The Visa Process

How to get a Student Visa for Your Study Abroad Experience

Most students who study abroad have to acquire some kind of visa so they are allowed to enter or stay the country of their choice.  Applying for a visa can be a pretty intimidating process because there are often lots of moving parts.  Below I will outline my own visa application experience, and hopefully provide you with some helpful information along the way in terms of collecting required documentation, completing your meeting with your specific consulate, and working through how visas work (including potential next steps).

Polaroids
 

Applying for a student visa can be very intimidating, but I promise it's the worst part of the whole pre-abroad experience.  Once you acquire your visa, you'll be floating through the rest of the process!  I know that it is mainly a student's individual responsibility to do the whole process--which can be scary--but I will try to guide you through it best as I can:

First, you must research the rules of your country in terms of long-term permits of stay.   All students studying abroad in Italy MUST get a visa to enter the country, and then must follow up with a "permit of stay," which allows you to stay the duration of roughly four months (this is what I did because I was abroad for one semester).  This is arguable the most important step because every country has different specifications regarding their visa/permit of stay process.  It would be a pity to make the assumption that you don't need a visa only to find out in the airport that you cannot go to Italy without one!  For all students planning to go abroad, I would go to the "Student" or "Study Abroad" page on your consulate's website (because I am a Massachusetts resident and was planning to travel to Italy, I visited the webpage of the Consulate General of Italian in Boston).  Typically, every consulate has a page that outlines what a student visa is, who needs a student visa, how long a student visa is valid for, and the documentation you need to collect in order to apply for a student visa.  This is arguably the most important step because every country has different documentation requirements!!!  I personally printed out this list and checked off things as I got them (I also had a folder specifically dedicated to these papers since they are very important and it's sad if you lose even just one!!).

Second, make an appointment with your destination nation's consulate in a city nearest to you.  Because I live in Massachusetts, I made an appointment at the Italian Consulate of Boston.  Make sure your appointment is far enough in advance to provide you adequate time to collect your documentation, but early enough so you aren't panicking that you won't get your visa before you leave the country. 

Third, if you haven't already, make sure your passport is up to date.  In order to get your visa, your passport has to be "valid at least 90 days beyond the expiration date of the visa" (this rule is stated on the consulate website but often gets overlooked!).


Fourth, book flights! I booked mine through STA Travel, which is basically a site that gets good travel deals for students! I just registered and saved like $100-150 on round trip tickets to Italy!


Regarding the specific documents from the Italian university and the US university, Sant'Anna will send you the information you need from their end, but you must go to either the Registrar (I think, but it might be the Bursar) to get the letter to confirm your enrollment at UMass (I just showed them my list that I printed form the consulate, so they knew exactly what to put in the letter).  You also must get a letter from the Bursar if you're using any UMass-provided financial aid. I know UMass also has scholarships for study abroad students, but you'd have to check the IPO website for more info on those.


For the insurance stuff, you will get CISI insurance from Sant'Anna.  Or you can check to see if your insurance provider has any international coverage.


For the personal bank letter/bank statement, make sure you get it signed by your bank.  And make sure you're prepared with a money order - this was something I wasn't really sure about because what the heck is a money order? I had no idea, and that kinda screwed me, but my mom was able to save my butt lol. 


When you go to your appointment, make sure you have the documents in the order posted on the website, and that you have multiple copies of each document (I had three, but the woman told me I only needed two, but better to be safe than sorry).  


Again, I know the visa process is intimidating, but if you just dedicate a couple hours to visit the bursar and registrar, and keep a list of all the documentation you need, you'll be okay :)   And if something ends up going haywire, remain calm - most of the consulate workers are good about helping you out and telling you what you need to do before they can provide you with a visa.   

 

Jennifer Nelson

Boston, MA, USA

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