International non-EU / EEA students need a visa to study in Europe: how to get one and where to start?

- 2021.09.02

Browsing the Internet may lead to the opinion that the visa process is very complex and time-consuming, but it all depends on which country you are from and which European country you intend to study in. In principle, it all starts with a choice and then moves to the nearest embassy of the country of your choice in your country. What documents do you need to submit and in what order, when do you need to apply for a visa and what is the process for obtaining a residence permit in a European country? – You’ll find everything in this article.

General provisions

Dreaming of studying in Europe? Or maybe you already know exactly what you want? Exact direction and country? Each European country that offers study programmes for international non-EU/EEA students has its own rules for applying and its own requirements for prospective students. Most often, the principle is as follows:

  1. You apply to study at the institution of your choice;
  2. You receive an invitation to study;
  3. You pay your first tuition fee;
  4. The letter of invitation and other documents such as passport, proof of finances, health insurance, etc. (often translated into the language of the country of your choice), you go to the embassy of that country in your home country and fill in your visa application.
  5. Once you have received confirmation of your visa, you’ll look for a place to live in the country where you’ll study.
  6. When you arrive, you’re in a hurry to process your residence permit.

In a nutshell, this is roughly how it works, and you can read about the specific requirements of each European country and the exceptions below.


All non-EU and EEA nationals need a visa to study in Austria and the responsibility for applying for a visa falls on the students themselves. As the visa application process can take from few weeks to a few months, you should start as early as possible. You will need to apply for a visa at the responsible Austrian embassy in your country.

Arriving students who are third-country nationals and plan to study and stay for more than 6 months need a “Residence Permit – Student”.  You can apply for this permit once you have entered the country and are legally staying there (e.g. if you arrived with a visa), or you can contact the Austrian embassy in your country of residence before you arrive. It is important to know that a student residence permit does not give you the right to work in Austria! This request must be made separately and is only possible in exceptional cases.

You may need the following documents to apply for a visa:


As in most European countries, international students need a visa to study in Belgium. If you need a visa, the registration office will provide you with a letter of authorisation to register, which you can attach to the student visa application you submit to your Belgian embassy or consulate. All students must also register in their home community within eight days of arriving in Belgium. Students need to apply for a C visa for stays longer than three months.

To apply for a C visa, you will usually need the following documents:


Non-Nordic and non-EU/EEA nationals need a visa to enter and stay in Denmark for up to 3 months. If you are staying for more than 3 months, you also need a residence permit. A study residence permit gives you the right to work (limited hours per week) in Denmark.

To apply for a visa or residence permit, apply at the Danish representation (embassy or consulate-general) in your country of origin or in the country where you have lived for the last 3 months. In countries where there is no Danish representation, you can contact the mission of the Schengen country that represents Denmark in the country concerned.

Once you have paid the tuition fee, you will receive your admission to the programme and your residence permit online: an email will be sent to you with your application form. Once you have applied online, you will need to create a case ID number, pay the application fees, complete your part of the application, submit your documents and have your biometric data (face photo and fingerprints) taken at the Danish representations, visa application centres (VFS) or the countries that represent Denmark.

All residence, study and work permits must be issued and accepted before you arrive in Denmark. All documents must be translated by an authorised person before submission. So in order to study in Denmark, you need not only to have all the necessary documents for a visa, but also for living in Denmark, and if you want to work during your studies, you also need a separate permit, all of which need to be prepared as early as possible and have all your plans in place.


If you are not an EU/EEA national, you must obtain a residence and study permit for Finland from the nearest Finnish embassy or consulate in your country. You can apply electronically – online – but biometric identification requires a visit to the embassy/consulate. A financial statement is also required when applying for a residence permit. You will be asked to prove that you have enough funds to stay in Finland. You must also attach a copy of your comprehensive health insurance to your application.


You must have the following documents before you arrive in Finland:


The residence permit is for all international students, except European Union nationals who wish to stay in France. When a student undertakes to come to France to study there, he/she receives a D visa from the French Embassy to study in France. Special cards are issued for residence in France. The production time for residence cards usually ranges from 7 to 8 weeks from the date of issuing or receiving a favourable opinion.

The visa is issued by the French consulate in your country of residence. The residence permit is issued by the prefecture where you are studying or living in France. The French consulate will grant you a visa corresponding to your reason for being in France (studies, traineeship, etc.). Moreover, once a long-stay visa has been obtained, it will still need to be validated in France no later than three months after arrival.

To get a student residence permit, you must:


International students coming from a non-EU country need, with a few exceptions, to go to another German embassy and apply for a visa to enter Germany. This visa can be obtained from the relevant German embassy abroad. Here’s a list of the documents you’ll need to apply for a visa:

All persons moving to Germany (EU, EEA and non-EU citizens) who arrive in Germany must register with the responsible resident registration office in their city.


All incoming students from non-EU countries must apply for a visa before entering Greece. To apply for a visa, a letter of acceptance from the European Department of Educational Programmes is first issued and sent by email and regular mail. Then, in order to complete the formal application procedure, you should contact the nearest authorised Greek embassy, where you will also be provided with information on all the necessary documents, the main ones being:

After obtaining a visa, you should apply to the Migration Service for a residence permit. You can also do it online by following the instructions. You will need to attach your learning contract and a copy of your ID to your application form.


Non-EU students living outside Italy need to apply online for a pre-registration visa. As established by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR), pre-registration applications will be submitted online via the Universitaly platform. You will also need to attach the following documents to your application:

International students who do not submit their pre-registration application on time will not be able to study at the university and obtain a visa.

