When your student visa expires, without proper preparation, it’s easy to start panicking.
If you are an international student pursuing your studies in a foreign country, it is your duty to understand the student visa regulations in your host country. Failure to follow the visa regulations may lead to loss of status or even deportation. In this guide, we highlight the key steps you need to take if your student visa expires.
The first important thing to note is that all student visas have a time limitation. This simply means that a student visa is specifically designed to cater for the length of your studies in a given country. If you are planning to travel to a foreign country for a purpose other than studies, then a student visa is not the right visa for you.
The length of time a student visa is valid usually depends on these factors:
- The duration of your studies – Some programs take longer than others. For example, an undergraduate degree may take three or four years while a PhD program could take as long as seven years to complete.
- Your citizenship – Students from certain countries may receive a student visa that is valid for a shorter period of time than students from other countries. The decision to award visas with varying validity periods lies at the discretion of the relevant foreign government.
Based on the factors above, you may be granted a student visa just once for the entire duration of your studies or you may have to renew it at some point. In this guide, we review the processes of renewing a student visa in 4 popular destinations for international students, namely, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and the EU.
How to Renew Your Student Visa in the United States
If you are planning to study in the United States as an international student, there are a few key terms you need to be aware of. The first is duration of status.
Duration of status is simply the period of time in which you are legally allowed to pursue a full course of study in the United States, related work training, and the grace period you are allowed before you leave the country.
Duration of status is often tied to a document known as the I-20. This is a crucial document that international students must have before they are allowed to apply for the U.S. visa and travel to the United States. The I-20 is issued by the college you plan to attend and it indicates the nature of your studies, the amount of funds needed to pay for your tuition and living expenses, and the amount of time that your studies will take.
As long as your I-20 is valid and you are living within the United States, you are not expected or required to renew your student visa.
However, if you travel outside the United States with an expired student visa, you must renew it otherwise you will not be allowed back in. It is a good practice to ensure that your student visa and your I-20 are always updated even if you don’t plan on traveling outside the United States. This is key because you may have an emergency situation that may force you to travel – and if your student visa is not updated, you may have to spend a lot of time and money trying to get it renewed at the last minute.
Steps to Renew a Student Visa in the United States
The process of renewing a student visa in the United States is a lot similar to the process of applying for a new student visa. Below are the key steps:
Step 1: Fill in the DS-160 visa application
The first step in renewing your student visa is filling out the DS-160 application. This is the same application you applied for when you initially applied for your student visa in the United States. Make sure you fill out the form correctly and print it out.
Step 2: Book a Visa Appointment at the Local U.S. Embassy
Unless you are experiencing extenuating circumstances, you must file your student visa renewal application at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Visa appointments are booked online at the website of your local U.S. embassy. Make sure you pick an appointment that is early enough to avoid unnecessary delays.
Step 3: Gather Required Documents
The embassy website will list all the documents that you must bring for your interview. Take your time to review the instructions carefully and gather the correct documents. Failure to produce the right documents may result in a rejection of your visa application. Some of the common documents required when a student is renewing their visa include the following:
- A passport that is valid for at least six months
- A passport photo
- The I-20 form
- Proof of financial support
- Proof of visa fee payment
- A letter of support from the international students’ office in your school
Once you have all the documents required, wait for the date of your visa interview. Make sure you arrive on time – failure to show up on time will result in the forfeiture of your slot and you may be forced to wait for a long time before you get another slot.
The validity of your student visa will – as mentioned above – be determined by the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate. Typically, students tend to renew their visas once or twice during the entire period of their studies. However, make sure you stay updated on the student visa requirements for your specific country because these tend to change often.
Transitioning to Other Visa Types in the United States
Once you complete your studies, you are required to leave the United States or transition to another visa type. It is important to note that even if your student visa is valid, you cannot continue staying in the United States if your duration of status has expired. In other words, you cannot stay in the United States beyond the period indicated on your I-20 form unless you change your visa type.
