How Do I Apply for a Student Visa?

If you plan to study at one of the top colleges and universities in the world, chances are you’re already looking at options abroad. Most of the world's best universities require you to move to another country on a student visa. But what exactly is a student visa and how can you get one successfully? This article hopes to answer some of these questions if you’re just starting out on your higher studies abroad.

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What is a Study Visa?

A study visa or a student visa is a special permit granted to a foreign student who has been offered admission to another country’s college or university. This is an official document issued by a country's government to officially let you stay and study in that country's university/college.

  • It is a multiple-entry visa as the student can freely travel to and fro between their home country and study destination.
  • Visas for studying abroad are issued for a short duration and are often called temporary resident visas in some countries.
  • As the duration can range from a few months to a few years, foreign students can get an appropriate student visa depending on their course duration.
  • A student visa can also be granted for schooling and short-term programs, given that you fulfil the admission requirements.
  • You can only apply for a student visa for any country once you have qualified for their eligibility requirements and received an offer letter.

After you’ve applied to the universities you’re interested in, most universities respond to your application either by accepting or rejecting you. If your institute has accepted you, you can proceed with the student visa formalities.

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What Type of Student Visa Do I Need?

The type of student visa depends on many factors:

  • The country you're considering
  • The type of study programme (diploma, degree, post-graduate, research, part-time program etc.)
  • The duration of your course (3 months’ short-term language diploma or 4 years’ undergraduate program)
  • Type of student (if you're only going to study or want to study part-time or work while studying)

Depending on the above factors or a combination of these, you will be eligible for a suitable student visa. Some countries may not require a proper study visa if it's a few week-long language or vocational course. On the other hand, some countries need you to apply for a proper student visa to pursue any kind of study course. If you feel confused or have doubts regarding the process, you can also get help from partner consultants of the university you’re applying to.

How Can I Apply for a Student Visa?

Applying for a student visa has many prerequisites. The first and most important one is that you have an offer from an accredited university. Only when you have been offered a place in that educational institute can you proceed with the visa requirements.

One thing to note is that student visa requirements also vary with your nationality. For example, a student from another country may not need to provide proof of English proficiency, whereas Indian students usually need to provide sufficient proof through TOEFL or IELTS.

There are many aspects to the whole process. From preparing important documents, visa fee payment, scheduling and appearing for the visa interview, we have covered the most important ones below:

Prepare Documents

Your documentation is the most important part of the visa process. Many people fail to prepare or provide relevant documents which results in visa rejection. Your documents will include:

  • Proof of Admission: No matter what country you’re going to; you need to be a bona fide student in that country’s university. Once you have an offer (or more!) from the university of your preference, you can accept their offer and provide the final admission letter to the authorities.
  • Completed Visa Application: Depending on the country, you will need to fill out the required visa application form (such as Form I-20 for the US) and submit it to the relevant authorities or embassy.
  • Relevant Transcripts & Certificates: A record of all your previous degrees/diplomas/mark sheets etc. until the last educational institute you attended.
  • Work Experience: If you’re applying for research or postgraduate courses, relevant work experience may be required.
  • Passport Validity: Some countries need a valid passport till the end of the program duration, while some countries are fine if your passport is valid during the admission and let you apply for a new one later.
  • Language Proficiency: Most Indian candidates must have required IELTS or TOEFL scores to qualify for admission. Your score will vary depending on the university and proficiency required for your choice of program.
  • Financial Ability: You should have sufficient money to support yourself abroad. This includes tuition, living expenses and other necessary expenses. Most countries will ask you to provide the last 6 months' bank statements or proof of sponsorship/financial support.
  • Travel medical insurance: Many institutes in Germany, Australia or the US require the foreign applicant to have travel medical insurance covering their entire duration.
  • Recent Passport Size Photos: Most countries have a specific set of conditions your photo should be taken in. Make sure to read the guidelines for background, attire, lighting etc. clearly.
  • Other Supporting Documents: Depending on the country and its legal requirements, you may be requested additional documents.

Pay Visa Fee and Schedule an Interview

Student visa fee varies from country to country and the type of visa. You should confirm these costs with your destination consulate/embassy if you have any doubts. Visa fees can be easily paid online using various modes.

Once your form is filled out correctly, submit the application and pay the fee. You will need to contact the nearest Embassy and schedule an interview to finalise your visa. Some countries may not require an interview or may take it online.

Handy Tip: Most applicants find the visa interview tricky as visa rejections are often because of something you miscommunicated or failed to provide relevant information. One of the most important things is to prove your intention to return to India once your studies are complete.

Do Indian Students Need Visas?

Indians need a valid student visa to study in many countries, including the US, the UK, Australia and many others. However, some countries like Nepal offer visa-free entry to Indian students so a valid student visa is not required. Some countries even offer visa-on-arrival to Indians on which they can pursue short-term courses.

However, such countries are limited and if you’re planning to pursue higher education in Europe or the Americas, a valid study visa is required. This involves extensive paperwork, preparations, interviews and a fair amount of stress until you get that stamp of approval!

What’s the Processing Time for a Student Visa?

There is no fixed time taken to process a student visa. Depending on the country and the total number of applications received, it can take considerable time. Take a look at some of the general visa processing times for student visas:

  • US Student Visa Processing Time: 3- 5 weeks
  • UK Student Visa Processing Time: Up to 3 weeks
  • Germany Student Visa Processing Time: 4-12 weeks
  • Australia Student Visa Processing Time: 4-7 weeks

Getting an update on your student visa is a time-taking and stressful process. However, some countries like the US and the UK may take longer to process your visa application so you need to have a buffer period. Make sure to apply for the student visa as soon as the application window starts. As you prepare for your education abroad, don’t forget to buy the best travel insurance online. It will cover many medical, legal and financial emergencies for Indian students abroad. Student travel insurance plans have student-specific benefits like study interruption, sponsor protection, coverage for laptop theft and a lot more depending on the plan!

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