Most countries require students to obtain a student visa before entering the country to study there. Visas are agreements on the conditions of entry and purpose of the visit to a country. Your visa will be issued by the Consulate or Embassy in the U.S. of the country where you will study abroad. Usually the visa comes in the form of a stamp affixed to one page of your passport. It is for this reason that your actual passport (not a copy) will need to be sent to the appropriate consulate or Embassy prior to going abroad in order for your visa to be processed.
The procedures for obtaining student visas vary greatly from country to country. Normally you must apply for a visa in the jurisdiction of your permanent address. For example, a student from Oregon who intends to study in France will apply to the French Consulate in San Francisco because the French Consulate of San Francisco serves individuals from the Pacific Northwest as well as northern California. Please note that visa application requirements can vary from consulate to consulate. So a student going to Spain whose home is in Boston will likely be submitting different documents for her student visa than the student going to Spain whose home is in San Francisco.
IMPORTANT: Due to increased security measures around the world, many countries are now requiring in person applications for visas so that applicants can be fingerprinted and photographed by the consular staff. This means that you may need to travel with your visa application to the consulate with jurisdiction over your home state. Because most countries do not have consulates in Seattle or Portland, if you are from the Pacific Northwest, you may need to travel to San Francisco a month or two before going abroad to apply in person for your visa.
Information on visa requirements can usually be found on the embassy/consulate webpage of the country you plan to study in. For contact information, see the US State Department.
Examples of the kinds of documents typically required for a visa application are as follows:
- Your passport
- Visa application
- Proof of admission to foreign university or study abroad program
- Medical form/letter completed by a physician
- Statement from your bank attesting to funds available for your expenses abroad
- Proof of roundtrip airline ticket
- Proof of enrollment at Whitman College
- Visa fee
Students are responsible for obtaining their own visas. The program you are attending will send you information about how to obtain a visa prior to departure, if one is required. This information is usually sent to you after you have been admitted to the program and paid the enrollment deposit. Visas can take as little as two weeks and as long as two months to be issued depending on your destination. Oftentimes it is the gathering of the visa application documents that takes the most time. To ensure that you have your visa prior to your departure date, you should read all program materials carefully as soon as you receive them and begin gathering visa application materials as soon as possible. It is the student's responsibility to apply for a visa in a timely manner.
IMPORTANT: Since you will need to submit your passport to the Consulate or Embassy up to two months before you depart for study abroad, you should not plan to travel outside the United States during that period of time.
If you have questions about the visa application process, please do not hesitate to contact your program or Barbara Hoffman, Assistant Director of Off-Campus Studies, for assistance.
International Students' Note: If you are an international student (non-US passport holder) and plan to go to your home country just prior to studying abroad, be sure to consult your program provider about whether or not you can readily obtain a student visa for your OCS destination from your home country. In some cases, you will need to apply for your visa while in the U.S. and this may impact your travel plans during the break.