What are the visa options that a student can transition to in the United States? Well, if you intend to continue staying in the United States after the end of your studies, you must have a clear reason for doing so. Are you looking for work experience? Do you want to pursue further education? The answer to these questions will enable you to choose the best kind of visa to transition to.
Common visa types that international students transition to at the end of their studies include the following:
- H1-B work visa – Once an international student has exhausted the allocated period of legal stay in the U.S., the H1-B work visa is a good option to explore next. The process of acquiring this visa type is elaborate and often expensive, but in brief, a student must find an employer in the United States who is willing to “sponsor” that visa. The employer files and pays for the visa, and if approved, the former international student can legally work in the U.S. for a period of 6 years maximum. Check out our work permit guide to learn more about this.
- IR1 spousal visa – This visa route is only available to foreign citizens who are married or intend to marry an American citizen. While some people are tempted to get into fake marriages for the sake of getting the visa, you are strongly advised against doing such because you will be required to provide substantial evidence of the authenticity of your relationship. Obtaining this visa fraudulently may also lead to legal problems including deportation.
In addition to these visa types, you may also choose to continue further studies. If, for example, you complete your undergraduate studies, you can choose to apply for a master or PhD degree. Joining another program of study will allow you to maintain your duration of status, hence you will be able to stay for a longer period of time in the United States. If you live in the U.S. for long enough, you may be able to file for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.
How to Renew a Student Permit in Canada
Apart from the United States, Canada is another popular study destination for international students. To study in Canada, you are required to obtain a student permit via the Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country.
If your student permit expires while you are a student in Canada, you have the option of extending the permit even when you are within that country. The student permit renewal is done via the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. The cost for the student permit renewal is around 230 Canadian dollars.
Step 1: Create an Account on the IRCC Website and Gather Required Documents
Before you apply to renew your student permit, you must create an account on the IRCC website. You are required to complete a questionnaire before viewing the documents checklist. All documents must be in English or translated into English. Some of the common documents you should have include the following:
- Letter of enrolment – This indicates the nature of your studies and the amount of time required to complete them.
- Proof of financial support – You must provide bank statements showing at least 10,000 Canadian dollars. Alternatively, you may provide a letter from a scholarship fund or your employer specifying the amount they can provide you with.
- A copy of your passport – The passport must be valid at the time of application.
- A passport photo – This must meet the specified standards.
Other documents that may be required include biometrics, a medical exam report, and a letter of explanation specifying any significant information that may affect your application.
Step 2: Complete the Student Permit Extension Form
Once you have all the documents in order, the next step is to fill out the online application form. In this form, you will be asked to fill out a number areas including the following:
- Current mailing address
- Institution’s DLI (designated learning institution) number
- Duration of expected study
- Cost of studies
- Funds available
Once you have correctly completed every section of the online application, you can proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Submit Your Application
Once you complete all sections of the application and provide the required documentation, you can submit your application and wait for approval.
Step 4: What to Do After Student Permit Renewal
Depending on the university you attend in Canada, you may be required to do a few things once you get a new permit. These include:
- Updating the export date of your new permit in your school’s student database
- Extending the student insurance number if you have it
- Applying for a Temporary Resident Visa if your country requires it
These are some of the key steps for renewing your Canadian student permit. If you have any questions at any point in the visa renewal process, you are always welcome to seek further clarification from your university’s international students office.
How to Renew a Student Visa in the United Kingdom
Like Canada and the United States, the United Kingdom is a popular destination for many foreign students. With prestigious universities such as Cambridge and Oxford, it is easy to see why international students flock to the United Kingdom for their higher education.
To qualify for a student visa extension in the United Kingdom, you need to meet the following criteria:
- Must already be in the United Kingdom on a student visa (Tier 4)
- Must have an unconditional offer in an accredited university – this should be demonstrated through the possession of a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) number
- If you intend to pursue further studies, you must show that those studies are at a higher level than the current ones. However, the following groups of students are not required to show that they are pursuing their education at a higher level than the previous one:
- Those who are resitting exams or repeating failed modules
- Those who are applying to a new institution because their previous one lost its student sponsorship license
- Those who are resuming their studies after working as a student union sabbatical offer
- Those who are completing a doctorate
If you fall under one of the categories listed above, it is highly recommended that you begin preparing for your visa extension application early. Your application should be submitted before your current visa expires but not by more than three months early.
