Visa FAQs and Tips


  • What is a visa?
    • A visa is authorization that is obtained by a host country for an individual to enter and stay legally in that country for a specific purpose and period of time. In most cases, applicants are required to apply for a visa in advance from the host country's nearest Consulate (usually in Chicago or Detroit). 
  • Do I need a visa to study abroad?
    • Depending on the country, you may or may not need a visa to enter your host country. Typically, students participating in study abroad programs lasting longer than 90 days are required to obtain a visa. Some countries require students to obtain visas for any study abroad programs, including programs that are shorter than 90 days. It is your responsibility to determine if the country you will travel to requires you to obtain a visa or complete other requirements prior to entry. The Padnos International Center can assist you in answering general questions related to visa applications but the appropriate consulate for the country you will travel to should be contacted for the most accurate and up to date information.
  • What documents will I need to apply for a visa?
    • A number of documents may be required in order to apply for a visa, such as: acceptance letter from the host institution, proof of financial resources, proof of return airfare, photos, and/or other documentation. The requirements and fees will vary from country to country and are often dependent on how long you plan to stay in the country and the purpose of your stay. Gathering the documents required for your visa application can take a considerable amount of time. We recommend that you start looking into the requirements well in advance.
  • How long does it take to get a visa?
    • The process for obtaining a visa can take anywhere from several weeks to several months.  
  • Where can I get more information on visa requirements? 
    • For additional information on visa requirements, contact the nearest consulate of the country you plan to visit, or go to and review the travel advisory section for details on entry requirements.
  • I need an Apostille on my documents for my visa application, where can I do this?
    • The US Department of State provides specific information based on your location of where you can get an official Apostille.


  • Most countries have a time limit on how early you can apply for a visa.  In many cases, visa applications will not be considered more than 90 days prior to entry into the host country
  • In most cases, students MUST apply for their visa in their home country. This means that if you plan to travel or are planning back-to-back study abroad programs AND you will not be in the United States during the 3 months prior to your arrival in your host country, you may run into problems with securing a visa.  
  • Visa applications are generally not accepted through a 3rd-party country. This means, if you plan to study abroad in the U.K. for the Fall semester and then plan to study in Italy for the following Winter semester, you may not be able to apply for your Italian visa at the Italian Consulate in the U.K. You will have to apply for your Italian visa in the United States. If you are in the U.K. during the 90 days prior to your arrival in Italy, you can understand the dilemma. It may be possible for you to return to the United States between your semesters, but this does not guarantee that a visa can be processed during your brief return between semesters.      
  • It is not uncommon for a student to be required to apply for their visa in person. In some cases, students may also be required to pick-up their passport and visa in person.  This may mean that you may have to make two trips to the Consulate which has jurisdiction over your state of residence.  
  • Students often complain that they do not receive timely responses to their questions when they follow procedures for submitting an inquiry. Please allow plenty of time for your questions to be answered. If you are unable to secure an answer by phone, try email or fax a letter to the consulate requesting assistance.
  • While many of these requirements may seem burdensome, they are governmental regulations that must be followed. Due to constant changes in requirements and regulations, the Padnos International Center can offer very limited information regarding the procedures for applying for your visa. Our staff have been instructed to refer you to the appropriate Consulate for questions and advice.

FBI Background Check

PLEASE NOTE: Some locations (including Spain and Chile) may require students to have an FBI background check in order to obtain a visa. The FBI background check can take anywhere from 3-16 weeks, depending on the backlog of requests. The FBI background check must be current (issued within 4 months) when you apply for your student visa. The timing of this process will be important to make sure you apply for the FBI background check in plenty of time, but not too early that it will expire before you are ready to apply for your student visa. You must apply for your study visa within 90 days prior to your departure. Students have a few different options to obtain a FBI background check: 

  • Work directly with the FBI to submit online or by mail.
  • Utilize an FBI-approved channeler 
    • Past students have been able to expedite the process of securing the FBI background check by utilizing the Fieldprint Services Team for an extra fee (currently $50). This service can provide a background check within 24 hrs of your appointment

If fingerprints are needed for an FBI background check, these can be taken at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, located at 12220 Fillmore Street, West Olive, MI 49460. They can be contacted by phone at (616) 738-4025. Fingerprints are done from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., but they ask that you arrive by 3:30 p.m. to fill out the appropriate paperwork. No appointment is necessary. You need to bring your driver’s license and they do charge $10 for a fingerprint card.

Page last modified August 15, 2018