Student Visa Guide: Types, Requirements, Application Process, Documents Required

By Cyril Zachariah Updated On - Jun 21, 2022 09:58 PM

Want to know everything about student visas to study abroad? In this article, we discuss the reasons why student visas are required and the steps you need to take to acquire one for yourself. Check the different types of student visas, documents required, application processes and wait times of different countries here.

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One of the significant aspects of being allowed to study abroad is being approved for a Study Permit, also known as a Student Visa. Now, studying at any one of the top study abroad destinations such as the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia, among other countries, all require international students to apply for a student visa.

Depending on the immigration and international travel policies of a country, the student visas and student visa processes will differ significantly and include unique requirements and processes according to the goals and objectives of each country.

For instance, over the past few years, Canada has been extensively involved in bringing in skilled and qualified migrant workers to fill up the vacant job profiles across the country. For this purpose, Canada has introduced several different postgraduate work permit schemes and foreign skilled worker/trades programmes that allow foreign nationals to become permanent residents of the country and subsequently, citizens.

In this article, we will discuss in rief everything you need to know about student visas for Indian students studying abroad as well as the different study permits of each country.

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What is a Student Visa?

A student visa is a legal document issued by the federal authority of a country to aspiring international students who wish to pursue studies at the educational institutions in the country. However, most countries divide their student permits into student visas for different levels of education. For instance, if you wish to pursue high school abroad, you will be required to apply for a different study visa than if you were planning to pursue university-level studies in the same country.

Why Do I Need a Student Visa?

Since we live in a largely democratic world, where most countries in the world welcome foreign-born persons to study, work and even settle down, each of these countries requires some sort of legal document that helps “put a name to a face”.

This legal document will specify your rights and responsibilities as an individual living and sustaining yourself in a country. Therefore, as a legal requirement, all aspiring international students must apply and get their student visas issued by the governing authority of their desired study-abroad destination.

Types of Student Visas

As stated in the definition of the student visa, countries commonly divide their student visas into different categories to help simplify the application process and define an international student's rights and responsibilities. This categorisation of student visas will also vary between countries. Listed below are some of the common types of student visas, or student permit categories seen in popular study-abroad destinations.

Student Visa Based on Duration of Course

One of the common types of student visas seen across different countries is categorising the visas according to the duration of the courses, that an international student has been enrolled in.

Since student visas remain valid only for a limited period of time, students will have to apply for student visas that comply with the length of their course. Usually, student visas remain valid for the duration of the course, with additional months or years provided in case the student needs additional time to complete their course.

Taking this aspect into consideration, students pursuing a short-term course will be required to apply for a student visa that permits them to stay for less than a year. On the other hand, students pursuing long-term courses would be required to apply for the appropriate visas accordingly.

Student Visa Based on Type of Course

Along with the duration of the course, some countries also impose immigration laws depending on the type of course that you have been enrolled in. However, here the type of course refers to the degree that will be awarded to you at the end of the course. For instance, if you are enrolled in a language preparatory course, then you will need a different student visa, meanwhile, a full-time course leading to a full-blown degree will require a different student visa.

While we have defined the different types of visas that international students will be able to apply for, these definitions are generic in nature and will have additional regulations and criteria. Moreover, in most cases, you will only be eligible for only one type of student visa as a result of such distinctions.

Documents Needed for a Student Visa?

As is customary, when you apply for any student visa offered by any country abroad, you will be required to submit certain documents to even be considered for the student visa. Collecting and compiling the necessary documents is just one of the many crucial steps that need to be completed before receiving your student visa.

Given below are some of the documents needed for a student visa application, as defined by the immigration authorities of the respective countries.

A Valid Passport

When applying to travel abroad for any reason, the first document that needs to be presented is your passport. Your passport is the primary form of legal identification card that proves you are a resident of a country and are legally travelling to another country. Therefore, when applying to study abroad, you must make sure you are presenting a valid passport.

