Visas & Residence Permits
In addition to a valid passport, you may or may not need a visa or residence permit to enter a given country. It is extremely important that you thoroughly research visa policies for each destination or country of interest.
If you are still researching and deciding on program options, whether or not you will need a visa and the related cost for a particular location is an important factor to consider when determining your study abroad budget and choosing a program.
Students are encouraged to research all information associated with the entry and exit requirements of each destination or country of interest before choosing a program, so that when they are approved and/or accepted to study abroad, they can begin the visa application process immediately. However, students should NOT apply for a visa (if applicable) until they have been approved by the UNC Charlotte Office of Education Abroad (OEA) to study abroad, have been accepted into the program by the host university or program provider (if applicable), and have received information on their next steps from the OEA.
What is a Visa?
A visa or residence permit is an immigration document issued by a host country granting approval from the host government for you to enter and stay in country for a specified period of time for a specific purpose. They are not granted nor authorized by your country of citizenship.
Visas are usually obtained in advance of travel, while residence permits are typically obtained once abroad. Not all countries will require a visa, and not all students need to obtain one prior to departure. The visa is usually a sticker or stamp that is affixed inside of your passport.
It is each student's responsibility to research the visas and entry requirements before applying to study broad.
A visa is not a right, but is a privilege afforded to you by a foreign government. As such, the Office of Education Abroad is legally unable to advise on visa requirements, the visa application process, or provide visa guidance. The Office of Education Abroad cannot apply for visas on students' behalf. Furthermore, visa policies and procedures are subject to change often and without notice.
Only the host country’s designated consulate/embassy in the U.S. is able to provide information and clarification on visa requirements, timeframes, and processes for entry into that country.
How to Find Out if You Need a Visa
Visa requirements, policies, and costs vary widely by such factors as:
- destination country
- traveler's citizenship
- where the traveler was born
- reason for travel to the country (i.e. study vs. work, unpaid vs. paid work)
- the duration of stay in the country
Given this, it is possible that you may need a visa to enter your country while someone else doing the same program as you may not need one - it is very important that students research entry requirements based on their individual situation.
- go to travel.state.gov
- hover over the "Country Information" tab
- enter the name of the country
- click "Go"
- read the information listed under the "Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements" heading carefully
- repeat for any other destination or country of interest
This information will be general and the website will direct you to the correct website for the host country's embassy for more specific details.
Non U.S. Citizens
- consult the embassy/consulate of your home and the destination country(ies) for visa requirements and processes, and to see if you will need any supporting documentation from UNC Charlotte to enter that country
- consult with the International Students and Scholars Office at UNC Charlotte to:
- ensure you will be authorized to reenter the U.S. following the program
- obtain a travel authorization signature if necessary
- explore other resources
- Should you need to obtain a visa to study in your host country, you need to begin the process immediately after the OEA has approved you to study abroad AND given you information on your next steps
- You will need a VALID passport to apply for a visa. It takes weeks to receive a passport after applying for one. Review the passports page carefully and ensure you leave yourself ample time to apply and receive both your passport and your visa well before departure.
- It can take anywhere from days to months to receive your visa after applying. Apply as soon as possible once you are approved to study abroad and have been given information on your next steps.
- Not every country requires a visa for U.S. citizens; requirements and policies will often differ for non-U.S. citizens. Do your research in advance so you know what is or is not required of you.
- Keep in mind that some countries may require you to travel and submit your visa paperwork in person. Plan accordingly for a potentially long trip.
- You often need to mail or leave your passport with the consulate/embassy as part of the visa process. In this case, either the consulate/embassy will mail it back to you along with your visa, or you will need to return to pick up your passport and visa in person.
- This means that you need to be prepared to go without your passport for several weeks after submitting your visa application.
- Follow all visa application instructions CAREFULLY. Applications can be rejected for things as little as using the wrong color ink, or for paper-clipping forms instead of stapling. Avoid delays by following all instructions correctly the first time.
- If you do need a visa, consider working with a visa processing agency. While they charge a fee, these types of companies can often help facilitate and smooth the application process. The OEA cannot endorse a particular company but can suggest a couple companies for you to research:
In most cases, students cannot apply for a visa more than 90 days in advance of their travel. However, do not leave it until the last minute - processing can take several weeks after you submit your application. You will need to leave yourself ample time to complete the visa process, especially if you have to first apply for a new/renewed passport (which also takes several weeks).
Should you need to apply for a visa to study abroad, many visa applications require a letter from your university regarding your study abroad program.
The Office of Education Abroad is happy to provide this letter upon request, but you should allow at least 5-6 business days for processing.
If you wait to request this letter until you are at the consulate/embassy, we may not be able to assist you. This is also why it is very important that you have thoroughly reviewed every visa application requirement to ensure you have everything you need before submitting your application.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have been approved to study abroad by UNC Charlotte, have received information on your next steps, and require a letter or other documentation from the Office of Education Abroad as part of your visa application.