Are you hoping to study abroad for your higher education? Studying in a foreign country is a fulfilling and exciting experience filled with learning, fun, life lessons and adventure. If this is the route you have chosen, you will need to obtain a student visa for your studies. Do not be disheartened by all the forms, documents and paperwork! Here, SchoolApply has simplified the full-time student visa application processes for the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland for your ease and peace of mind.  Read the points carefully to get an overview of the processes and what is required.

Here are some additional important reminders – if documents are not in English, you will need to provide official/notarized translations. Make sure you start the student visa application process early to leave time for delays or requests for more information. Most countries allow you to apply well in advance of your study start date, so make good use of that time. As processes can vary depending on your home country, you should definitely read official government websites regarding student visas before beginning your application process.

United States of America

US visa in blog

The U.S. F-1 student visa process can be lengthy, so it is important to begin soon after receiving your acceptance notification. Student visas for the US can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your school start date. You may not, however, enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before school begins.

The exact process can vary depending on which country you are applying from, so also carefully read the instructions on your home country’s US Embassy or Consulate website. In general, the process is as follows:

  1. You must be accepted into an institution that is approved and accredited by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) six to twelve months before the study start date.  
  2. Pay the SEVIS 1-901 fee to be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  
  3. After fee payment, you will receive a Form 1-20 from your chosen school.  
  4. Complete the online visa application Form DS-160 and pay the non-refundable visa application fee.
  5. Schedule an F-1 visa interview at a US Embassy or Consulate.
  6. Ensure you have all pertinent documents ready for the interview: passport valid for at least six months after your stay in the US, printed copy of your interview confirmation letter, visa application Form DS-160, SEVIS fee payment confirmation, visa application fee payment receipt, 1-2 passport photos that meet government requirements, and a valid Form 1-20. There are additional documents that may be requested to show your eligibility for the F-1 student visa, so please check your local US Embassy or Consulate website. This includes academic transcripts, diplomas, SAT/GRE/GMAT/TOEFL scores and proof of sufficient finances.    
  7. Attend your F-1 visa interview with all the appropriate documents. If approved, you will have to pay a visa issuance fee and your digital fingerprints will be taken. You will also submit your passport and it will be returned to you once your visa is issued.

United Kingdom

UK student visa in blog

To receive a student visa to the UK you must complete a points-based process for a Tier 4 Student Visa. You can apply for your student visa up to three months in advance of your school start date by completing the following steps:  

  1. You must first receive and accept an unconditional offer from a school that has a Tier 4 Sponsor License for a full-time degree course. The institution must also have a “Highly Trusted Status” on the Tier 4 Sponsor List. Once a student accepts an offer, the school will issue a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).  
  2. Complete the online Tier 4 Student Visa application and pay visa fees. All full-time students must also pay a health surcharge when submitting your online visa application to avail the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). You will also have to provide passport information, photographs, a CAS form, academic qualifications, proof of adequate English skills and proof of sufficient finances. If you are 16 or 17 years of age, you must provide written consent from parents/guardians that states they give permission to you to study and live in the UK. Furthermore, depending on which country you are from, you may need to show records of medical vaccinations and/or take a test for tuberculosis.
  3. Make an appointment at a UK Visa Application Center.
  4. Attend your appointment at the Visa Application Center to give your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) to complete the UK visa application. A short interview may be conducted at this time, usually by video conference.

Canada

Canada student visa in blog

To study in Canada for six months or more, you must obtain a Canadian study permit which acts as a Canadian student visa. Students can apply for a Canadian study permit online or submit a paper application, though paper applications take a much longer time to process. Here is the Canadian student visa application process:

  1. First, you must receive an acceptance letter from a recognized school in Canada. If you are studying in the province of Quebec, then you must first apply for a Certificate of Acceptance (CAQ) from the Quebec government.
  2. You must obtain a Canadian student visa application package from the Canadian and Immigration Canada (CIC) website, local visa office or the Canadian Embassy or Consulate in your home country.  
  3. After you receive your student visa application package, you can complete your application form on paper or online and pay the application fees. Once your application is submitted, you may be asked to attend a visa interview at your local visa office. Depending on your country of residence, you may have to provide additional information such as your biometrics (photograph and fingerprints), a medical exam, and/or a police check before you can submit your application.
  4. Provide proof that you can pay for tuition and living costs throughout your study duration in Canada and also your return journey home. You will also have to show that you have no criminal record and provide medical records that prove you are in good health.   
  5. After your student visa application is approved, you will receive a Letter of Introduction or an Electronic Travel Authorization. You will need this Letter of Introduction, passport, photographs, proof of finances, receipt of student permit fee and your letter of acceptance along with any additional pertinent documents to show upon arrival in Canada, and then your Canadian study permit will be issued.

Ireland

Ireland student visa in blog

To apply for a student visa to Ireland, you must be admitted to a full-time course from the Interim List of Eligible Programmes (ILEP). If you are attending a program for longer than three months, then you apply for a ‘D study visa’. Detailed visa application information can be found on the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service of the Department of Justice and Equality website. You should always check to see if additional documentation is required. The student visa application process to Ireland is as follows:

  1. First, you need a letter of acceptance from a recognized school in Ireland for a full-time program.
  2. To submit your online visa application you need to send the following original documents in English or with a notarized translation: proof of English language proficiency (TOEFL or IELTS), receipt for full course fee payment, proof that you can afford living expenses, proof that you are capable of future tuition payment, document stating your intent to return to your home country after finishing your course in Ireland and evidence of private medical insurance if your school is not providing such services. You must also provide passport photos, ensure you have a valid passport for 12 months and also pay the visa application fee.
  3. Complete your application online and upload all the required documentation.

For more information on international student visa applications, visit the following SchoolApply articles:

For the US - Acing your F1 visa interview

For the UK - Applying for a UK student visa

For Canada - Applying for a Canadian student visa

Though the international student visa application process is fraught with much paperwork, the processes are all explained in great detail on the appropriate government websites. You can find many resources online to further help you with this task, and last but not least, do not hesitate to contact your chosen university for more information on the international student visa process and how they can help.