With the hope to travel and live in another country comes a dirty and horrible reality: visas. You can’t just waltz willy nilly into any country. The Immigration Police guard all gates.
Countries divide visas into different classes that depend upon the purpose of your visit. These different classes are then assigned certain amounts of time that the holder of the visa can stay in the country. One type of lengthy and therefore coveted visa is a student visa. With it, you have a great deal of leeway in your new country. Though the process for a student visa differs from country to country, most follow the same basic process. Here’s how to file for a student visa.
Step 1: Choose an institution
This step is all important. For one thing, as a student, you’ll want to choose an institution that combines well with your personality and with your aspirations. You’ll also want to research the student population you’ll be spending time with. But most importantly, you’ll want to make sure you are interested in an accredited institution that participates in your destination’s student visa program. For example, the United States has a list of schools certified to host foreign nationals, a list available at theDepartment of Homeland Security’s website.
Step 2: Apply to your school
Before you can apply for your student visa, you will need an invitation to enroll at your chosen school. So you’ll need to apply and be accepted. Different levels of education will have different requirements. If you wish to enjoy higher education in a new country, then you’ll likely need secondary school certification. You may also need to take a standardized test or an entry examination. If you are looking to enter a new country for secondary school, then you will likely need to provide some sort of evidence that you can cope with the school’s academics. You may need to take an administered test or provide evidence of previous and relevant courses. Either way, the important part is to get accepted.
Step 3: Attain the relevant information from your school
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to your school of choice and you have decided to attend. Dance a quick jig. Now, the actual visa process begins. You will need to contact your school, inform them of your decision to attend, and then you will need to gather relevant documents from them. Most countries will require a document with an official letterhead stating your name, your program of study, if you will study full or part time, and how much tuition you will pay.
Step 4: Complete your application and pay a fee
Now that you have all the information you need, you should scan the documents and go and find your country’s immigration website. Yes, in this new digital age, most countries will offer this process online. Fill out your application, attach the relevant documents (which will likely include your passport, the educational institute’s information, and a small photo), and then pay the application fee, which will pad the cushions of bureaucracy.
This step is the point where you’ll need to decide just what student visa you’ll need. Most countries have subcategories of these visas for different types of students. Vocational students for instance will need a separate visa than academic students because of the differing lengths of education. Make sure to apply for the proper visa. Your school can likely help you identify the appropriate one. Also note that some student visas will allow you to finish your studies and then work for one additional year in your new country. Other student visas will prohibit working during your studies while others will wholeheartedly endorse the notion. The point is to make sure to read the fine print.
Step 5: Interview
This step isn’t for every country, but some countries will require you to be vetted in person. These interviews will take place in the nearest embassy or consulate of your home country. Dress your best and prepare to wait long hours before sitting in front of a bored, disinterested, and strangely powerful employee. Don’t worry too much about the interview, as the point is generally to just make sure you’re not insane. They also want to make sure you’ll abide by the student visa laws, particularly the limited stay. My advice is to just nod enthusiastically.
Step 6: Wait
Now that you've applied, interviewed, had your fingerprints and DNA put into a database somewhere, your genome sequenced, your Internet history and emails vetted, every phone call you’ve made in your life combed through, and the likelihood of you committing future crimes determined by a complex algorithm, you must wait. The embassy or consular office will contact you about whether they accepted or denied your visa application.
If your visa was denied, take a minute for a good cry, and then note that most countries will allow you to reapply. The caveat tends to be that you must have “changed circumstances”. Also note that most visa denials do not have a reason for denial attached to them. It’s hard to know just what they need of you. So best of luck!
Image Credit: Flickr user zhaffsky