Most countries require students to obtain a student visa in advance in order to enter and study in their country. You cannot apply for a visa until you have a passport (valid until at least six months after your return) and have been accepted to your program or host university. So you must first apply for a passport if you do not have one.
Visa requirements vary from country to country and are different depending on the student’s country of origin.
The visa application process can take some time so don’t leave it until the last minute, and you can minimize problems by applying as early as possible (but not too soon). Requirements and application procedures vary depending on your citizenship, the country to which you are going, and where you will be at the time of application; they may also vary from one consulate to another (that is, the French consulate in New York may have different procedures from the French consulate in Boston). Some consulates require that you appear in person to submit your visa application, while others allow you to process the visa by mail or online. International students may have additional requirements or limitations. In most cases, you will need to allow 30-90 days for application processing, and there may be a specific window within which you must apply (for example, no less than one month and no more than three months before your program begins). If you apply through the mail, keep a copy of all documents sent. It is safest to send and receive all materials via FedEx or another reliable courier service. Also, keep in mind that if you will travel through other countries on the way to your destination, you may need to obtain a visa to pass through that country. Check on this well before departure.
It is your responsibility to determine the requirements and to apply for a visa in a timely fashion. You will usually need proof of admission or enrollment in a program or university in order to apply for the visa so it is important that you follow your program/university’s guidelines on this carefully. In some cases, a personal appointment at the consulate is required and in others the process can be done by mail or online.
In order to obtain a student visa, one or more of the following may be required:
• Visa application form
• Current, valid passport
• Visa application fee
• One or more passport-size photographs
• Letter of acceptance from your host institution or program
• Evidence of financial support during your period of study abroad
• Physical examination
• Proof of medical insurance
• Police record from Vermont and/or your home state
• A negative HIV test
If you plan to travel to other countries within your period of study abroad or after your program finishes, check the entrance requirements of each country before you leave home. It is your responsibility to make sure you have proper documentation abroad.
A word of advice: DO NOT wait until the last minute to apply for your student visa! As with passports, this can take many weeks to process, and if you do not have a valid student visa (and passport), you could miss your flight and/or program.
To determine whether or not you need a visa, you may either contact your program provider or consult the relevant consulate. U.S. citizens can find some information on visa requirements for many countries on the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs webpage. Or search for the country's consulate in the jurisdiction in which you reside.
International students should contact the appropriate consulate in the U.S or in your home country or contact your home country embassy for information. The procedures that you will follow may be different than those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures. International students must visit their to obtain a signature on visa documents to permit re-entry into the United States.
Your program or university abroad should provide you some guidance. Your first step is generally to search for the Consulate of the country you are going to located within your jurisdiction (i.e where you are a resident or attend school).
Embassy and consulate information is available at:
Country Specific entry requirements (U.S. Citizens)
Foreign Embassies in the US
Foreign Consulates in the US
embassies and consulates in the US
embassies and consulates worldwide
Information for certain countries can be found here. Contact OCS if you need help figuring this out.
For a fee there are visa application services such as Perry International (Used by IFSA Butler) or CIBT which can assist with procuring a visa.
Students participating in programs in the United Kingdom should be especially careful with visa regulations. Visit UKBA visa webpage for more information.
In all cases closely follow your program/university's guidelines.