your student visa. In most cases you will apply to the regional consulate in the United States for your host country that has jurisdiction over your home state. For instance, if you are studying in France and your home state is Colorado, you will use the Consulate of France in Los Angeles. If you aren't sure which consulate you should use, you can start by contacting the Embassy for your country to ask which consulate you should use.
Note that in some instances regional consulates will also accept visa applications from students who are going to school in a state under their jurisdiction, even if their state of permanent residence falls outside their jurisdiction.
No. Student visa requirements for the same country can vary significantly from one consulate to another. Be sure to use only the visa requirements for the consulate under whose jurisdiction you fall.
Even though many consulates post student visa requirements on their website, we recommend that you contact the consulate directly to request the visa instructions in writing. Some consulates do not have the most up-to-date instructions on their websites, so you should only use instructions that you have obtained from the consulate directly.
Many students and parents report being frustrated in their repeated and unsuccessful attempts to reach a consular official. One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes consulates are understaffed; possibly they are a one-person office. It is important to remain considerate and polite, even when feeling frustrated.
We recommend communicating with the consulate in several ways. Usually consulates have limited hours when they answer the phone. If phone calls don't go through, you can try emailing, sending a fax, or visiting in person if you live in the area. If you visit in person, see if an appointment is required. Usually one of these is the preferred method of communication. Allow several days or more for a response.
This requirement varies from consulate to consulate. Some consulates accept visa applications by mail, while more and more consulates are now requiring students to submit visa applications in person or to pick them up in person (or both). Some program providers have obtained permission from consulates to do batch processing of visa applications where they will collect your visa application and submit it on your behalf, but this is not common. If your program is able to provide this service they will let you know once you have been accepted into your program.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. You may check the following websites:
Foreign Consulate Offices
Embassies and Consulates
The procedures that you will follow may be different from those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures. If you are international students at the University of Wyoming you must meet with an international student advisor in the International Students and Scholars Office so they will know about your plans and so they can properly document your U.S. immigration paperwork.
The cost and requirements for obtaining visas vary. We have seen costs ranging from zero to over $500 to apply for a visa.
This is a very important question, especially for students going on spring programs when there is a narrow window of time between applying for a program in the fall and the deadline to apply for a student visa. Check the application timeframe on the consulate website very carefully. Usually consulates have a beginning and ending date during which they will accept visa applications. (For example, they might accept visa applications between 30-90 days before your scheduled departure.) Apply as early as possible. This means you should start gathering the required supporting documents well in advance so that you have everything ready to go when the consulate will first start accepting visa applications.
These requirements vary widely. Check the consulate's instructions early in the process so you will know what you need to do, and what documents you will need to request from outside sources. It could take some time for you to gather all of these documents. Here are some examples of the types of supporting documents consulates have been known to ask for:
Pay attention to the details of this requirement. Do they require that you have a round trip ticket? Will they accept a copy of your itinerary from your travel agent? If you are taking a group flight, will they accept a letter from your home university or program provider indicating this, or do they need an actual itinerary? Do they require that you have a return flight within a certain period after your program ends?
If they ask for a round-trip ticket you will need to purchase one, even though you might not know exactly when you will be returning home. Students usually buy the return ticket, verifying with their travel agent that they can change the return date later. There is usually a penalty fee associated with changing the travel dates (and the penalty could apply to each leg of the flight, including any domestic flights within the U.S.)
Some travel agencies or organizations offer differing change fee options, so we recommend that you research several options before booking your flight.
This scenario can present a real challenge for you. It applies to students going on a summer program and then on a different program in the fall. It applies to students going to one country in the fall and then to another country in the spring. And it applies to students going to one country in the spring, and then to a different country in the summer. First, check to see if you will need to apply for a visa for each country. It is highly unlikely that you can apply for both visas at the same time. You will first obtain your visa for the country where you will be studying for the first term. If you need a visa for the country where you will be studying in the following term, verify the window of time during which you can apply for your visa. The most likely scenario is that you will not have an adequate amount of time to apply for and receive your second visa.
Some countries will allow you to apply for your second visa from the country where you are studying in the fall. It is more likely that you will need to return to the U.S. to apply for your visa. Remember that consulates will keep your passport while they process your visa application, some for an extended period of time (for example 4-6 weeks). For these reasons, studying on back-to-back programs in different countries is becoming more and more difficult for students.
If you plan to work while you are studying, you could be subject to different or additional visa requirements. Check to see if your student visa allows you to work (usually not the case). Even if it is allowed you might be required to obtain a special stamp from the immigration authorities upon entering the country. The hours you are allowed to work could be limited. If you plan to do an internship (paid or unpaid) or service learning on your program, check with your program provider to see how this will impact your student visa requirements. Will you need additional paperwork documenting the nature and hours of your internship or service learning project? Will you need a special visa?
You may be denied entry into, or be deported from, a country for which you have not obtained a required visa. Study Abroad Programs, the International Programs Office, and the University of Wyoming are not responsible for obtaining visas nor are they in any way responsible for visa denial.
If your host country requires a visa and you don't obtain one, you won't be able to study on your study abroad program.
Receiving a student visa is a privilege, not a right, and is a decision that is made entirely at the discretion of the issuing country. It has been rare in our recent experience that our students have been denied visas, but it can happen.
The following list gives some examples of reasons that a visa might be denied:
Congratulations. You have just received your visa back from the consulate, usually consisting of an official stamp placed inside your passport. You aren't done yet! Carefully check all of the information in the visa. Is your name spelled correctly? Are the dates for the visa correct? If anything needs to be changed, contact the consulate immediately to ask them to correct your visa.
Since some of the regulations change frequently, please go to Regulatory Information for country-specific information for the countries France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Although we have told you that applying for and obtaining your student visa require diligence and attention to detail, you now have the tools to help make this process go more smoothly. By starting the process early, researching visa requirements and gathering paperwork, you are well on your way to successfully obtaining your student visa well before you board your plane to begin your adventure abroad.
We would like to acknowledge the University of Colorado at Boulder's Office of International Education for their wonderful visa resource.