What is a Visa?
A visa is official permission by a foreign government to visit that country for a specified purpose and a limited time. The visa is stamped onto one of the pages of your passport and generally is not a separate document. After you have been admitted to a study abroad program, your Whitman OCS advisor will help you with obtaining your student visa, but students are ultimately responsible for obtaining their own visas. Applying for a visa can be a complex, multi-step process, depending on the destination country, and delays in applying for a visa can result in not being able to study abroad.
Important things to note about visa applications.
- The process of applying for a student visa can take two weeks to several months, depending on the country.
- Students must review visa application instructions carefully and submit their application materials in a timely manner.
- Generally, foreign countries require that students apply for their visa from the consulate or embassy of the country nearest to their permanent residence.
- Be aware that visa requirements may vary from consulate to consulate even for the same country.
- In most cases, applicants will need to mail their passport along with their visa application materials to the consulate or embassy in the U.S. that has jurisdiction over their permanent residence.
- When students mail their actual passport with the completed visa application to the appropriate consulate or embassy, we strongly recommend using trackable mail services such as Express Mail, Fed Ex, or UPS.
- To ensure the prompt return of passport and visa materials, we strongly recommend that students include a pre-paid express mail envelope addressed back to themselves when mailing the documents away so that the consulate can return the passport quickly.
- Students should not plan to travel outside of the U.S. or to remote locations within the U.S. prior to study abroad due to the complexity of the visa application process. U.S. citizens must apply for student visas from the U.S.
- Students who are considering travel abroad or work abroad before their study abroad program begins should consult with Off-Campus Studies and their program immediately about whether or not those plans might interfere with obtaining the necessary visa documents.
- Some consulates of countries may require that students apply for the visa in person, which means that the student may have to travel to the consulate nearest their home to obtain a visa. For students from the Pacific Northwest, this usually means traveling to San Francisco about 60 days prior to departure.
- If required travel to a consulate for the visa creates a financial hardship, students may be eligible for airfare assistance from Off-Campus Studies.
Typical things that you may be required to submit with your visa application include:
- Letter of acceptance into the study abroad program/foreign university
- Passport-style photos (Whitman OCS recommends going to Walmart or Walgreens)
- FBI or local criminal background check
- Documentation (such as a statement from the student’s bank and/or letter from Whitman about your financial aid funding) indicating that the student will have sufficient funds to support themselves while abroad
- Proof that the student possesses a round-trip airline ticket to and from the country
- Visa fees are typically paid through a money order. These can be obtained from the Post Office in Walla Walla.
International Students & Non-U.S. Citizens
International students and non-U.S. citizens planning to study abroad should contact the embassy or consulate of their home country in the US and the consulates or embassies of the countries where they will be traveling to find out which documents will be needed.
Intercultural Center Associate Director Greg Lecki, email@example.com or 509-527-5005, should be contacted as soon as the student is accepted to their program to find out what steps need to be taken to ensure smooth exit and re-entry into the U.S.
It is extremely important for international students at Whitman to obtain current signatures on their I-20 form. Failure to do so may result in refusal of permission to enter the foreign country and/or to re-enter the U.S.