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Need an international study visa?

Katie Schenk - May 16, 2017

Getting your international study visa

If you’re planning to pursue your masters overseas, you’ve got plenty to do - and obtaining your study visa is one of the biggest administrative tasks ahead of you.

Every country has their own set of requirements for entry - and for staying on to look for a job after graduation. Career opportunities in your host country (or region) may be one of the reasons you’ve chosen to apply to certain programmes. Or, you may still be narrowing your shortlist and want an idea of the possibilities.

No matter where you plan to study or the visa requirements for that country, you should expect to have

  • A valid passport,
  • Proof of funding during your studies,
  • Proof of admission to a recognised institution, and
  • Health insurance.

Keep in mind that we’ve only included a few specific documents required and this is by no means a complete list of all the documents and procedures. As some countries require specific forms from nationals of different countries, this is not a comprehensive list. It is intended to be a resource to get you started only.

United States of America: F-1 Student Visa

Although the proposed travel bans for six countries is not currently in effect, it is anticipated that there will be changes to immigration laws in the near future. It’s always best to check the current status of travel restrictions into the US through the State Department’s website.

Anyone applying for the F-1 Student Visa to the United States must have already been admitted to an SEVP-approved institution (as Prodigy Finance supported programmes are). Accompanying spouses or children will need to apply for an F-2 Visa. Only citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the requirement of this visa class (however, citizens of these countries must still present their I-20 form upon entry).

In order to apply for an F-1 (and the F-2 visas, if applicable), you must have received an I-20 Form from your university. This document outlines the cost of attendance (as provided by the university) and shows your financial ability to meet this figure. The I-20 Form will not be issued by your programme until you can prove financing. Additionally, you will need to complete the DS-160 Form online.

You will undergo a visa interview at your nearest US embassy or consulate and it is critical that you demonstrate your desire to return to your home country after graduation. F-1 students visa can be issued up to 120 days prior to the course start date, but you will only be able to enter the US within 30 days of that start date. Provided you have all your documentation in order, you should apply as soon as possible within these parameters.

You must have your F-1 visa in your passport, along with your I-20 form and other supporting documentation, when entering the US. And, you should know that a visa doesn’t guarantee entry; US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers retain the right to deny admission (yes, even if you have a visa). Be sure to check current procedures before your departure.

Visas to study in the US are issued according to the length of study; if you pursue a one-year programme, you will receive a one-year visa. After graduation, many students are eligible to apply for F-1 Optional Practical Training authorisation for an additional 12 months (after which STEM degree students may apply for an additional 24-month extension). You must apply up to 90 days before and 60 days after the program end date on your I-20.

If you receive an offer from a US company, your will need to apply for an H1-B Visa for you. There are a limited number of these visas available and they may be submitted on 1 April, though granted visas will only take effect on 1 October. If you have accepted an offer of employment, still have a valid F-1 visa, and your H1-B Visa is still being processed, you may not need to leave the country, but you will need to file for the appropriate extensions.

Canada: Study Permit

Very few international students qualify for a Study Permit exemption - and they apply only to certain groups of people, not nationalities as a whole. In order to apply for your Study Permit, you will need an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). (Additionally, if you plan to study in Quebec, you also need a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec, English and French translations for your document, a statement from the translator and a certified copy of the original documents.) Each nationality requires its own set of documents, but the Government of Canada does a terrific job of explaining what is required.

Canadian Study Visas can take as long as two months to secure (though, again, the government offers a good indication based on the country of origin). These visas expire 90 days after graduation or completion of the course.

It’s important to note that you must apply for a work permit if an internship is required as part of your study. However, you can apply for a Work Permit within 90 days of receiving written confirmation that you have completed and passed the requirements of your degree. This provides you with a visa to search and apply for work for a length of time equal to the length of study. Rotman graduates are eligible for a three-year work permit. And, once you’ve secure a full-time position, you and your employer may apply for extensions as necessary.

United Kingdom: Tier 4 Visa

Currently, students from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland are exempt from obtaining a study visa for the United Kingdom. They will, however, need to register as a resident and have valid health insurance to secure residency rights. If you’re uncertain whether you require a visa or not, Gov.uk makes it easy to check. As the UK works to divorce itself from the EU, it is likely that visa processes will change over time.

All other nationalities will need to apply for a Tier 4 Visa. Usually this is valid for the duration of your study as outlined by the university. You will also receive a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number from your programme - and you cannot apply for your visa without this. You must, however, apply for your Tier-4 Visa no later than 6 months after receiving your CAS number and no more than 3 months before your course begins. Typically, visa decisions are made within three weeks, however, you should check processing times if you’re cutting it close.

If you’re hoping to remain in the UK after graduation, you will need to apply for a Tier 2 Visa which is valid for six months (or until your employer becomes your sponsor). You will need to demonstrate that your skills don’t compete with UK, EEA, or Swiss nationals. Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visas are available to those establishing a business, though there are strict criteria.

France: VLT-TS Visa de long sejour etudes

Outside of the EEA and Switzerland (along with a few former colonies, such as Algeria), you will need to apply for a Visa de long séjour etudes (long-stay visa) which includes the residency visa (VLT-TS) and you will need a official enrolment or acceptance letter from your university before application.

