There are different visas depending on why you want to visit and reside in a foreign country. The most common are the ‘tourist visa’, ‘business visa’ and ‘student visa’. Even if you are already residing in a foreign country for some reason, but want to begin university studies there, you may be required to change your current visa to a ‘student visa’.
The student visa
Student visas themselves vary as well. Tier 4, F1/F2, J1/J2, MVV and study permit are types for different countries in Europe and North America. For some foreign countries, you will get one type of visa for your undergraduate/first degree studies and a different one for post-graduate studies. For example, students usually get the ‘F’ type of visa for their Bachelor’s degree studies in the USA, and a ‘J’ visa for Master’s or MBA degree studies there. The type of visa is determined by the Consular Office of the embassy of the country where you want to study and depends on the type of your academic programme.
A student visas is not only a permit for you to enter a foreign country, but also gives you rights and poses some restrictions applicable during your stay in the country. For example, student visas usually do not allow their holders to work full-time in the foreign country. Most often a student visa holder can work up to 20 hours per week. This restriction aims to ensure that the person has enough time to focus on his/her studies because education is the primary purpose of his/her stay in that country. The student visa may also restrict the duration of your stay in the country where you want to study in terms of limiting the maximum number of years to graduate your programme, as well as how long you can stay in the foreign country after graduation, whether you can work after graduation with that visa status, etc.
How to apply for a student visa
You have to apply for a visa after you have gained admission to a university in your desired country. You should have also secured the funding to cover both your education expenses and your living costs. Funding may come from various sources such as scholarships from the university, a grant from a foundation or another organisation, private sponsorship, personal savings, family support, bank loan, etc. All funding should be supported by documents, which you will be asked to present to your university and/or the Consulate Office of the embassy along with your visa application.
Usually an official original letter of admission, and sometimes an additional visa document from the university, plus financial support documents are essential parts of your visa application. However, the availability of these documents does not guarantee that you will get a visa, as the decision is at the sole discretion of the Consular Office at the embassy.
Visa application may take quite some time. That is why international students are encouraged to apply for admission to the universities of their choice early. In addition, many universities have an earlier application deadline for international students or for students from countries which normally require a student visa.
Countries that require a student visa
When you start your school selection research, check which countries will require a visa. You can contact the local embassy of the respective country or contact a university (Admissions Office or International Student’s Office) in that country directly to enquire about visa requirements.
To get accurate information make sure you clearly state: - whether you want to study full-time or part-time - the proposed degree – Bachelor’s, Master’s, MBA, etc. - what citizenship(s) you hold - whether you are currently residing in the country where you want to study, and if so, what your current visa status is.
Check visa requirements early
Getting information about visa requirements will help you plan ahead and ensure all required documents are available on time. Any delays may result in a visa not being issued on time and thus you not being able to enrol at the university, even if you have been admitted and secured all the funding.
Be ready with a back-up plan. Admission to a university does not automatically ensure that you will get a visa. The decision is solely at the discretion of the Consular Office at the embassy. So, make sure you meet all requirements, prepare and submit you documents early, but do not be in a hurry to book your flight before you get the visa.