The Student Visa Process: An Introduction

So, you need to get a student visa?  I have some advice, I’ve been there, done that, got the stamp, and did it all again.  The process is harrowing at worst and shockingly easy at best.  Getting a visa can be, dare I say it, pleasant.  I hope that my experiences dealing with visa officials can help guide your visa process to be as pleasant as possible.

DISCLAIMER:  keep in mind, that I am in no way an expert on this topic.  If you have a serious question, you should contact the consulate, or whichever governing body issues your visa.  I’m only speaking from my personal experiences navigating the UK student visa process in 2010 and the Italian student visa process in 2012.  For any serious questions, check their websites!

I’m going to spread my advice out over three posts.  The overview and then a separate post for the UK and Italy.  If you have any questions, comments or personal experiences, share them below!  During both my visa processes I would have loved to have heard a variety of different experiences, but they can be difficult to find.

Visas aren’t scary and they aren’t difficult.  It’s all a question of searching for the right information and preparing.  No matter what country you need a student visa for, you are going to need to have confirmation of acceptance from your university first (if this is England, it will have to be post-exam results, confirmed by the university).  Your university should send you this automatically, but, if they don’t, contact the international office.  They should know the exact document you need.  You may or may not need a supporting document.

The second thing to do?  Make an appointment.  Seriously.  The two times that I have gone through the visa process I waited too long to make an appointment, leaving me feeling stressed out and at ends, freaking out that I wouldn’t get my visa in time.  Although everything worked out fine in the end, giving yourself enough time to prepare will make the visa process that much calmer.  Besides, on the off-chance your application is refused, you’ll have that much more time to get another appointment!

You’ll also need a passport valid for at least four months beyond the end of the visa.  For England, that meant that I needed to get a new passport as my old one was set to expire the June of my first year!  While this shouldn’t be a problem, it’s good to leave some time.  Of course, you can always pay the extra bucks to have it rushed, but with proper planning that hopefully won’t be necessary.

I hope to show you that the visa process, though it can seem overwhelming and confusing, isn’t anything to get into a tizzy over.  Just think of how many people you know who have studied abroad.  Every single one of them has had to get a student visa.  Some of them have probably had to get more than one.  People are doing this every day and so can you!

Have you ever had to get a visa?  Do you have any advice for people on the general visa process?


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