What Is a Visa?
A visa is a stamp that is placed inside your passport. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of your return to the U.S. If you 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 foreign embassy of the country in which you hope to study. Also, your study abroad program sponsor (e.g. Arcadia, CIEE, IES, Middlebury, SIT, where applicable) 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 also from your Secondary Program, 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 OSA.
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 foreign country and may change frequently.
To ascertain what the visa requirements are for your country, contact the foreign 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 recently have tightened restrictions pertaining to issuing visas. You should know, also, that visa application procedures vary considerably. For example, some countries require you to apply in person at their consulate, while others require you to apply by mail.
Program sponsors 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 sponsor with questions about the visa process for your program.
Some students have found it helpful to identify a friend here in Los Angeles who can act as proxy for you during the visa application process if your home residence is out-of-state. 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.
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.
How Much Does a Visa Cost?
Fees vary, and a visa is sometimes free. For fall 2015, visa fees ranged from US$25 to over US$550. Furthermore, the fees may change frequently and with no notice.
What if I'm Not a U.S. Citizen?
Your requirements for a visa may differ from those for U.S. citizens. Be sure to review the requirements as stated by the foreign embassy carefully.