As you make your preparations for study abroad next semester, there are many details you will need to take care of, including obtaining a student visa to study in a foreign country. Not all countries require visas from U.S. citizens. However, if you are studying in any of the countries list below (this list is not all inclusive), you will need a student visa. You may be required to show proof of your student visa before you are allowed to board the plane for your international flight.
Note: Some countries like the Netherlands require residency permits rather than visas.
The visa application process can be time-consuming, and may not be left until the last minute. At times during the visa application process, you may feel like you're running into a brick wall. However, don't despair! Your program will provide you with documentation for your visa application.
How Do You Start?
First, you must have a passport to apply for a visa. Obtaining a U.S. passport can take up to 4-6 weeks, so if you don't have a valid passport, apply immediately. Applications for a U.S. passport are available at the Federal Building in downtown Tacoma, the Pierce County Annex or check online for other issuing offices. If you already have a passport, check the expiration date and make sure your passport is valid for 6 months after your program ends.
The next step is to make sure you read everything that comes from your program. Once you are accepted to your program and have paid your deposit, the program will mail you information and the supporting documents needed for your visa application. If you are on a Puget Sound exchange program, IP will provide you with the visa documents. Start the visa application process as soon as you receive the information from your program.
Generally you will need to work with your host country's consulate in the U.S. to get your visa. Some countries have multiple consulates in the U.S. (eg. Italy, Spain, etc.), and you will be required to work with the consulate in your jurisdiction. (The consular jurisdiction is based on your state of permanent residence.) If you have questions regarding the appropriate consulate, contact International Programs.
The requirements for student visa vary by country, and sometimes by consulate. Some countries/consulates require extensive physical examinations with M.D.s signature, notarized financial documents, criminal background checks, in person application for a visa to name just a few. Knowing exactly what is required for your visa application will be very important in allowing sufficient time to complete the application process prior to your departure.
Remember, if you have any questions regarding the visa process, stop by International Programs, Howarth 215 for assistance.