A common requirement to travel abroad is to ensure that the validity of your passport remains true for the duration of your stay abroad. However, the rules surrounding this will vary between different countries. Some countries require foreign nationals to return to their home country and have their passport renewed, while, some other countries may allow foreign nationals to renew their passport without forcing them back to their country of origin.

While regulations surrounding the passport validity period will vary from country to country, it is always important to go through the individual rules and regulations before applying for a student visa or even a university.

Proof of Language Proficiency

As is commonly seen when applying to study abroad, most countries would require applicants to either have good communication skills in the English language or their native language. For instance, in the US, the UK, Germany, Canada and Australia, all international students are required to present proof of English language proficiency by presenting scorecards of one of the accepted English language tests, such as IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic, etc.

However, in Canada and Germany, the immigration offices also accept proof of language proficiency in French and German languages, respectively. In other words, candidates who are proficient in the French language will be able to present their French language proficiency when applying for a Canadian student visa, meanwhile, international students can present their German language proficiency when applying for a German student visa, instead of an English proficiency test.

In both scenarios, all international students will be required to present one of the accepted language proficiency test scores in compliance with the immigration laws of their desired country/study-abroad destination.

Proof of Financial Funds

Another common parameter that should be met by all international student applicants is presenting valid and sufficient proof of funds to study and live in a foreign country. While each country will specify the minimum amount needed as proof of sufficient funds, all international students must collect the necessary funds before applying for a student visa abroad.

For instance, in Germany, international students commonly open up a blocked account to present proof of sufficient funds. Meanwhile, in Canada, students can open a GIC account with one of the approved banks. Therefore, when applying for a student visa, it is important to check the financial requirements and how you can present valid proof of sufficient funds.

Admission Offer/Acceptance Letter

Last but not the least, all aspiring international students are required to present their admission acceptance/offer letter sent by a recognised university in the country. Each university abroad enrolling international students will send out an admission letter confirming their acceptance to a programme and course offered by the institution.

This admission offer letter usually includes the name of the student, the course and programme they have been enrolled in, the name of the university offering the course and the course commencement and conclusion date among other crucial details. These details would allow the immigration officer to confirm your claims of travelling to the country simply to pursue higher studies.

Since the top necessary documents needed for a student visa abroad include proof of sufficient funds and an admission letter, sending out your application for the appropriate student visa is usually the last step in your student abroad application.

If you possess the above-mentioned documents, then you probably are ready to apply for the appropriate student visa abroad.

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Student Visa Application Process

For those ready with the appropriate documents, the only step they need to take is to fill out the student visa application form and submit the same to the appropriate country’s embassy in either of the following methods:

  • Online: Using the convenience of 21st-century technology, interested applicants can fill in their student visa applications online and submit the necessary documents online as well. However, they will be required to adhere to strict guidelines specifying the document file format and size along with any other additional regulations.

  • Offline: Accommodating the needs and requirements of all aspiring students, interested applicants will also be able to submit their student visa applications straight at the respective country’s embassy closest to them. Here, candidates will be required to be physically present when submitting their applications and documents.

Note: Each country will define the processes and steps involved in getting a Student Visa. In most cases, universities will require applicants to submit their student visa application form and the documents and subsequently, be called for a personal or video interview. It is advisable to check the student visa application processes of each country before submitting the application form to ensure you are well prepared to face the challenges that may arise.

Working on a Student Visa

A commonly asked question by all aspiring international students is whether they can work in a particular country while studying on a valid student permit. The answer to this will most likely be yes. However, each country will define certain rules and regulations to work on a student visa.

In countries like the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia, students are allowed to work while studying. However, strict rules and regulations regarding the type of work and the working hours will be predetermined. In most countries, international students will not be able to start their own business or be self-employed. On the other hand, most countries have restricted working hours for international students to either 20 hours or less than 20 hours per week.

If you are looking to work while studying abroad, then it is advisable to connect with the immigration office or the international student office at your university to know about the exact rules and regulations surrounding the employment of international students.

Student Visa Extensions

Depending on the immigration policies and laws of a country, international students may be permitted to extend the validity of their student visas or reapply for the appropriate visas. However, this may be possible provided certain criteria have been met.

