For most countries, you will be required to have a student visa in order for universities to accept your application. This mainly applies if you are considered an international student, for example you are planning to study in a country you are not a permanent resident of. Having a visa allows you to live and study in another country, as well as some provision for part-time employment.
The requirements for being granted a student visa vary greatly depending on where you are applying to study, as well as your current country of residence. Below you will find more information about applying for an international student visa. This information is not specific to any country, so it is important that you also check with the government agency of your intended study destination for more extensive details. Your institution of choice should also be able to provide you with support throughout your application process, so contact the international office if you have any questions or need any assistance.
Apply to your institution(s) of choice
For a large number of countries, the first step in the visa application process is to apply to a recognised institution located in your destination of choice. Some countries might also require you to be accepted by this institution before you begin your process, but others allow you to start applying for a visa without firm acceptance (this does not guarantee that your visa will be granted if the institution doesn’t accept you).
Find out if you need a visa to study in the new country
The next step is to find out if you do need a student visa in order to study in your country of choice. Most international students will require a visa, but there are some exceptions. For instance, if you are an EU/EEA resident, you are able to study at institutions in other EU/EEA countries without applying for a visa. Most institutions make it clear who would be considered an international student, so this should be easy to clarify. If you are unsure, contact the institution and they will provide you with more information.
What type of visa do you need?
If you do need a student visa to study abroad, you also need to make sure that you understand what type of visa you need to apply for. Countries often have different categories of visas which are relevant to different types of stay. For instance, the US has ‘F-1’ and ‘M-1’ visas, with the ‘F-1’ for applying to a purely academic higher education institution, and the ‘M-1’ for applying to established vocational schools or business schools.
Another common visa category in some countries is one that allows for short stay only. These are useful if your course doesn’t last as long, for example a short course or preparation course. However, these are not normally applicable for most higher education full-time courses.
Alongside your student visa, you may also need to obtain other documents. For instance, you may be required to apply for a residence permit, or provide biometric information to be granted a visa. Some countries may also require you to show proof of health insurance, or pay a healthcare surcharge, depending on how the country’s healthcare system works.
At this stage, you will also find it useful to look at how much the visa process will cost. The fees associated with applying for and being granted a student visa are normally broken down by the government agency from which you will get your visa. The international office at your chosen institution will also be able to provide you with support and information about this.
When and where can I apply for my visa?
The timeframe and location of visa applications varies. This will depend on where you wish to study, as well as the country from which you are applying. Most countries will require that your visa has been granted before you travel, and the process can take some time. On average, you are able to start the application process around 4-6 months before your prospective course is due to begin. This time frame permits for all elements of the process to take place, as well as allowing for any administration that needs to occur.
Generally, you have to apply for an international student visa at the destination country’s embassy or consulate in your home country. Sometimes you are able to start the process online, for example find and fill out forms, but you will generally need to attend an in person interview and present your information to an official. You normally receive an answer in the following weeks, and you should be informed if there are any issues with your visa application. Your government website or contacts will be able to provide you with more information about the locations of embassies or consulates.
Do you meet the conditions of your visa?
There are normally conditions that you must meet in order to be granted an international visa. These can vary from country to country, but there do tend to be some common conditions. These can include, but are not limited to:
- Your first language is English (or that of your chosen destination), or you can prove that your language skills meet a certain standard
- You have enough money to support yourself (the exact amount differs)
- Health information/test results (i.e. you test negative for Tuberculosis)
As well as these, you might also need to present your academic records and grades transcript, and all of your supporting travel, health insurance and other documents.
You will find more information about the conditions of your specific student visa on your destination country’s government website, and the international office at your proposed institution should be able to assist you with any questions you have or advice you may require.
If you are interested in studying abroad but aren’t sure what your options are, take a look at our Countries directory.