Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How to Get a Student Visa in Nepal

Way back in April, I wrote about my process of obtaining a student visa in Nepal, covering the long list of steps (and missteps) in Part 1 and Part 2. I wrote about this topic in excruciating detail because, well, the process was excruciating, and I also thought that someone else might find it helpful. It turns out that those visa posts remain some of our most popular blog posts ever, and we have received many emails from people searching for more information on the topic. For a long time I could only offer advice based on my own experience, and I did not care to do more research because I thought that we would not have to go through that process again.

Yeah, about that.

Now, though, I am older and wiser and have been around the proverbial Kathmandu block. I also have a much more complete and detailed data set to share about how to obtain a student visa in Nepal. So, here goes.

As a caveat, this information is based on my personal experiences. I believe it is accurate, but it may not be complete and is subject to change, especially given the current instability of Nepal's politics. If you have anything to add, please leave a note in the comments.

1. Determine which campus you want to attend for classes.

To the best of my knowledge, the only campuses that grant student visas to foreigners are the following:

A) Bishwa Bhasa Campus (Campus of International Languages). Located in central Kathmandu on the same street as the Nepal Tourism Board, this campus is an affiliate of Tribhuvan University, and it is the only campus that grants student visas to people who want to study the Nepali language.

There are two semesters. The summer semester begins on July 16, and the winter semester begins on February 1. Beginning Nepali is offered during both semesters. Classes are held five days per week, Monday through Friday, and are 1.5 hours long. The classes do not get good reviews in terms of language learning.

You must pay for the entire semester (there is no option for pro-rating), even if you register late. One semester costs $500, which must be deposited in U.S. dollars in the school's bank account at Nabil Bank. Your study visa will be valid though the end of the semester for which you register.

For a detailed list of required documents, fees, and registration timetables, please see this page on the school's website.

Contact information
General: vishwo@biva.wlink.com.np and +977-1-4228916

B) Kathmandu University Centre for Art and Design. This affiliate of KU is located in Mandikhatar, which is north of the ring road and east of the new Bhat-Bhateni Super Market in Maharajgunj.

The Centre offers non-credit "short courses" for expats seeking study visas. Unlike the Bishwa Basha language campus, at the Centre you can begin and end a course whenever you like. This flexible system means that you can easily be on a tourist visa for the allowed five months and on a study visa for the remaining seven months every calendar year, with no worries about semesters. Classes cost $100 per month, and you will pay upfront for the number of months you require. You can pay in rupees.

The Centre offers classes in basic drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, and photography. To receive student visas, foreign students must attend classes twice a week, and classes range from 1.5 to 3 hours each. Although the twice-weekly class requirement is strictly enforced, you can choose from a range of class options, including independent study arrangements if you are a more advanced artiste.

The staff at the Centre are extremely helpful and kind, and they speak excellent English. Unlike at Bishwa Basha, they walk you through the process and make it relatively painless. Once you hand over all the required documents and fees, the turnaround time for a visa should be about two weeks.

Contact information
General: kuart@wlink.com.np
Gopal: +977-9841432719

C) Kathmandu University Department of Music. Although this campus is based in Bhaktapur, they offer practical music classes for foreigners seeking student visas at a location near Ratna Park in central Kathmandu.

As at the Centre for Art and Design, the Department of Music allows you to choose when you begin and end classes. Classes also cost $100 per month, and twice-weekly attendance is mandatory. I know someone who took group guitar lessons at the Ratna Park location, and his report was positive. He mentioned that most classes are offered in Bhaktapur (very inconvenient for those living in Kathmandu) and that he had to specifically request information about the guitar class held in Ratna Park.

Contact information
General: kudepmus@mail.com.np
Raju Hyaumikha: rhyaumika@yahoo.com and +977- 9841423789


2. Gather required documents.

After you make a decision about which campus to join, you will need to gather all of the necessary documents. To the best of my knowledge, the basic set of required documents includes:

A) Application form from campus that you plan to attend.
B) 4 copies of current valid passport of each person to receive a student visa (i.e. if you plan for your spouse and children to be dependents on your student visa, then you will need to provide four copies of every person's passport).
C) 4 copies of current valid visa of each person to receive a student visa.
D) 2 passport-size photos of each person to receive a student visa.
E) 1 copy of marriage certificate if you are including your spouse as a dependent on your visa.
F) 1 copy of a "No Objection" letter from your respective embassy. The U.S. Embassy gives these freely as a form letter, but we do not know about letters from other embassies. To request a "No Objection" letter from the U.S. Embassy you can email the consular section at ConsKtm@state.gov
G) 4 copies of bank statement from a local bank in Nepal. This is not money that you will be spending on your course or your visa -- this is simply a mandatory balance that you must keep in a local bank account. Be aware that different campuses impose different requirements about bank balances: Bishwa Basha requires a balance of $3,000, plus an additional $2,000 for each family member who will be a dependent on the visa; KU Centre for Art and Design requires a flat $1,500 for six months of courses and $3,000 for 12 months, with no additional money required for dependents.

In addition to these documents, Bishwa Basha also requires photocopies of transcripts from the highest degree you earned.

One tip: make sure you have a duplicate copy of every single document that you submit. This is good standard practice for navigating any bureaucracy in Nepal, but you will also need to submit many of these documents to the Department of Immigration in the last step.

3. Pick up Ministry of Education letter.

After you submit all of your paperwork and fees, the campus will process your application and obtain a letter from the Ministry of Education that recommends you for a student visa. The campus should notify you when your letter is ready to be picked up at the campus. Plan for the turnaround time to take at least one week.

4. Go to Department of Immigration to obtain visa.

Once you have the official letter from the Ministry of Education, you can take that letter, along with your passport, passport photos, and all supporting documentation (see Step 2 above) to the Department of Immigration. There you will fill out a visa application form and pay for the visa itself. You will pay upfront for all months requested, and you can pay in rupees. The cost differs for single-entry and multiple-entry visas, but I recommend always getting a multiple-entry visa as a precautionary measure. You can read more about student visas on the Department of Immigration's website here.

The Department of Immigration may be able to process your visa that same day, but it is more likely that you will submit your application and fee and then have to return the next day to pick it up.

Some Points to Note

We have heard that it is not possible (or perhaps just very difficult) to add a dependent on a student visa after you have gone through the process of receiving one. If you plan to have dependents receive visas through your student visa, it may be necessary to have them included in every step of your initial application rather than planning to just add them later.

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 my experience here. Also, you may need a "No Objection" letter from your embassy open an account -- see 2.F above for details.

Most schools are fairly serious about attendance, demanding 70 or 80 percent attendance to pass the course. Of course, you will receive your visa before your course begins, and we have never heard of a school finding a way to revoke someone's visa for truancy. On the other hand, if you fail to show for class, the school is likely to take note and refuse to enroll you in the future. If you are unable to commit to attending classes, you may want to consider getting a research visa instead.

I know the process sounds complicated and a little overwhelming (because it is), but I am here to say that with some patience and planning it can be done. Good luck!

If you are looking for information on getting a research visa in Nepal, check out our post tomorrow.

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