What Is a Visa?
A visa is a stamp that is placed inside your passport. Therefore, you must have your passport at the time of visa application. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of your return to the U.S. If your passport expires prior to that time, you may need to renew your passport.
Do I Need a Visa?
To find out if you need a visa you should contact the embassy of the country in which you hope to study. Also, your program provider (e.g. Arcadia, CIEE, IES, Middlebury, SIT, etc.) can provide you with information regarding your specific program's visa requirements.
How Do I Get a Visa?
Because visa requirements and procedures change frequently it is important that you understand what is required for your country and begin the application process early.
It is your responsibility to obtain your visa. Although, normally, you cannot apply for your visa until you have received acceptance letters from both Pomona College and from your program provider, we strongly recommend that you begin gathering together the documents necessary for your visa application after you submit your application to study abroad to the IDPO.
The documents required for a visa application vary from country to country, and can even vary from consulate to consulate for the same country. Examples of documents required for a visa application may include such items as a round-trip plane ticket, certain designated immunizations, proof of health insurance, a police report, and even copies of your parents' tax return from the previous year. These are determined by each country and may change frequently.
To ascertain what the visa requirements are for your country, contact the country’s embassy. Most embassies are based in Washington D.C. and have local consular offices around the U.S. through which you apply. Often, embassies require that you apply through the consulate that is in the district of your permanent address.
Be aware that, like the United States, many countries have tight restrictions pertaining to issuing visas. Visa application procedures may vary considerably. For example, some countries require you to apply in person at their consulate, while others require you to apply by mail.
Program providers have experience working directly with embassies and consulates for their programs. After you have received an acceptance letter from your program, do not hesitate to contact your program provider with questions about the visa process for your program.
Some students have found it helpful to identify a friend or family member who can act as proxy for them during the visa application process if they reside closer to the embassy where they’ll be applying. However, be aware that not all consulates permit this and you should check the requirements for your consulate carefully to find out if they will permit a proxy to drop-off or pick-up visa documents on your behalf.
Students may find information about obtaining visas from the embassy of the country in which they plan to study, or from the U.S. State Department website.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Visa?
Normally, it can take between one day and 90 days.
Note: Because you are required to relinquish your passport to the embassy or consulate that will issue your visa, you may not be able to travel abroad during the visa application process. This is important to consider if you have travel plans during the winter or summer break before your program.
How Much Does a Visa Cost?
Fees vary. Visa applications and fees are the responsibility of the student. Students may apply for a visa reimbursement from the IDPO to cover the cost of a visa, if required. Students must provide documentation of the fee with their visa reimbursement request. The visa reimbursement does not cover costs associated with applying for a visa, including but not limited to: photos, mailings, medical exams, fingerprinting, background checks, travel to the consulate, rush fees, or visa processing services such as Travisa.
What if I'm Not a U.S. Citizen?
The requirements for a visa for non-U.S. citizens may differ from those for U.S. citizens. Be sure to consult with your program provider and review the requirements as stated by the program country’s embassy carefully.