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General Student Visa Guidelines

GO General Student Visa Guidelines by Suitcase Sal
Do you need a visa?
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 U.S. that mean 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. Commonly, programs that are longer than 90 days need a visa. 

Unfortunately, there is no single application for Student Visas as the requirements differ from country to country.  It is 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 host university or program provider can better outline the needs of the visa for your specific host country. Please follow up with them with any questions. Be sure to 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.  
What may I need for my visa application?
Standard Visa Application Materials for U.S. citizens may include but are not limited to:
  • Your passport. You should already have a passport.
    • If you are applying for a passport for the first time, you must 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) is 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.​
  • Letter of Enrollment. 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 program provider or from an institution in the country where you will be studying.
  • Payment for the visa.  A certified check or mail order check is usually accepted for visa fees. Processing fees vary by country and can be anywhere from $35 to over $500. If you delay, expect to pay expedited processing fees.
  • Proof of means of financial support. This may include proof of financial aid award package, letter from your bank, bank statements, letter from parents' financial institution, etc. If the funds are not in your name, you may need to have those documents notarized. They could request multiple months bank statements - make sure you review the requirements early.
  • Obtain biometrics. After finishing your application online, you will be prompted to sign up for an appointment to get your fingerprints taken.
  • Criminal Background Check. 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. This is 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. 
  • Doctor's letter certifying that you meet certain health requirements.  It's important to plan an appointment but note timelines and requirements to ensure your health assessment is not too early.
  • 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 provide insurance to you. 
    • You are covered by SU's international insurance and have a letter stating as much in your GO application.
    • However, if you need additional insurance, the GO office also can assist in enrolling you in a short-term International Insurance upon request (cost is approx. $60 per month). For more information about this insurance, email Francia Moyer (
  • Passport size photos. Every country has their own specifications found 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. 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 typically based on your home address.
  • Copy of most recent parental income tax returns.
A few more tips:
Plan for expenses related to getting to any in-person appointments, and/or for mailing.
  • 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.
  • Make copies of everything! Don’t be surprised if something gets lost in transit.
I’m not a U.S. citizen, what do I do?
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.