What is a visa?
It is your destination country’s government issued authorization affixed to your passport. Your visa allows you to enter, exit and stay in that particular country for a particular reason.
Many times it is a stamp or sticker on one of your passport pages. You may need to apply for it weeks before you depart (months in some cases), or you may be able to get a visa upon arrival.
Do I need a visa to study abroad?
In many cases the answer is yes! The best way to find out is to review the embassy or consulate website. You can read more about your destination country and links to their representatives in the United States on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
It is your responsibility to thoroughly understand the requirements and application process for entering your destination country.
So how do I get the actual visa?
You will need to apply for a visa through the country’s consulate or embassy assigned to your state.
Important: Specific visa application procedures vary from consulate to consulate, even for the same country. It is vital that you check directly with the consulate that has jurisdiction over your place of residence.
The application process can also vary by citizenship of the applicant, so you cannot assume your instructions will be the same as those for a friend.
Are you going through a U.S.-based program provider?
Yes? Make sure you also very carefully follow the instructions provided to you by your program. They may give you specific instructions on how to apply and provide you with essential documents.
Do I need to travel to the consulate?
It depends on your consulate and the type of visa for which you are applying. Your citizenship can also be a variable. Make sure to check this requirement as early as possible, since appointments can fill up!
What do I need to provide?
It depends on the specific consulate. You may need to submit your physical passport, visa application, passport photos, acceptance letters and financial documentation.
You may also need to leave your passport (with a pre-paid envelope with tracking, of course) for the consulate to return to you, so plan accordingly.
How long does it take?
Visa application and processing times vary greatly. Generally speaking, you cannot start the process until 90 days before your departure, and you will need to have your acceptance information in hand. The process can then take days or months if you include the time to secure any necessary appointments.
Can I pay someone to do it for me?
Maybe. You can contact Cornell’s preferred vendor for visa processing service—Travel Document Systems (TDS)—to learn if they offer service for your destination country and visa type.