Guide to Getting a Student Visa
Tim Rogers offers guidance and key points to remember when applying for a student visa as part of your preparation for international study.
Once the feeling of success from securing an offer of admission from your chosen university has waned a little, the mechanics of what happens next dawns on many would-be international students.
While there is no doubt that the preparation of a successful application is the toughest part of the process, for many students securing accommodation, making arrangements for their departure and submitting visa papers can be as stressful.
One element in particular causes many students and their parents great concern: obtaining a visa for international study.
Meeting the requirements
In all countries with significant populations of international students, a visa for studies is a legal requirement. Overall, the purpose of such a requirement is to ensure that a student is genuine and focused entirely on their program of study, rather than being in the country for work or other purposes.
As part of the visa process, it is necessary for all international students to prove that they have secured admission to a recognized university or institution of higher learning, that they have sufficient financial means to support themselves for the period of their studies and that, in the majority of cases, they intend to return home after completion of their degree or other qualification.
Requirements for obtaining a visa vary from country to country and in recent months, the procedures in a number of popular countries for international students, most notably Australia and the UK, have changed.
Because visa procedures are so specific to individual countries, it is always best to obtain the most up-to-date information from both the visa authorities in the country in question and the institution in which you intend to study.
Procedures also alter from country to country but almost always include a requirement for a face-to-face interview at the Embassy or Consulate to demonstrate your seriousness to be a student in that country.
At present, some of the best advice available to students seeking visas is the university which they plan to intend, many of which have invested heavily in specialized members of staff able to advise students on visa queries.
The UK in particular has substantially changed its visa procedure and now requires all students to be sponsored by their university or college and prove they have sufficient funds to cover their tuition fees and living costs (to a maximum of UK£800/month) for the first year of their studies.
Because of these changes, it can take substantially longer in some countries than ever before to obtain a visa for study.
Marcus Williams, Director of Student Recruitment at the University of Sussex in the UK, has this advice for prospective international undergraduate students under the new visa procedures: “I think the key requirement for all students is to apply as early as possible so that there is time for them to address any problems in their application should they arise.
"With so many changes underway with the UK visa process, delays can make the difference between getting and not getting a visa for study.”
Full details of all new UK visa requirements are available at both www.ukcisa.org.uk and www.ukvisas.gov.uk.
Improve your chances
In the current climate, the reality for many students is that visa applications are rejected every day, sometimes because of mistakes in the application, other times simply due to the vagaries of a particular country’s visa process.
Either way, as an applicant, you can improve your chances of success by following the specified procedures exactly, allow sufficient time to submit your materials well before any deadline and be responsive to any requests for additional information.
Most visa authorities want you to be successful and recognise that this is the last step in a long process, so patience can have significant rewards for all concerned.
At all times be aware of any deadlines specified to you and ensure that your documentation meets all of the necessary requirements – particularly those related to proving you are able to fund your period of studies.
Applying for a visa is one example where following instructions as accurately as possible will prove very important indeed.