European Student Visas: The Complete Guide

Posted on 30/07/2018

If you’re a student who wishes to study in Europe and come from a country in another continent, you’re probably wondering about the required documentation you’ll need in order to achieve your goal. Even though you’ll have to put up with a lot of bureaucracy, fill in several forms and wait until everything is ready, fret not! In this article, we will give you some useful tips and information concerning the possible visas you’ll need so that you can have everything ready for your stay abroad.

What is exactly a student visa?

A student visa is a special authorization that the Government of a country issues to students that have already been accepted at an educational institution of the said country. All students with citizenship of a country that doesn’t belong to the Schengen Zone must acquire a student visa in order to follow their studies at the establishment they have chosen. Furthermore, if the duration of the studying period will be longer than 90 days, students must also apply for a residence permit that will allow them to live in the country for an entire year.

What’s the deal with the Schengen Area countries?

The Schengen Agreement is a contract signed by several European countries that allow their citizens’ free movement between them. The countries that signed the Schengen agreement include both countries that are in the European Union (such as Spain, Germany and Denmark) and countries that aren’t (Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland…). Currently, the countries that belong to the Schengen area are:

Documentation required for the visa

In order to apply for the Schengen student visa, students must first download an application form from the Schengen Visa site and fill it in. Then students must provide the embassy of the country they’ll be studying in with the rest of the required documents: a valid passport, documentation to testify how you’ll be able to support yourself while abroad (such as traveller’s cheques or a credit card), a couple of small photographs suitable for documents, documentation testifying you have health insurance, the letter of acceptance your university has sent you and a bank receipt to confirm that you have paid the fee for the visa.

Note that, depending on the country you’ll be going to, additional documents may be required.

Would that be it?

Not really. Take into account that these visas are usually only available for 90 days, a period of more or less three months. If you’ll be studying for a full semester or academic year, or are thinking about studying the whole degree abroad, you’ll have to apply for a special residential permit. Furthermore, don’t forget that once you apply for the Student Schengen Visa, you may have to wait for up to a maximum of three months until you get a response.

What are the advantages of the Student Schengen visa?

One of the main benefits of the Student Schengen visa is that it will allow you to freely travel to other countries that belong to the Schengen Area, without needing any other documents. Nevertheless, you must inform the authorities of your host country if you’re going to travel to a country that is not part of the Schengen Area… even if you’ll just be going home for a while in order to visit your family.

What about other countries such as Russia or the UK?

For studying in countries that are out of the Schengen Area such as the United Kingdom or Russia, students must apply for a different student visa.

In the UK, for instance, when applying for a Student Visa, students may be expected to pay for a healthcare surcharge before they submit their application. Short-term study visas may be applied for students from countries outside the European Economic Area, which can be valid for up to 11 months.

If you’re over 16, have been offered a place at a university or another course and have enough money to support yourself during your stay, you may be eligible for the Tier 4 (General) student visa. The rest of the criteria of eligibility are available at on the UK Government site.

As for Russia, international students who are not from Azerbaijan, Abkhazia, Southern Ossetia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Armenia or Uzbekistan will need both their passports and a visa in order to study at this country. Even though nowadays Russia has several visa-free agreements with other countries, it might still be best to require for a visa, for non-visa stays may be limited to one up to three months of duration.

Student visas for Russia can be applied for and obtained through the Russian Embassy or the Russian Consulate of your home country. Russian student visas have at first a validity of three months, but students may apply later to the General Administration for Migration Issues of the Interior Ministry of Russia for an extension of said visa. Among the different documents required in order to apply for a Russian student visa, there are:

Even though organizing all the required documents and the procedures you’ll have to complete may seem quite overwhelming, don’t let yourself be intimidated. The devil is not as black as he is painted. Yes, dealing with bureaucracy is quite tiresome in general (and at times really frustrating), but it’s just a part of the process. Don’t give up on your dreams and your goals. Think about all the wonderful things you’re going to experience once you’re in your country of destination, and about the great boost you’ll be giving to your CV. Sure, things can get tough sometimes; but in the end, it will be worth it. Keep in mind that nothing ventured is nothing gained; and that there’s no victory without some sacrifice.

Now, what about you readers? Did you study your degree or your Master’s abroad? How was the dealing with all the bureaucracy and all the administrative transactions? Did you like your experience at the university you chose? Please let us know in the comment section or leave a review for your university here!

Written by
Sarah Pajares
My name is Sarah and I am a student of Modern Languages. I love literature, ice-skating and cooking (especially ice-creams and sweets!). I'm also a huge fan of Celtic and Baltic cultures and enjoy travelling abroad to learn more about different traditions and customs.