If a visa is required before your departure, you will apply through the nearest host country consulate within the U.S. and should refer to the consular office's website for more information on visa fees and processes. A visa is an official document issued by the government of the host country that grants entry for your stay. Visa regulations vary widely from country to country, and may take anywhere from four weeks to two months to issue, depending on the location. In general, study abroad programs lasting less than 90 days require only a valid passport and do not require a separate study visa. However, there are exceptions to this. It is your responsibility to verify the visa requirements of your host country and, if necessary, to obtain your student visa. You should start this process EARLY and may wish to begin by inquiring with your program director or visiting the consulate web site of your host country.
Generally, you must send your passport to the consulate with jurisdiction over your home state in order to obtain your visa, so international travel during the months before your program departure date is not recommended. If you have traveled frequently, please also check to make sure that you have enough blank visa pages left in your passport prior to sending your passport to the consulate.
Step 1: Determine whether or not you need a visa to study abroad. The U.S. Department of State Travel website can help: http://travel.state.gov
Step 2: Research what the visa application requires. Some applications require: bank statements demonstrating sufficient funds to study abroad, a police background check, official acceptance letters from a host institution, and more. Use the consulate webpage for the most up-to-date information.
Step 3: Determine whether or not you will be required to visit the consulate in person, or if you would prefer to have a visa agency do so on your behalf. Suggested agencies are listed below.
Step 4: Make an appointment with an Education Abroad Coordinator to look over your completed visa application materials. Be sure to bring all required documents with you.
If you are unable to travel to the consulate in order to complete the visa process, there are fee-based services available to take care of the process for you. Some of the companies our office frequently uses are:
Travel Document Systems: http://www.traveldocs.com/
TraVisa (a good option for Spanish visas, located in Chicago): http://www.travisa.com/
If you need to travel in person to your consulate, CIBT has provided a great resource on their website regarding consulate closures. Check it out here.