It’s better to be prepared than surprised when dealing with international bureaucracy. Fortunately, UT prepares its students well for the people and paper mazes of the real world. Here’s a list of questions that you may have about visas in your preparation to study abroad – and their answers!
*Disclaimer: these are only guidelines – check with your host country/institution for specifics*
- What is a Visa?
- Why do I need a Visa?
- How do I know if I need one?
- How do I apply?
- How long does this process take?
- How much does it cost?
- What are the different types of Visas?
1. What is a Visa? A Visa is a legal document that allows you to travel and live in a foreign country for a particular amount of time, ranging from several days to years. Student visas usually last a semester to a year. Some may allow you to get temporary residency and an ID in your host country.
2. Why do I need a Visa? While the world may seem smaller than ever before, regulations and restrictions on international movement have increased. Most countries around the world now place restrictions on foreign citizens living and working for an extended amount of time. Some countries even require a visa and a hefty fee just for entry, often times mirroring the stringent restrictions that the United States places on foreigners. Reciprocity fees are common in Latin America; citizens of the United States must pay at least $160 to enter Argentina and must request a visa ahead of time in order to enter Brazil.
3. How do I know if I need one? The Department of State has a great collection of information on travel for American citizens in different countries around the world, which includes a section on “Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements.” The information is a great starting point and is often up to date, but you should always check with a consulate or embassy from your host country. As official representatives of their government abroad, these officials will give you the most up to date information and all of the necessary details for the visa application process.
4. How do I apply? The application materials and instructions are usually available on the websites of the various embassies and consulates; you can contact their officials directly with any doubts on documentation and information. There are many regional consulate offices in Houston and even a few in Austin. Student visas typically require a letter of acceptance from your host institution as well as a statement of enrollment from your primary institution, a Visa application form, proof of financial solvency with a bank account statement or a letter of financial aid, and passport pictures. Some countries require additional vaccinations, a health clearance, or other specific paperwork. Check with your embassy or consulate ahead of time.
5. How long does this process take? It depends on the country and the demand; it can range anywhere from a few weeks to months depending on how well you prepared ahead of time. As a rule of thumb, bureaucracy is slow and tedious, so the earlier you plan ahead the better. Appointments can fill up quickly during peak season, so contact your consulate as soon as you confirm your travel plans. Plan ahead to avoid any surprises.
6. How much does it cost? It depends on your nationality, on the demand for that particular visa, on reciprocity regulations. You can check out cost estimates from our website, but the consulate for your host country will give you the final and official price.
7. What are the different types of Visa? Depending on the nationality, many countries allow up to 3 months without a visa when entering the country. You will probably be applying for a tourist or student visa if you need one, which will allow you to stay in the country without working for several months. A working holiday visa allows American citizens to spend a year living and working in one of five partner countries: New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, and South Korea. It’s a great way to take a gap year before law school, grad school, or a real grown-up job.
I hope these questions have helped get ready to study abroad with one of our 400 programs!