Most students need a visa to study abroad!
A visa is your host country’s authorization for you to enter and stay in the country for a particular reason. It is often a stamp or sticker on one of your passport pages.
Review Your Country's Visa Requirements
You may need to apply for a visa weeks or months before you depart, or you may be able to get a visa upon arrival. Find out the rules for your host country by visiting the U.S. Department of State’s website and researching your destination's entry, exit, and visa requirements for students.
Start early! It is your responsibility to understand the requirements and application process for entering your host country. Be aware that the requirements often depend on the duration of your study abroad program.
How to Get a Visa
You must apply for a visa through the host country’s consulate or embassy assigned to your state. Specific application procedures vary from consulate to consulate, even for the same country. It is vital to check directly with the consulate that has jurisdiction over your place of residence.
Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website, and search for your host country. Get started by reading about entry, exit, and visa requirements, and then follow the link to your host country's consulate or embassy. Also explore Global Cornell's Visas and Passports webpage.
Follow Your Program's Instructions
If you're studying abroad through a U.S.-based program provider, be sure to follow the visa instructions your program provides. Your provider knows what has worked for past students, so pay close attention! The program may give you specific guidelines about how to apply for a visa and provide you with essential supporting documents.
Be aware that the visa application process may vary by the applicant's citizenship, so don't assume that your instructions and a friend's will be the same.
Visa Processing May Take Weeks ... or Months
Visa application and processing times vary greatly. Generally speaking, you can't start the application process until 90 days before your planned departure. You'll need to have your study abroad acceptance information in hand. The process can then take a few weeks or months, if you include the time to secure any necessary appointments.
Will I need to travel to the consulate?
It depends on the consulate and type of visa. Your citizenship can also be a variable. Make sure to check on this requirement as early as possible, since appointments can fill up!
What documents will I need to provide?
It depends on the 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 prepaid envelope with tracking) for the consulate to return to you, so plan accordingly.