Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Get a Research Visa in Nepal

Claudine was so kind to walk you through getting a student visa, so the joy of explaining how to procure a research visa in Nepal falls on me.

Now is probably the time to note that we have never actually gone though the process of getting a research visa in Nepal. We did, however, consider it seriously and thus did some detailed research on the process (see -- I think we would make excellent research visa candidates). We believe our information is accurate, but it may not be complete and is subject to change. If you have anything helpful to add, please leave a note in the comments.

1. Choose to obtain a research visa.

Cons:
--A research visa can be more expensive than paying for a combination of tourist visa and student visa over the course of a one-year stay in Nepal.
--Most research visas cover the length of one year. If you need a visa to cover a shorter amount of time, a student visa may fill the gap for a lower cost.

Pros:
--Because research visas are valid for one year, you only need to jump through the bureaucratic visa hoop annually. In contrast, under a combination student and tourist visa plan you will have to dance through the bureaucracy twice per year to switch your status between the two. In addition, we have heard that it is possible to extend certain research projects for additional years, and if this is true, that would likely lessen the burden of extending the research annually.
--If you do not have the free time to attend classes as demanded under the student visa, the research visa is a good option with fewer time constraints. Under a research visa you must maintain contact with your adviser (monthly and in person if you study in the Valley; by email, phone, or fax if you study outside the Valley) and submit quarterly and annual reports, but there are no scheduled classes or mandatory attendance.

2. Visit the Centre for International Relations (CIR) at Tribhuvan University (TU).

You cannot get a valid research visa through any other organization or university. The CIR is located in room 72 on the third floor of TU's Central Office Administration Building in Kirtipur. At the CIR you will pick up a research visa application form (for a fee of 100 rupees). There you can speak to an administrator who will walk you through the application process. Word to the wise: check with the office first to ensure they will be open when you wish to arrive. Given that the processing of your visa will take about five weeks (at least) once you submit your application documents to TU, I suggest beginning this process as soon as possible after you arrive in Nepal (if not before you arrive).

Contact Address and Info (as given on the application form)
Tribhuvan University, Kritipur, Kathmandu, Nepal
Central Administration Building
Third Floor, Room No. 72, Kritipur, Kathmandu, Nepal
Telephone: +977-1-4330840
Fax: +977-1-4332500
Email: tucir@ntc.net.np

3. Complete all elements of the application and submit to CIR.

You must supply CIR with three copies of the following documents.

A) Application Form
Congratulations for spending the 100 rupees to purchase this application form! It is fairly straightforward. Be prepared to list the name, address, and phone number for two references. You must submit a passport photo as part of the form (so, plan to submit four).

B) Short Research Proposal
This should be three to five pages and include the name of the professor you are working with/under at TU. Speak to CIR for more guidance about the specifics of this proposal and how to find a professor with whom to work. In talking to other expats who have successfully procured research visas, I have learned that the proposal should include the following headings:
-Introduction/background or conceptual framework.
-Purpose and objectives.
-Methodology/procedure of study. Description of subject/population studied, including location.
-Schedule/timeline for the study period.

C) Research Budget
Estimate your expenses of study under headings like rent, travel expenses, meals, study materials, miscellaneous, etc. Note that this budget must exceed 5000 USD for an individual and 8000 USD for someone who will add a dependent on the research visa. CIR makes money by charging you a percentage of your budget as a fee. Therefore, you must exceed the budget minimums, but do so by as little as possible if you wish to keep your fee total low. Also note that these budget minimums are subject to change -- they are higher than I was quoted by expats who had procured research visas in years prior.

C) Bank Statement
This bank statement must show 3000 USD per person covered by the visa (researcher plus dependents) deposited in a Nepal bank account. All of this money must be in the account in the name of the researcher, not spread over the accounts of the researcher and dependent(s). To open a bank account, you may need a "No Objection" letter from your embassy (see D below). Opening a bank account in Nepal on a tourist visa involves some road blocks. Do not be deterred and be prepared to assert yourself. For more details, read about Claudine's experience here.

D) Letter of Recommendation from the Concerned Embassy
For Americans, I believe this is the standard, form "No Objection" letter the U.S. Embassy distributes freely. To request a "No Objection" letter from the U.S. Embassy you can email the consular section at ConsKtm@state.gov

E) Letter of Concerned University (only for students and teachers)
The application form is not clear on what this means. I suspect it applies to applicants taking courses for credit or a degree at TU or to applicants who are currently students or teachers at institutions outside of Nepal. Confirm with CIR.

F) Letter of Sponsorship (if applicable)
This is not explained on the application form, but I believe this is applicable if you are receiving funding for your study from an outside source.

G) Photocopies of Passports and Current Valid Visas for Researcher and Dependents

H) Certificate or Transcript of the Highest or Last Degree Received by Researcher

I) For Ph.D. Degree, Enrollment Document from Concerned University

4. Ka-ching -- Pay the fees.

The registration fee is 160 USD for the researcher and 80 USD for a dependent. You will also be charged a fee based on a percentage of the study budget (I believe it is about 10% -- can anyone confirm this?).

5. Put on a bathing suit -- time to swim through the bureaucracy.

Once you have submitted all the appropriate documents, it takes TU about two weeks to process your application. TU then issues a letter to the Ministry of Education which you will probably have to pick up at TU and deliver. After this, the process is a bit unclear, but I believe it involves approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs (this part of the process takes about three additional weeks) and eventually a trip to the Department of Immigration to get the visa into your passport. You must also pay the Department of Immigration a fee for your research visa (plus a fee for dependents) -- I believe this fee is about $60 per month per person. Yes, this is in addition to the fees you paid TU. Also, I am not certain which documents the Department of Immigration will demand in order to issue the final visa, but I advise you to bring a copy of everything you originally submitted to CIR. Remember to always, always keep a copy for yourself. And, as always, bring plenty of passport photos for the researcher and dependents.

6. Comply with the requirements of your research visa.

The CIR application form has the applicant certify as follows:
1. Periodical contact will be maintained with the affiliated institution and CIR.
2. Progress reports on a quarterly basis will be submitted to the CIR through the affiliated institution. A final report of the study along with specimens and photographs will be submitted for the CIR after the completion of the study.
The non-fulfillment of the above terms may result in the discontinuation of the affiliation and all facilities, including the extension of the visa.

I have heard that "periodical contact" entails monthly visits in person to CIR if you are studying in the the Kathmandu Valley and monthly contact by email, phone, or fax if you are studying outside the Valley.

Good luck!

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