Moreover, student visa extensions may only apply to certain types of student visas. Some countries allow students to extend their short-term student visas while others may not. On the other hand, some countries may allow students to extend their student visa validity multiple times while others may only allow them to do so once.

Student Visas in Popular Countries

As we have stated multiple times above, student visa policies and laws will differ between different countries and will be unique. If you are interested in studying at any one of the top study-abroad destinations, then check out the country-wise student visas in countries popular among international students.

The USA

Divided into three types of student visas in the USA, international students can apply for F, J and M visas, all permitting foreign nationals to earn either a degree or valuable professional experience.

  • F-1 Visa - The most common among the student visas in the US, the F-1 visa is mandatory to study at an accredited university in the US or pursue an English language course at an English language institute.

  • J-1 Visa - Commonly used by exchange students studying at US universities through exchange programmes. This visa is applicable for high school as well as university-level education.

  • M-1 Visa - The most uncommon of them all, the M-1 visa is used by foreign nationals pursuing a non-academic or vocational study or training in the USA.

Note: If you are planning to study in the USA, then you would most like to be required to apply for the F-1 visa. However, consult with experienced study-abroad counsellors to know which visa is applicable to you and how you should go about applying for the same.

The UK

Unlike the US, international students wishing to pursue higher studies at one of the renowned universities in the country will most likely be required to apply for a study permit via the Student Route in the UK.

  • Students looking to study a university-level course lasting more than 6 months will be required to apply for their student visa via the Student Route.

  • Another viable student visa option available to international students is the Short-Term Student Route. This is applicable to all international students pursuing English language courses that last 6 to 11 months.

  • Students will be required to submit their Certificate of Acceptance of Studies, commonly called CAS when applying for their respective student visas.

  • It is during this process that international students will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge since healthcare is free even for international students.

For interested students under the age of 17 wishing to pursue studies in the UK, then you will be required to apply for the Child Student Route. However, this route will only make you eligible to study at UK schools.

Canada

With it being one of the top study abroad destinations, international students who wish to pursue higher studies at the undergraduate or postgraduate level are required to apply for a study permit in Canada.

  • When applying for a study permit in Canada for international students, it is important to have a letter of acceptance issued by a designated learning institution (DLI).

  • All study permit applications will only be completed online. Whether you are living in Canada or any other country, you must apply for your Study Permit online via the official website.

  • Your age at the time of application will dictate the universities you can apply to. If at the time of application, you are under the age of 18, you must study at a DLI with an approved Covid-19 readiness plan, unless you are vaccinated by one of the approved vaccines.

Note: Even if you apply for a study permit and receive one, it does not act as a visa. Once you receive your Canadian study permit, you will automatically receive either a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorisation. This will allow you to travel to and enter Canada to help pursue higher studies.

Germany

Germany, like other EU member states, requires all non-EU/EEA students to apply for the appropriate study permit. According to German immigration policies, non-EU/EEA students will be required to apply for one of the three German student visas, as outlined below:

  • German Student Visa - International students applying to study any one of the degree programmes offered by one of the official universities in Germany.

  • German Student Applicant Visa - As the name suggests, this student visa has been specifically designed for international students who wish to enter the country in a bid to search for the appropriate university and course and subsequently, apply for the desired option.

  • German Language Course Visa - The German language course visa will be applicable for any non-EU/EEA international student aspiring to pursue a German language course at one of the top universities in Germany.

Note: Non-EU/EEA students, which include Indian students, will be required present valid proof of sufficient funds, which is often done by opening up a blocked account with a minimum amount of EUR 10,332, which is calculated to be the minimum amount needed to survive in the country.

Australia

For Indian students planning to study in Australia, they will need to apply for the appropriate student visa. According to the immigration policies of the country, you will be required to apply for the Australian Student Visa (Subclass 500).

  • Regardless of the course of study, you must apply for the Subclass 500 student visa in Australia, which will allow you to stay in the country for a period of 5 years from the start of the programme.

  • The Subclass 500 allows international students to pursue their desired programme, be accompanied by their family when travelling to Australia and can be applied both inside and outside of the country's borders.

