Student exchanges


Students going on International Exchanges may need an 'Exchange Student' visa.

Visas are only required if you are studying outside of Europe, or if you are a non-EU student (to study or work within Europe).

You cannot apply for a visa until you have been formally accepted by your host university and you will be sent an acceptance letter normally around April/May time.

Visa Process

You are responsible for applying for a visa if you need one. It’s best to apply as soon as possible once your exchange place is confirmed. You must meet all visa requirements and in plenty of time. It may take weeks or months to go through the process and some countries, like the USA, require an interview in London which you should factor into you plans.

If you have questions about the process of applying for your visa you should contact the appropriate embassy directly. The Go Abroad team are not qualified to offer advice regarding visa applications, and they can’t apply for you. If you’re not a British passport holder you should make sure you follow visa regulations and procedures appropriate for your nationality.

Student visa 

A student visa or study permit is a document issued by your host country allowing you to enter the country as a student.

To obtain a student visa:

  1. Research your host country’s visa requirements

    1. Not all countries require a student visa and the requirements differ according to your own country of citizenship
    2. Some countries will not allow you to apply for your visa until 3 months before your departure date
  2. Gain admission to your partner university
    1. Once you receive your formal letter of acceptance, submit it with your visa application to the appropriate office and keep a copy for your records
    2. Processing times may be several months
  3. For some partner universities, you have to submit your visa application with your application for admission

Visas for the United States

The USA visa system is complicated and requires you to produce financial proof at an early stage within the application process.

Original financial documents are required to show you can cover the cost of your time in that country. Parents/relatives can be used as sponsors if required.

Your host university will inform you what amount requires to be evidenced, but you can see an approximate amount if you view the relevant notes of guidance.

Your host university will send you a visa document which you require to take to the Embassy for your interview. All students going to the USA must attend for an interview.

Visas for Japan or China

Japanese and Chinese universities apply on your behalf to their government for a Certificate of Eligibility which you then take in person to the relevant Embassy or Consulate for your visa.

Visas for other countries outside Europe

For most other countries the visa system is reasonably straightforward and application is often online.


You will not need a visa for travelling within the EU if you are a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

If your exchange is outside of the EU (eg. Turkey) or you are a national of another country, you may require a visa for your Erasmus period - please ensure that you contact your local embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting to find out if you need a visa and, if so, how and when you must apply for it. Edinburgh Global at Edinburgh cannot advise on this.

Please ensure that you apply for your visa in plenty of time before your Erasmus exchange or placement as applications may take several months to process. Normally, along with other documentation, you will be required to provide written confirmation of your acceptance from your host university or organisation, as well as proof of your start and end dates.

Other visa types to consider:

Multiple-entry visa

If you plan to travel outside your host country during your exchange, make sure that your student visa is a multiple entry visa. Before leaving Edinburgh, find out about the visa requirements for any other countries you plan to visit.

Work visa

If you plan to work in your host country during or after your exchange, check with your host country’s consulate or embassy about your eligibility to work, and any related visa requirements.

Many countries don’t allow international students to work while on a student visa.

It’s best not to assume that you’ll find work at your exchange destination. Instead, assume that you won’t find work which will mean if you do find work and earn some money it will be a bonus. Working conditions and conventions in your host country may be different from those in the UK. Do some research to find out about the work culture:

  • How many days a week can you work?
  • How many hours per day?
  • Do you get time off or holidays?