Student visas. If you’re an international student, you can’t leave home without one! But the process of applying for a student visa may seem daunting when you first start searching for the perfect course abroad.
So make sure you know exactly what you can – and can’t – do, and get your visa application sorted quickly and painlessly.
There are five key things that will determine your eligibility for a student visa.
1. Your acceptance letter
You can’t apply for a student visa until you’ve been accepted into a course in that country. And to be accepted into a specific course, you’ll need to understand the language level required, the academic results required, and the student tuition fees payable.
If you meet all the criteria the university or college requires, you’ll most probably meet all the criteria the embassy or consulate requires as well!
Check first that your course meets the local registration requirements for a student visa. For example, your Australian course must have a CRICOS provider number – which means it is registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students. In New Zealand it must be approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). In the UK, your college must have a Tier 4 Sponsor Licence.
The length of your course may also determine the type of student visa you’ll get. If your studies involve less than 15 hours per week (18 hours in the US), or take less than 3 months, you may need to enter on a visitor visa instead – and that will limit your ability to work while studying.
Did you know? If you are a national of the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you will not need a student visa to study in the UK.
2. Proof of funds
You’ll need to bring written proof of your ability to fund your studies when you apply for a student visa. This includes tuition fees and the cost of living – as well as your return airfare!
This doesn’t mean you need to have all that money in your bank account right now. Proof of funds includes a student loan, scholarship letter, or letter showing sponsorship or financial aid.
Your intention to get part-time work while you study does not count towards proof of funds for your student visa. In most cases, part-time income will not be enough to cover your living expenses – let alone your tuition fees.
If you’re travelling with your family, you’ll also need to prove you have enough money to support your spouse and/or children. Some countries, including the UK and Australia, will allow your spouse to work while you study. But you can’t rely on that income when you are making your student visa application.
Did you know? If you’re studying in the UK, your financial support can come from the UK government, your home government, the British Council, any international organisation, any international company, a UK independent school or any university. That gives you a few more options!
3. Healthy enough?
Some countries also have health restrictions on their student visa classes. In the USA, for example, you may need to take a blood test to prove you do not carry an infectious disease such as HIV. You may also need to prove you have been immunised if your home country recently had an outbreak of cholera or yellow fever.
In Australia, you’ll need to show your Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) paperwork before you received your student visa. This is the mandatory health insurance that most international students must take out – it covers you for medical expenses while you’re in Australia, and costs around $350 per person per year.
Students from some countries will need to have a tuberculosis test before studying in the UK.
Did you know? Norwegian and Swedish students are exempt from Australia’s OSHC requirement!
4. More paperwork!
You’ll also need original copies of important documentation – such as your IELTS test score (for the UK, Australia and New Zealand) or TOEFL score (for the USA), your academic results, and of course your current passport – which should not expire within the next six months.
Generally speaking, you will need to prove your IELTS score of 4.5 or higher if you want to study English overseas, and 6.0 or higher if you want to study at University.
Did you know? When you’re showing your bank account as proof of funds, make sure the amount has never dropped below the required amount for the past 28 days.
5. Watch the clock
Have you allowed enough time? You’ll need to apply at least three months before you start studying, or you may not be able to leave in time for orientation.
Did you know? You should check your student visa carefully once you receive it. Is your name and date of birth correct? Does it say you are a student? Are the start and end dates correct? Are there any restrictions? Check with your local consulate if anything looks strange, as it could affect your entry when you finally get there.
For more information, check out our lazy student’s guide to getting a visa.
Related articles on student visas
- Student visas ‘a big improvement’ (news.bbc.co.uk)
- US mulls startup founders visa to lure foreign entrepreneurs (trak.in)