  • When applying for the subclass 500 student visa in Australia, international students must be enrolled in the desired programme in Australia, and hold an Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), among other requirements.

Note: Studying under the subclass 500 student visa in Australia will allow international students to not only pursue higher studies but also work 40 hours per fortnight during their term and unlimited hours during study breaks.

Student Visa: Country-wise Visa Processing Time and Fee

If you wish to know the country-wise visa processing times and fees applicable to all international students, then check out the table below:

Country

Visa Processing Fee

Visa Processing Time

USA

USD 160

12-36 days

Canada

CAD 150

7 weeks approximately

UK

GBP 348

Under 3 weeks

Germany

EUR 75

15-30 days

Australia

AUD 630

4-6 weeks

The student visa processing dates and fees mentioned in the table above have been presented for reference purposes only. Students must check with the official immigration websites of each country to receive up-to-date information regarding student visa regulations, processing times and student visa fees.

Register and connect with our team of study abroad experts to learn more about student visas abroad and how you can go about applying for yours!

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FAQs

Can Indian students study abroad without a student visa?

No, depending on the international student study policies of each country, Indian students will be required to apply either for a student visa or a study permit to study at the top universities abroad. Therefore, when applying for higher studies anywhere across the globe, it is advisable to first check the student visa policies of your desired country and then search for the best universities in those countries.

Can international students work on a student visa abroad?

Yes, several countries abroad allow international students to work on their study permits or student visas. However, we recommend going through the immigration policies of each country to know the individual work permit rules for international students. Some countries require international students to either apply for a work permit or seek permission from the Federal Immigration Office to work while studying in the country.

Which countries are easy to get a student visa?

Some of the countries that easily process and give student visas to international students include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Singapore. However, it should be noted that delays in the visa processing times may differ from country to country. If you wish to learn more about the countries where you can easily get your student visa, register and connect with our team of study abroad experts.

How long does student visa processing take?

Depending on the country where you have applied for a student visa, the visa processing times will vary. It should be noted that due to an increase in the number of visa applications being received by top countries abroad, possibilities for delays in the processing times are inevitable. Register and connect with us to find out how much time it will take for you to receive your student visa.

Do I need a student visa to study in Germany?

Yes, international students are required to apply for a student visa if they come under the category of Non-EU/EEA students. In other words, Indian students along with students from a host of different countries are required to apply for either a German Student Visa, a German Student Applicant Visa or a German Language Course Visa. You will only be eligible for one German student visa type.

Can I apply for student visas online?

Yes, most countries have transferred over to accepting online visa applications. However, visa applicants will still be required to visit the closest Embassy or Consular office of their desired countries and complete the necessary steps, including sitting for your visa interview. However, it is better to check with the official website of the respective embassies or consulate offices to know the available application modes for student visas.

When should I apply for a student visa?

If you have planned to study abroad in one of the top study-abroad destinations, then the first step is to finalise a university and course you wish to pursue. Once you have applied to your desired university and course, you can start applying for the correct student visa for the country. It is advisable to get your student visa application submitted at least 2-3 months before your course commencement date.

Do I need to extend my student visa every year?

No, international students pursuing higher studies in any one of the top study-abroad destinations in the world are not required to extend their student visas every year. Student visas abroad are usually offered for the duration of the course you have been enrolled in. However, to extend your stay to complete your studies, you will need to follow the appropriate steps as defined by the country you are studying at.

What documents are required for a student visa application?

If you are applying for student visas to study in countries abroad, you must present valid verifiable documents such as a valid passport, proof of language proficiency as defined by the country you are travelling to, proof of sufficient funds to survive a year of study abroad and an admission or acceptance letter from a recognised higher education institution in a country.

How do I apply for a student visa?

To apply for a student visa abroad, it is necessary to follow the steps that have been defined by the country where you wish to study. Generally, international students can apply online via the official website of the embassy or consulate office of the country, fill out the application form, submit the necessary documents and pay the student visa application fee as the first steps toward getting their student visas.

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