The visa application must be completed in advance at the competent diplomatic-consular mission.

Once you have your visa, you will need to upload it to the university portal and apply for a residence permit. Health insurance is required to apply for a residence permit. You can also do this by registering with the Italian National Health Service (“SSN”). The next step is the residence permit. You will need the following documents:


You need to apply for a national visa (D) before you arrive in Lithuania and a temporary residence permit after you arrive.

You can apply for a visa at the Visa Centre of the Republic of Lithuania or at the Embassy. If there is no legal representation of the Republic of Lithuania in your country, you will have to travel elsewhere where the Republic of Lithuania is legally represented.

A Lithuanian Visa D usually costs €80 ($94), while a residence permit costs an extra €28 ($33). The average processing time for a visa is two weeks, but you can start your application up to six months before you travel.

You can fill in the application form and submit the required documents online:

The second step is to get a temporary residence permit for Lithuania, where you’ll need the same documents and a few additional ones:

As an international student in Lithuania, you will be able to work up to 20 hours a week for the duration of your studies, and full-time during university holidays. These permits are automatically granted with your Visa D and residence permit, so you won’t need to apply for any additional work permits.


If you choose distance learning at the Baltic Institute of Technology, the steps to obtain a visa will be waiting for you only after your studies and only if you take advantage of the opportunity of a traineeship in Europe. In this case, you will only need a Schengen visa, which is much shorter and simpler, and your employer will take care of the residence permit.

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The Netherlands

To study in the Netherlands, you may need to apply for an MVV (entry visa) and/or a study residence permit. It is great to note that a number of Dutch universities take the visa process into their own hands, so that students don’t have to go to the migration services or other authorities themselves. You need to submit all the documents you need for the visa, plus the application form, when you apply to the university and just wait and hope for a positive and favourable answer.


To legally stay in Spain, you need to acquired a student residence card (NIE). This document allows you to stay in Spain during your studies and to travel within the European Union and to countries that have signed agreements with Spain or the EU on the free movement of people.

Before coming to Spain, you should apply for a student visa at the Spanish consulate in your home country or in your country of legal residence. You should provide documents proving that you have been admitted to the study programme, as well as personal documents such as your passport, financial statements, etc. You must apply for a D student visa.

If you arrive in Spain, you should go to a police station within 30 days of your arrival and ask for a student residence permit.

Spanish university degree programmes offer a full programme of Spanish language and culture courses, which can be combined according to the periods of study or the number of hours you need to apply for a visa for a period of more than six months, 20 hours a week, for full-time study.

To apply for a study visa, prospective students should:

To apply for a study visa, you need the following documents:

  1. Valid passport.
  2. A document confirming admission to an officially recognised public or private training centre for the purposes of study, research or training.
  3. The content of the study, training or research programme the applicant intends to pursue.
  4. A medical insurance policy covering medical expenses and repatriation in the event of an accident or sudden illness for the entire duration of your stay in Spain.
  5. A medical certificate stating that the applicant does not suffer from a disease requiring quarantine under international health rules.
  6. Certificate of solvency for the relevant period, if necessary to cover the cost of returning to your country of origin.
  7. A criminal record issued by the authorities of the country of origin or the country where the applicant has lived for the past five years.


Contact the Swedish university and get a confirmation letter. Once you have been accepted at a Swedish university, you will receive an acceptance letter for your visa/residence permit application.

Step 1 – Pay your first tuition fee. Your application for a permit will not be processed until it is completed.

Step 2 – Apply for a residence permit. Online applications through the Swedish Migration Agency’s website are recommended as the easiest and fastest way. It usually takes between two and three months to process an application. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you apply as soon as you have paid your tuition fees or received confirmation of your scholarship.

Step 3 – You will be invited for an interview at the Swedish Embassy or Consulate in your home country or where you live.

For your application to be approved, you must:


Students must have a study visa before entering Switzerland.

To be eligible for a study visa, candidates must meet certain conditions, in particular:


Compliance with the above conditions does not necessarily mean that the visa will automatically be issued. In all cases, the criteria of the competent federal and cantonal authorities shall apply.

The Reception Service cannot intervene in this procedure with the authorities (embassy, consulate, Population Service). As these steps can take between two and three months, students are advised to complete them as soon as possible.

United Kingdom

If you are planning to go to the UK to study at a university, you should apply for a visa before you go, and the earlier you do this the better, as it can take time not only to gather all the necessary documents, but also to submit certain certificates, pay fees, etc.

The permit/visa you need will depend on the type of course.

To attend full-time courses for more than six months, you need to apply for a student visa (according to the student route). How to do it and where to start?

To apply for a student visa in the UK, and to do it on time, you will need to prepare all your financial documents, personal documents and application forms in advance.

In addition to the application itself, you will need to submit the following documents:

All documents must be submitted in English and the following regulations apply to the translation:

  1. Certification that the translation is an accurate translation of the original document.
  2. Date of translation.
  3. The full name and signature of the translator or an authorised employee of the translation company.
  4. Contact details of the translator or translation company.
  5. The translation must be verified by the Ministry of the Interior.

Biometric information: most people applying for a visa to the UK will need to provide biometric information, which consists of fingerprinting and a digital photo taken at the time of your appointment.

Credibility interview: you may be asked to participate in a credibility interview. The interview will be short (about 5 minutes) and should also be video-recorded during your appointment with UK visa and immigration staff based in the UK. The questions will ask about your immigration, education/employment history, study and post-study plans and financial circumstances.


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