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General Student Visa Guidelines

A student visa is a permission to stay in a country as a student, for the length of your program. Think of it as an entrance ticket: it comes at a price, it gets you into the country and it is valid for a specific period of time. Some countries have agreements with the US that means you don't need a visa, some will accept the student letter but you will need to apply for a permit once you arrive, and some countries require a full student visa placed in your passport prior to your departure for your studies. 

Unfortunately, unlike a passport, there is no single application for Student Visas as the requirements differ from country to country.  It is the your (the student's) responsibility to determine visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad, including countries that you plan to visit before or after your study abroad program. For information on entry requirements for a specific country, please go to the Entry/Exit Requirements section in the Country Specific Information pages on the U.S. Department of State Website. 

If you have questions, check in FIRST with your host university or third-party provider program advisor. The GO Office has some general knowledge of student visas but the host university or program provider is able to better outline the needs of the visa for your host country. Make sure that you read over the visa process information given by the host university/program provider and the host country government.  Visa requirements change frequently, so you should confirm when the information was last updated. 

Standard Visa Application Materials for U.S. citizens may include but are not limited to:
  • Letter of Enrollment which is a letter on SU letterhead stating that you are a full-time student. You can obtain a letter of enrollment from the Registrar's Office.
  • Official letter of acceptance from your home university and/or from your program provider or from an institution in the country where you will be studying.
  • Proof of means of financial support this could include proof of financial aid award package, letter from your bank, bank statements, letter from parents' financial institution, etc.
  • Obtain biometrics. Not all visa applications require this but if it does, this is a fancy word for fingerprints. Once you finish your application online, you will be prompted to sign up for an appointment to get your fingerprints taken.
  • Doctor's letter certifying that you meet certain health requirements.  It's important to plan to have an appointment but note timelines and requirements to ensure your health assessment is not too early.
  • Copy of most recent parental income tax returns.  Some countries require this but not all.  Check with your country consulate for more information.
  • Payment for the visa.  A certified check or mail order check is usually accepted for visa fees.  Visa fees vary per country.
  • Criminal Background Check, if you need this. This could be in the form of a Police Report or FBI Clearances, among others. Start this process soon! It can take up to 16 weeks to obtain.
  • Apostille of documents. An Apostille is simply the name for a specialized certificate, issued by the Secretary of State. The Apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the other countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention. The process for apostilles varies by the state that issued the documents.
  • Proof of required health insurance.  Check with your family or individual insurance for information on whether your plan meets the VISA requirements.  In many cases, your program provider will likely provide insurance to you.  The GO office also can assist in enrolling you in a short-term International Insurance upon request (cost is approx. $40-45 per month). For more information about this insurance, email Francia Moyer ( 
  • Your passport. At this point, you should already have a passport. You will be required to mail it or provide in person along with the rest of the documents proving that you have the means to live in that specific country for a  semester.
    • If you do not have a passport, when applying for a passport for the first time you have to submit your application in person. Everything you need to know about U.S. passports (how to apply, how to get a rushed passport, how to renew your passport) here.  If your passport was lost or stolen and you are departing imminently or if you need your passport to apply for a visa within two weeks, you may call the National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778/ 1-888-874-7793 to schedule an appointment to apply in person at a Passport Agency.
  • Passport size photos. You should be able to find every county’s specifications on their respective visa website. The GO Office may be able to take these pictures for you if you set up an appointment in advance.  You can obtain passport photos at your local Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, etc.
  • Proof of travel itinerary.  If asked for a round-trip ticket, you will need to purchase one, even though you might not know exactly when you will be returning home. Students usually buy the return ticket, verifying with their travel agent or airline that they can change the return date later. There is sometimes a penalty fee associated with changing the travel dates (and the penalty could apply to each leg of the flight, including any domestic flights within the U.S.)
  • In-person appearance. Some embassies require you to appear in-person to process your visa. Embassies are based on your home address.

A few more tips: 
  • Schedule a visa appointment as soon as you have received your acceptance letter from the host institution/program, but for a date between 60-90 days prior to departure.
  • Send out your application 60-90 days in advance.
  • The embassy that you will need to use to process your visa is based on your home address.
  • Make copies of everything! Don’t be surprised if something gets lost in transit.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. The procedures that you will follow may be different from those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures.  All international students at Susquehanna University should verify their plans with the DSO so they can properly document your U.S. immigration paperwork.