Languages Magazine

Study Visas—A Simple Introduction

By Eslexplorer @eslexplorer

At ESL Explorer, we are contacted every day by students from all over the world looking to study abroad. The number one cause of stress for all of these students is always their study visa. The process to acquire a study visa/permit differs from country to country, however the one similarity between all governments, no matter where your going, is they just want proof that you’re trustworthy and that you’ll follow the rules.

Some countries do not require a study visa when planning to study for six months or less. However, this depends on your citizenship and where you are going. If you are required to get a study visa, students are usually asking themselves the same five questions.

What documents do I need to apply for a study visa?
Where do I apply?
Can I apply online?
How much do I need to pay?
How long will it take?

With this article I hope to give you a good jumping off point for your research, a couple of useful resources, and an overview of how the general process works. You have two options when starting the visa process. Initially you could pay someone, such as an agent, to apply on your behalf. This will typically cost you a fee for their services, it will also force you to trust them to complete your application successfully. The last thing you would want is to arrive at the airport only to get turned away at customs. Your second option is to complete the application process yourself. This will entail more time and research on your end, but it is completely possible for students to find everything they need to complete the application themselves.

For most students we talk to, I suggest the second option. Not only do they get to understand the application process fully, they also end up saving some money in the end – which for most students is reason enough. Often times this can be made more complicated, this is due to the language used on government websites being difficult to understand, especially for non-native English speakers. Although it will sound complicated, it’s really quite simple.

Here’s how:
The one thing you need to understand for your study visa application is this: “No matter where you want to go in the world, all governments just want proof.”

They want documented proof that:

  1. You are who you say you are
  2. You are healthy
  3. You are actually doing what you say you are doing
  4. You won’t go broke doing it
  5. You will leave when you say you do

Policies and actual document requirements may vary, but in the end it is all about proof. Let’s look at each point and see what documents meet each requirement.

Proof of Citizenship

This is definitely the most important piece of visa documentation. Proof of your citizenship is required to show you are who you say you are, and where you are coming from. In most cases you must mail an original document rather than a copy, so make sure you note which you will be required to send, and make a copy of the originals. As you may guess, a passport is the most commonly requested document for this requirement. It is the only universally accepted document as a proof of citizenship. As a safe rule, make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your study plus six months after your studies are completed.

Proof of Your Health

Some countries will require you to provide proof of a medical examination. They do not necessarily need to know the exact result of your examination, just that you have conducted one and that you have a clean bill of health. A receipt, or a copy of your medical exam booking may be enough to document this. Simply, you must prove that you are healthy enough for the duration of your studies, and that you will not become a stress on the countries medical system.

Proof of What You Are Doing

As a student, you must be able to prove when and where you will studying. Schools are aware of this and should provide you with the proper documentation for your entry. This is in the form of a letter of acceptance (LOA). It is an official document issued by the school saying that you are in fact enrolled to study at their school. Without this document, you cannot prove to the government that you are actually intending to study during your visit. Some schools may ask you to pay your full or partial tuition fees before they issue this letter and most countries will also require proof of your full tuition payment in the form of a payment receipt before you can enter. Bottom line is, make sure that you can prove you are entering the country to study like you say you are.

Proof That You Will Not Go Broke

I know what you are thinking, “I am a student, I’m already broke!” Fear not, as this is probably the easiest documentation to obtain. Governments just want to know that you have enough money to survive while you are studying abroad, and that you don’t intend to get a job while you are there. Often times acquiring a study visa is much easier than getting a work visa. Customs officers know this, and it’s their job make sure people follow the system. Simply submitting a copy of a recent bank statement going back three to six months, you should be able to show that you have the finances to keep you afloat. Although the exact amount will vary from country to country, usually having 1,000 USD/CAD/GBP/EUR per month will be adequate for your application. The government basically wants to know that you will not run out of money and be stuck in their country, which leads us to our last point.

Proof You Will Return

All countries have completely different policies when it comes to immigration. So, as a student, you must prove that you are here temporarily to study and that you have every intention to return home. To show this, proof of a valid return flight ticket must be given. This may or may not be required at the time of your visa application – however, most certainly, you will need to show your return ticket when entering your destination country or leaving your home country.

I hope this information helps you understand why governments ask for the documents that they do. When you take the time to learn and understand, it really is quite simple, they just want proof that you’re trustworthy and that you will follow the rules. To help you get started, here are some of the most common government websites with information on the requirements of applying for a study visa.

United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand

For more info on studying abroad and language schools ratings around the world, visit ESL Explorer or contact us directly. If you have any other tips or questions feel free to post in the comments below, or ask former students by posting in our forums.

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