The basics
Study abroad : Visa Guides

Applying for a student visa: Top 10 tips

Our top ten tips to help you apply for a student visa no matter where you are applying to study. Are you prepared?

Airport Lounge

Applying for a student visa can feel like the most stressful part of the study abroad planning process. Between getting all your documents in order and scouring the fine print on government websites, all you want to do is pack your bags and board the plane. Whilst it’s cumbersome, it’s important you pay close attention to your specific immigration requirements and follow procedure diligently; otherwise you might have trouble entering your host country in time to start your study programme.

Let our ten visa application tips help break down the process.


Check you need a visa

Each country has different visa requirements, and depending on your country of origin you might not need a visa to enter your host country. For example, EU students will typically not need a visa to study in another EU country, whilst students of selected nationalities will not need a visa to enter Malaysia. You should double check the specific visa and immigration requirements of each country on their national immigration body website: even if you don’t need a visa, you will most likely need some kind of student pass or accreditation to be able to study abroad in a foreign country.

Check if you are an EU student


English language test scores

You might be required to produce scores of English Language proficiency tests as part of your visa application. If this is the case, you should make sure that the test scores will still be valid at the time of your visa application, and for at least a few months afterwards. If your scores are set to expire during your study programme you should be prepared to re-sit the exam if necessary. Both TOEFL and IELTS test scores are valid for 2 years after the test date.


Blank pages

You should make sure that your passport has at least 4-6 blank pages when you apply for a student visa. Whilst the visa itself will only take up one page, many consulates require that you have at least two blank, functional pages within your valid passport. If your passport does not have enough blank space then you may be required to renew it before you can apply for a visa. This will only make your study abroad preparation process longer by at least a few weeks, and is likely to incur additional fees.


Passport photos and documents

It might seem obvious, but be sure to read the documentation requirements thoroughly and have everything in order before you submit. If your documents do not meet requirements you will simply not be granted a visa and will have to go through the entire process again, and maybe even pay another set of application fees. Be sure to double check passport photo requirements, too: some countries have differing and strict requirements and will not accept photos that do not meet them.


Be ready to pay 

When you apply for a visa you will always need to pay some kind of processing fee. This fee is usually payable when you actually submit your application, and can be payable in cash when you complete your interview. Whilst some countries permit online applications and payment via credit or debit card, often you will be required to go to an office in person and either collect your visa or submit additional documents. You should always check if there are any additional fees payable in person, and if this is the case then you should always be ready to pay in cash. Being in the middle of a visa interview with no ATM in sight is unlikely to bode well with busy immigration officials.


Apply early

Your visa may take time to process and may be subject to administrative procedures beyond your control. If your visa isn’t ready in time, you simply won’t be able to enter your host country, regardless of whether classes are starting or not. Some websites will give you an estimated visa processing time but to be safe you should account for it to take longer: your visa will be set to start in alignment with the commencement of your study abroad programme, so whether you get it a few days or a few weeks before you fly out won’t change anything except make your planning process infinitely less stressful.


Check translations

ALL your application documents need to be translated into English, and should be signed by a relevant authority. Some consulates will provide translation services and sign the documents themselves, but this must be done before you actually submit your visa application. Most of the time you will need to make a separate appointment for a translation service, and so you should check and organise this directly with your consulate or home university ahead of time.



Be sure to make photocopies of all the official documents you submit and bring to your visa interview, even if the consulate says they will send them back to you after your visa has been approved. Documents such as your passport and national ID card are some of the most important credentials you can hold, and you should ALWAYS take backup precautions in making sure you’ll always be able to access their details. It’s also a good idea to make additional digital copies to take with you when you do travel overseas.


Keep informed

In some cases, as with US student visas, you will be required to complete an interview as part of the application process. If this is the case, you should make sure you’re well informed about your study programme, host university and be ready to explain why you want to complete your particular course of study. If you’re unable to answer a few basic questions about your study abroad plans it will be difficult to convince immigration officials that you are travelling to their country to study rather than immigrate.


Stay calm

Applying for a student visa might seem stressful, but if you have all your documents and fees in order then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be granted one. If you appear agitated, argumentative or defensive then it might give immigration officials a reason to scrutinize your application unnecessarily and further delay the processing procedure. Remember: consulates and embassies provide services that intend to help you, and applying for a student visa is an administrative process just like any other.


Now that you’ve got your head around the visa application process, why not browse Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Vocational or Doctorate programmes and start planning your study abroad adventure?


Read more:

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'Visa conditions for working while studying in the US'

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About Author

Airport Lounge

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.