Studying abroad offers a wonderful opportunity to expand your intellectual, academic and cultural horizons by spending time in a foreign country. However, the process involves more than simply picking a country and school and hopping on a plane. You’ll need a valid passport, which certifies your identity and citizenship, in order to travel abroad. You may also need a country-specific visa, which is an endorsement to your passport that enables you to enter, exit and stay within a given country for a specified period of time. Once you are accepted into a BCA program, we will provide you with some general guidelines, helpful links and tips on when, where and how to apply for your visa in time for your semester abroad.
Obtaining a student visa isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. Each nation has its own application process and requirements that must be fulfilled before it will issue visas for education abroad. You can generally find the nation-specific visa application at the embassy or consulate website of your host country. Please note that no two consulates are exactly alike. So you may be able to apply for your visa via the mail, whereas another student attending the same program, but applying at a different consulate may need to apply in person. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly review your consulate’s requirements.
This page explores the various visa application requirements and provides helpful tips to make the application process go as smoothly as possible.
Standard Visa Application Materials
While the actual visa application process will vary from one country to another, there a few standard application materials you should have that pertain to just about every nation. These include:
- Passport – valid for at least six months after your intended return date. If you do not currently have a passport, you must immediately apply for one as you cannot start your visa application without a valid passport.
- Passport photos. These can be purchased at many different locations including certain pharmacies and retail stores, membership organizations such as Costco and AAA, certain FedEx and UPS shipping centers, and some passport centers. We suggest that you call around in your area to determine the locations near you that offer passport photo services.
- Acceptance letter from your intended study abroad institution indicating its willingness to sponsor you. BCA will mail you this letter once it’s ready. Do not apply for your visa without it.
- Financial records indicating that you or your parents can cover the costs of your tuition and living expenses while abroad
- Proof that you have full medical insurance that will cover you while you are living overseas. Be sure to check with your insurance provider early on, as some companies can be difficult to arrange international coverage.
How to Get a Visa to Study Abroad: What You Need to Know
Once you have acquired these materials and any country-specific applications and materials, you’re ready to begin the student visa application process. Keep in mind that applying for and processing a visa can take time. It’s a good idea to begin the application process as soon as you are accepted into the BCA program. If any snags occur, you’ll still have time to remedy the issue and keep your application on track. Also be sure to gain a full understanding of your consulate’s requirements prior to beginning the application process so that you can anticipate and rectify possible problems before they occur. Although students are responsible for arranging their own visas, BCA Study Abroad staff is available to help answer questions and notify you when important visa documents are being mailed to your home address.
In many cases, you will need to apply to the host country’s embassy or consulate in the U.S. in your specific geographic jurisdiction. Please review BCA’s visa instructions to learn which consulate covers your permanent address. You must apply to the consulate providing jurisdiction over your home state, not your school or another temporary address. You may even need to complete the application process in person, which could require a full day of traveling depending on the distance, so please plan accordingly. Some countries may also turn down your visa application if you have a criminal history. Don’t be surprised if your host country requires an FBI background check as part of the application process.
What Should You Do If a Problem Occurs?
If a problem occurs when applying for study abroad visas, you should contact your respective consulate as soon as possible. If you’re not able to resolve the issue, please contact BCA to learn possible suggestions on how to continue completing the application process.
Contact BCA Study Abroad for the Latest Visa Application Information
As part of your accepted student materials, BCA outlines basic instructions for applying for a visa in your selected country of interest. Be sure to read over the materials shortly after your acceptance into a BCA program and let us know if you have any questions about the requirements, visa application timeline, or what to expect when you apply. The process, requirements and costs associated with applying for student visas are subject to change, so be sure to check with the consulate that has jurisdiction over your permanent address for the most up-to-date information prior to applying.
- Once you receive your visa documents from BCA, please keep them together and in a safe place, so you have everything ready to go when you apply.
- You should also make copies of your visa application materials, in case they are lost or not returned during the visa application process.
- Please continue to check your email as BCA staff will be contacting you to share important tips, notify you when your important visa documents are mailed, and check on your application status.
- For consulates that require visa appointments the available time slots often fill up quickly, you may need to book an appointment months before you plan to apply, so plan accordingly! If you get a late appointment, you should see if your consulate offers a waitlist or an appointment calendar, so you can continue checking for earlier option open up.
Overall, we know that visa applications can be a frustrating and time-consuming process, that’s why we’re here to help! You’re never alone; remember, previous study abroad students survived the visa application process and would tell you the experience you have abroad is worth it! If you have any problems or general concerns, feel free to contact us or if you would like further information on visas and how to apply, request a free student visa booklet today.