Failure to renew your student visa on time is considered a criminal offense. If you stay in the United Kingdom for more than 30 days with an expired visa, you may be banned from visiting the UK for 12 months or more. Visa extensions usually take around 6 to 8 weeks, so students are advised to plan their travel plans accordingly. You should avoid traveling beyond the United Kingdom during the time you will be waiting for your visa extension to be approved.
Below are the key steps you need to take if you are considering extending your student visa in the United Kingdom:
Step 1: Prepare Financial Documents
Unless you have been living in the United Kingdom legally for more than 12 months, you will be required to provide evidence that you have sufficient funds to cater for your tuition and living expenses.
If your parents or guardians are catering for your fees and living expenses, you will need to provide their bank statements showing that the required amount of money has been in their account for at least 28 days.
If your funding comes from a sponsor or scholarship body, you must provide a letter showing the amounts you can expect to receive from them. The tuition and living expenses will vary depending on the university and its location within the United Kingdom. Some places, such as London, are substantially more expensive hence you will need to show evidence of funds that will meet the corresponding level of expenses.
Step 2: Gather Required Documents
Besides financial proof of your ability to support your studies in the United Kingdom, you will also need to provide additional documents that include the following:
- A valid passport
- A BRP card
- Previous certificates and transcripts
- Evidence of English proficiency
Some students may also be asked to provide additional documents such as a letter of consent from parents for those who are minors, official translations of documents that are not in English, etc.
Step 3: Submit Your Application Online
Once you have prepared all the documents required, the next step is submitting your student visa renewal application. This must be done on the official website by the UK government.
During your application submission, you will need to pay an application fee of 450 British pounds as well as the health surcharge. The cost of your health surcharge will depend on a number of factors that include your nationality, level of studies, etc. You can calculate the amount of your health surcharge using the official calculator.
In addition to the application fee, you must also prove your identity using biometrics or using the UK Immigration ID check app.
Applications normally take 8 weeks – but you can request for an expedited processing if needed. To begin your application for a UK student visa extension, visit the official website.
How to Renew a Student Visa in Germany
While not as popular as the United States or the United Kingdom, countries in the European Union also attract a substantial number of international students. In Germany, for instance, foreign students must obtain a student visa before they are allowed to pursue their studies there. If your student visa in Germany expires, you need to follow the guidelines below to extend or renew it.
The policies and documentation will vary slightly depending on where your host institution is located in Germany. But in general, you will need to follow the steps below:
Step 1: Gather Required Documents
It is highly recommended that you start your visa renewal process at least a month before expiration. First, you will need to identify the documents required by the relevant visa office in your state in Germany. Some of the common documents include the following:
- Proof of enrollment in a German university
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of residence / accommodation contract
- Visa extension form
- Passport photo
- Academic transcripts
Step 2: Have Proof of Financial Support
In addition to the above documents, you must provide proof of funding for your tuition and living expenses. The amount will vary depending on the state your university is in, but it is a good idea to have at least 10,000 Euros in the bank. The money should have been there for a period of 3 months.
Another way to show proof of financial support is demonstrating that you have a stable source of income every month.
Step 3: Submit your Application
Applications are typically submitted at the local visa office where you will do an interview with the relevant officer. You will also submit your biometric information at this time. The visa renewal processing takes anything between one month and three months.
To learn more about student visas in Germany, check out the Study in Germany website.
As an international student, it is essential for you to renew your visa on a timely basis. Failure to do so may result in legal problems and unnecessary expenses. If you are not sure where to begin with the visa renewal process, you can always consult the international students office in your school and the official websites of relevant governments.
At 8B, we support African students to access the best resources and funding to make their international studies enriching. Get in touch with us today to begin your journey to study abroad.