Student Visa Guide | Affordable College Online

By Staff Writers

Published on July 29, 2021

Student Visa Guide | Affordable College Online is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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File for a Student Visa

With no full-time job to attend to, college marks one of the ideal times in life to travel. Studying abroad allows students to broaden their worldview and make everlasting memories. No matter where a learner wants to go, they can often find a reputable program to participate in for college credit.

Traveling, especially studying abroad, requires careful planning and may come with a few hurdles. This guide discusses how U.S. students can apply for a student visa, which differs from a work or travel visa. We offer another helpful article on how international students may apply to study in the United States.

What to Take Care of First

Not every study abroad program requires a student visa. Programs under one month may only require a tourist visa or no visa at all.

Before applying for a student visa, individuals must gain acceptance to a program. In some cases, the program's administrators will apply for visas on behalf of students. If the program requires participants to apply for visas themselves, they should contact the U.S. Embassy closest to their program destination.

Some countries require an in-person interview as part of their student visa application. In this case, students must budget and plan for an additional trip. Other countries allow students to send a stand-in representative for the visa interview.

Some countries' student visa requirements include proof of adequate funds in checking or savings. This means learners should secure enough money for tuition and living expenses before applying.

Many countries require applicants to show proof of intent to return to the U.S. after their studies. A return ticket usually suffices as evidence. Noncitizens who live and attend school in the U.S. can often apply through a U.S. consulate.

Student visa applications require a criminal or FBI background check and a U.S. passport. In the next section, we discuss the passport application process.

U.S. Passports

U.S. citizens and permanent residents need a U.S. passport to travel abroad. A traveler's passport must remain valid for at least six months after their program ends.

Although the application rarely takes long to complete, processing may take 10-12 weeks. Students should apply early to avoid delays. The U.S. government outlines the exact application process online.

Students studying abroad in Canada or Mexico can apply for a passport card rather than a passport book. A passport card only costs $65, while a passport book costs $145 for first-time applicants.

Obtaining Your Student Visa

In this section, we cover student visa requirements and the application process. Unfortunately for planning purposes, student visa application processing times vary widely by country. While it may only take a few weeks, we suggest submitting all required forms 4-6 months in advance. Once processed, applicants receive an additional visa page or a visa stamp in their passport.

What to Include in Your Student Visa Application

A student visa application includes varying components depending on the country. Almost all student visas require proof of acceptance into a study abroad program and proof of adequate funding. To prove sufficient funds, applicants must submit a bank statement showing an approved minimum amount. In addition, all study abroad programs require a valid passport.

Applicants should prepare to submit fingerprints, background check results, a visa photo, and proof of return travel. Less common requirements may include English Proficiency test results and a clean bill of health.

What to Expect in a Student Visa Interview

A student visa interview typically takes place in person, but many countries allow a stand-in. The interview consists of questions about the student's study plans, school choice, financial status, and post-graduation plans. The same protocol for a typical job interview also applies to a student visa interview. Interviewees should dress professionally and answer questions with confidence. Applicants should present all required documents at the interview.

Replacing Your Student Visa

If your student visa goes missing while studying abroad, remain calm and take swift action to replace it. To prevent losing a visa, learners should keep their passports in a locked, secure place. Taking a picture of the visa and important passport pages will help with the replacement process.

Locate the nearest U.S. embassy for assistance with reapplication. The embassy will require an in-person meeting and will mark the passport as lost or stolen. Unfortunately, the U.S. government cannot replace lost or stolen visas stateside. The traveler must apply for a visa replacement with the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Requesting an extension or converting a tourist visa to a student visa may also require a visa replacement. These requests sometimes get denied, so applicants should make backup plans. A student visa usually remains valid for the entire duration of the study abroad program.

Student Visa Requirements by Country

To assist the student visa application research process, we've outlined the most popular study abroad locations' student visa requirements. Keep reading to learn the most important details for these travel hot spots. Click the hyperlinked country name for specific student visa requirements and U.S. embassy and consulate locations.

United Kingdom

For U.K. study abroad, applicants must submit their passport details with a recent photograph. The application requires a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies form completed by the program provider and proof of English proficiency. Learners must present bank statements or a sponsor letter. Travelers must show $1,600 in funds per month for living expenses if studying in London. Studying in the U.K. outside of London requires $1,300 in funds per month for living expenses.


Italy offers two types of student visas. The visa type C remains valid for one or more entries for no more than 90 days. Type C visas function well as a short-stay or travel visa. Applicants who must stay longer than 90 days should apply for the visa type D. Application requirements include two blank passport pages, a program acceptance letter, proof of adequate finances, and travel plans.


Studying in Spain requires a student permit for programs under 90 days, a short-term student visa for 91-180-day programs, and a long-term student visa for programs over six months. The visas require a completed application form, passport, ID card, and program acceptance letter. Students must also carry health insurance.


France allows students 18 or older to study in the country. For programs under three months long, France provides a short-stay visa. Longer programs require a temporary or standard long-stay visa. A visa costs U.S. learners €50. France provides an online Visa Wizard to help applicants determine their required documents.


A standard German student visa suits learners wanting to study full-time at a German university. The country requires the German Student Applicant visa if the university requires an in-person admissions interview. The application requires two photocopies of the individual's U.S. passport, birth certificate, and recent passport-style photographs. Proof of financial means entails a €10,332 deposit confirmation at a German blocked bank account or another form of funds, like a scholarship letter.


Individuals aspiring to study in Ireland for over three months must apply for a student visa. Applicants must submit two color passport-style photos taken within the last six months, their passport, and copies of all previous passports. The student visa application requires private medical insurance. Ireland accepts applications beginning three months before the academic program's start date.


China requires learners studying under 180 days to apply for a short-term student visa. Learners staying over 180 days must apply for a long-term visa. Visa applicants submit an original passport, applicant form, and recent photo. Students cannot apply for a job within China on this type of visa. The application costs $140 to process.


An Australian student visa remains valid for five years. The Subclass 500 Student visa requires the learner to hold Overseas Student Health Cover. The visa allows learners to work up to 20 hours weekly and bring family members to Australia. The Australian government publishes a helpful required documents checklist.


Japan requires learners studying for longer than three months to acquire a student visa. The visa takes 2-3 months to process. Like most student visa applications, individuals must submit a color passport-style photo and proof of financial viability. The application also requires official academic transcripts.

Costa Rica

Learners hoping to study in Costa Rica need a provisional visa. Applicants submit their birth certificate, a federal criminal background check certificate, and three color passport-style photographs. Students must provide proof of financial viability and a fax number to receive notifications about their visa's status.

Questions About Student Visas

Q. Do you need a student visa to study abroad?

Most countries require a student visa to study abroad for a period over three months. Shorter programs may not require a visa.

Q. Which country gives student visas easily?

The most popular study abroad destinations typically feature the most seamless application process. Open Doors publishes a list of the most common study abroad destinations.

Q. Do I need a passport to study abroad?

All study abroad programs require a passport. The passport must remain valid for at least six months after the scheduled return date.

Q. How long does a student visa last?

The exact length of time varies by country, but student visas typically remain valid for 60 days. Certain countries offer extended student visas for stays over three months.

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