That is what I told myself when I thought studying abroad would be easy!
But holy crap on a cracker! (As Penny would say from the Big Bang Theory) I have gotten a lot done in the past couple of months.
However, if you think applying to study abroad is easy than you’re in for a huge bazinga yourself! There are many things you have to do before you can study abroad, and it seems us students sometimes underestimate what is actually involved. That is why I thought I would write a post on all of the things I had to do in order to go, so I can help students who are planning to study abroad in the future!
This week I will be talking about Permits, Planes, Payments and Phones! I have already wrote about how I applied to the exchange program at SMU and what I had to do to get my courses approved, so for the next few posts I will focus on how I applied to my work permit, renewed my passport, booked my flight and train tickets, what I will be doing in terms of a cell phone and also how I will be making payments while abroad.
PART ONE: RESIDENCE PERMIT/PASSPORT RENEWAL
In order to apply for my work permit, I had to wait until I received all of the proper documentation and forms such as a copy of my passport, letter of acceptance, proof of medical insurance, and a bank statement and proof of scholarship (if you received a scholarship).
Your passport must be valid within three months of your departure from the country that you are study abroad at, so for me that meant I had to renew my passport very early (as it expires October 2014 and I will be leaving Sweden at the end of June). You can only renew your passport as early as one year before the expiry, so that meant I had to wait until mid-October to request a new passport. It’s quite easy to renew your passport, as long as it’s not damaged or lost, you can request a new one with ease. All you have to do is fill out the renewal forms, get passport photos done (I got mine done at Walmart) and then go to the passport office and present identification and your old passport. Passport offices can be busy so it is good to allow a lot of time for yourself. The office (where I live at least) is only open Monday- Friday from 8-4 so this made me miss time from work however it had to be done! I paid for the express processing of my passport so I could receive it in a week (it does cost extra to do this). They gave me a slip that they said I had to present to receive my passport, however if I could not pick it up myself, I could give permission to someone else to pick it up by signing/authorizing the bottom of the slip. I authorized my parents to pick it up for me and they picked it up no problem. The cost of my renewed passport was around $250.
The next thing on my list was to get proof of medical insurance as well as official bank statements. My particular school in Jonkoping provides 24 hour medical coverage while I am in Sweden and they sent proof of this along with my acceptance letter in the mail. However, I also had to receive medical coverage when I am traveling outside of Sweden, so to do this I had my advisor write my a letter stating I was studying abroad, and then I presented that letter and my acceptance letter to MSI in order to have extended out of country coverage. If you go to MSI’s website there is an email address where you can send this, or you can give them a call. After emailing MSI, they sent an official document in the mail to me stating my proof of coverage.
To receive official bank statements, I called my banks 1-800 number to have them send the statements through the mail. My bank charged $5 per statement, and they came within 7-10 business days.
In terms of a scholarship, I do not have a scholarship that is supporting my whole trip so I did not have to provide that documentation, however if you did need this just ask your advisor/school for the documentation.
After I received all of these documents, I was able to apply for my residence permit. You can apply for a residence permit by sending your application in the mail or online. It is suggested you send your application online as it is received and processed quicker.
When I went to the website, I choose the “apply online” button. If you are worried about applying online and having your information such as passport and bank statement out in the open, don’t worry. They ask you a few questions before giving you a username and password that is secure and does not allow anyone besides the migration board to have access to your information.
Some of the questions on the online application were confusing, but I just answered them the best way I could and I didn’t have any problems. My suggestion is to take a look at the application form they provide on the website (that you can print) before applying online so you can see the questions that are listed and ask your advisor beforehand in case you need clarification.
Once you get through the questions on the online application form, it will ask you to go over all of the questions you have answered before you provide the documentation. Make sure to follow all of the directions the website states and carefully examine your information before pressing the “next” button. If something is answered incorrectly on the form, the application will not let you proceed to the next section. So make sure you answer all the required sections.
When you get to the documentation section, upload your forms (acceptance letter, proof of medical insurance, bank statements, scholarship statements and copy of your passport) to the page. Once that is done you will proceed to the payment section (and once you pay you cannot return to your application to make changes, so go over everything carefully to make sure you answer the questions properly).
I ran into one technical difficulty while completing the online application. When I tried to move onto the payment section there was an error message that stated “Something went wrong. This may be due to use of the Back or Forward buttons in browser. Please check data in your application”. This was nothing I had done, because it was a glitch in their online system. Luckily they have a technical support link that allows you to email them with your problem (it is on the Swedish migration board website). When I clicked the link it took me to a page where I could fill out a questionnaire they provide. I gave them my name, email address and pasted what the error message said. The tech support worker got back to me the next day, so they are very prompt. The person said there was a temporary problem with their payment provider, and that I should try again. So I logged back onto my application and the glitch was fixed. Luckily their system is set that you can have 48 hours to complete your application without losing any data that you provided, so I had no problem completing my application. Once I paid for the permit (cost about $60) I hit submit! The website said it could take up to three months to process which made me worry a bit, but I received approval of my permit in two weeks! They sent me a form stating it was approved and told me I should present the form when I go through customs in Sweden. Once I get to Jonkoping, I will go to the migration office and get biometrics done (fingerprints etc) and receive my residence permit card.
So overall, it was a lengthy process, but it all went smoothly for the most part. Just have patience and ask a lot of questions beforehand so you have all the facts and the proper materials.
Hopefully you found this information helpful if you are planning to study abroad. There is so much involved in studying abroad, so I hope you are ready!
If I had to, I would apply all over again….