As with many European countries, the visa process is actually two-part. Initially, you will apply for a visa at your nearest embassy or consulate. You will need to undergo an interview and you will want to ensure this is scheduled at least 90 days prior to your departure. Visa processing can take as little as a week or two, provided everything is in order. In addition to your visa, you will receive instructions for residency registration with the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII).

On arrival in France,VLS-TS Visa holders must send the form provided by the consulate to OFII - though you should confirm this step with your university as some have an agreement to undertake this step on your behalf. Upon registration, you are eligible for part-time work during your studies.

After graduation, you may apply for an Autorisation provisoire de séjour (APS) which allows for part-time work and the right to remain in France for a year. You must find a job offering 1.5 times the amount of minimum wage to be allowed to remain in the country. Applications for extended work permits and residence are done at the local préfecture. Indian students may be able to obtain visas for up to five years after graduation, but you will need to be in India at the time of application.

Spain: Visado de Estudios

The process for Spanish student visas (visado de estudios) is similar to that of France. Outside of the EEA or Switzerland, you will need to apply for your visa at your local consulate. You will, however, need to apply for this as soon as possible as it can take several weeks (up to two months) to be issued.

In order to apply for your student visa, you will need your acceptance letter and registration of the programme with the Ministerio de Educación de España. Once you have arrived in Spain, you have up to 30 days to apply for your student residence permit. This is done at the local Foreigners Office (Oficina de Extranjeros) or police station.

In order to remain in Spain after graduation, you will need to accept an offer as it is your employer’s responsibility to apply for your visado de trabajo y residencia on your behalf.

Germany: Visum zu Studienzwecken

As with other European countries, you do not need a visa if you’re a citizen of the EEA or Switzerland - and you will need to apply for your Visum zu Studienzwecken at your nearest embassy or consulate if you’re not. This allows you to enter the country for study, but you will need to register at the local Alien Registration Office within 90 days of arrival (but, really, as soon as possible). You will receive an Aufenthaltsgenehmigung which enables you to remain in the country.

There’s no predefined time to apply for this visa, but you should allow three months, if at all possible. Your visa will end along with your studies, but you will be eligible to apply for an 18-month extension to work in Germany during which you can do any job you can secure. However, you will need to secure a position that corresponds to your qualifications to remain in Germany after that time. Once you’ve done so, you will need to apply for either a German Resident Permit or an EU Blue Card. Both have specific conditions attached and your employer should guide you as to the best choice for your situation.

Switzerland: Study Visa + Permit B

If you plan to study in Switzerland, you will follow the same general procedures as Germany and France. However, once you have been issued your study visa from the embassy or consulate and have entered the country, you have 14 days after your arrival to apply for a Permit B which allows you to remain in the country during your study. You will apply for this permit in the canton of your university. Permit B is a biometric card and valid for one year, though it is renewable.

When you graduate, you can apply for a six-month residency permit which allows you to look for a permanent job and you may work for 15 hours every week during this time - but you may not renew this permit. On the plus side, you will be treated the same as Swiss and EU nationals when you graduate from a Swiss university - but you won’t get a work permit if your employer cannot prove the economic or scientific importance of your position.

Italy: Study Visa

It’s much of the same for an Italian study visa. You’ll apply at the nearest Italian embassy or consulate if you’re not an EEA or Swiss national. And, you’ll want to schedule your interview about 90 days before your programme begins (and the spots fill quickly - so don’t leave it too long). Visa processing takes as long as three weeks. To apply, you’ll need an acceptance letter from your university.

When you arrive in Italy, you’ll need to register with the local police within eight days (which is quite short compared to other European regulations). Upon graduation, you may apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno visa to look for work. These typically last for six to 12 months and you must leave if you’ve not secured a position during this time. Should you accept an offer from an Italian employer, the company will apply on your behalf and you should note that it will be specific to your position. If there’s any change in your position - even if you remain with the same company - it must be reported to the local Sportello Unico per l’Immigrazione.

The Netherlands: MVV + TEV Visas

The Netherlands offers a very different process from most European immigration systems - your university applies for your student visa (MVV) and your resident visa (TEV) on your behalf. Every university has their own set of requirements, so you must check with the international student office as soon as you accept your seat in a programme. If you intend to work while studying, you may undertake only 10 hours a week and your employer must have a TWV permit for you.

You have the option of applying for an Orientation Year Permit which provides you with one year to look for work in the country - and you can take this option at any point within three years of graduation (though you will have had to leave the country when your initial study visa expired unless you apply straight away.) Once you have secured Dutch employment, your employer will need to apply for your work permit on your behalf.

Singapore: Student Pass

When you’re admitted to a university in Singapore, you will receive an in-principle approval for a visa. One you have this in hand, you will need to apply for a Student Pass. Applications for this visa must be done between one and two months prior to the start of your course. This is done through the Student’s Pass On-Line Application & Registration (SOLAR) system. You’ll also need to complete eForm 16 - the printed copy of which must be submitted to the Student Pass unit - Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

You will need to have an offer from a company in Singapore to remain int he country and your Employment Pass will have requirements tied to your salary and qualifications. Each application is assessed on it’s only merits and people having graduated from a top university in Singapore are more likely to be given preference for this visa. And, the employer is responsible for application.

Wherever you study as an international student, keep in mind that the international office is there to help you jump through all these hoops. You’re likely to be in touch with this office as soon as you’re admitted - and you’ll continue to be in touch after graduation - even if you plan on returning to your home country. 

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