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Getting your international study visa

Katie Schenk - November 28, 2016

Getting Your International Study Visa

A year ago, getting an international study visa was daunting. The laws were complicated and on the restrictive side for many students. Today, it’s more confusing than ever.

Brexit means there are a few more borders going up on the European side. The election of Donald Trump as the next American president has raised many red flags for international students applying to top universities.

It’s difficult at this point to know the specifics regarding policy changes for entry to the United States. It’s true that the President of the United States can unilaterally restrict entrance of particular groups of people. But, it’s not clear whether Trump actually intends to proceed with his campaign promises/threats – nor to the countries or groups that would be affected. (And, there’s no reason to panic at this point.)

Read before reaching out

Even if these transformations weren’t in play on the world stage, you would still need to take visa applications seriously – wherever you’re going, and wherever you’re from. International migration, even for tourists and students, is an ever-changing, complex set of laws.

As soon as you’ve been accepted into an international graduate programme, you’ll have a lot to cover in a remarkably short period. Many students have to sort both their finances and their international study visa in (what seems like) a matter of minutes.

Though you may find the odd exception, you will not be able to get your hands on an international study visa until there’s proof you can afford it. So, you’ll need to deal with loans and scholarships first. But, that doesn’t mean you should wait until your loan is approved before taking a look at visa requirements.

(You can start your search for current international student visa regulations to the United States, United Kingdom, and the EU here. For other countries, you may just want to check here.)

Then, reach out to the international student office at your university. Get all the advice and resources they can offer, but don’t stop there. See if you can be put in touch with a current student from your home country. Anyone who has gone through the process recently will be able to talk you though the interview experience, which is invaluable. 

Consider the aims of the interviewers

Although the United States makes it clear that they offer international student visas to students planning to return home after their studies, you can assume that most countries have similar aims. You will need to demonstrate your desire and reasons to return home after graduation.

This does not mean that you cannot participate in recruitment season; it doesn’t mean you can’t accept a position in your host country. But that should not be your stated intention at your interview.

Consider the language your consular interviewer will use if you need to go through this process. If you’ve been accepted into a business school in France, the language of instruction will likely be English, but you’ll still need to communicate in French for visa processing. Be sure to ask the international student office about this when you chat with them.

Supply everything requested to process your visa – and call the embassy or consulate if you have specific questions. But, don’t leave it at that. When you arrive for your international student visa interview, bring anything and everything that can make the case for you to receive a visa. That includes undergrad transcripts, demonstration of property ownership, your CV, acceptance letters, and proof of financing for your degree.

Anything that makes it easy to see why you need to attend a certain university and why you need to return afterwards will make your case better than anything.

Just remember, things are changing rapidly in the world around us. That makes it interesting, for sure, but it also means you’ll need to pay a lot more attention to international student visa requirements than ever before. 

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