The requirements for each country are different, including whether you can apply for your visa via mail, via a visa agency or whether you are required to appear in-person at the Consulate or Embassy to submit your visa application or pick up your passport with the visa once it is processed. Even once you have gathered all of your documentation and completed the visa application, consulates generally require 4-6 weeks for processing. Some consulates require up to 3 months for processing.
You should read carefully to determine which type of visa you need. Visa types include: tourist, business, and student. Some European countries will allow U.S. citizens to visit for short periods of time without a visa such as study abroad programs during the summer for less than 90 days. First, you should determine whether or not you will need a visa to enter your country of choice before you apply, since not all countries require a visa.
An excellent resource to determine whether or not you will need a visa is the U.S. Department of State's Foreign Entry Requirements website: https://www.travel.state.gov/content/studentsabroad/en.html
You can also review information provided on the ISEP website by country at: https://www.isep.org/students/Placed/country_handbooks.asp
Obtaining a Visa
Do your research early and determine whether you will need a visa and also, what you will need in order to process the visa application. Visit the website for the Embassy or Consulate of the country where you will be studying and any other countries you plan to visit. To begin the visa process, we recommend that you use the consulate or embassy website for information. Each consulate has jurisdictions based on regions within the United States. For example, residents of the state of Kansas must apply for French visas at the French Consulate located in Chicago. For a list of some embassy/consulate websites for the most popular destinations for WSU students click HERE.
Some consulates require that you apply in person; others will allow you to apply by mail. If you apply by mail, it is always advisable to use some sort of Express Service (again, each consulate will outline their policies on which services you may use. Some consulates will allow you to use UPS; some will only permit Federal Express Mail). It is important to use a mail provider like the ones listed above because they offer package tracking, which allows you to check on the status and delivery of your package. Do not send your visa application through regular mail as you could risk losing your passport and other important documents. If you must apply in person, then you will need to make travel arrangements at your own expense to visit the Consulate.
Other consulates allow or require you to apply via a visa agency, such as students applying for student visas for China. Visa agencies will apply for the student visa upon your behalf rather than you going in-person to the Consulate. In these cases, you can contact the Office of International Education study abroad advisor for information on recommended companies based on past student experiences. Students will be responsible for paying any fees to the visa agency in order to have their visas processed.