Guide To All The Essential Study Abroad Documents
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Guide To All The Essential Study Abroad Documents

Written by Taru Medha

As much as an application to a university abroad is about your academic competence, it is also about submitting the right information and documents at each stage. Sometimes, these are official documents that can only be issued by institutions and governing bodies in your home country so you need to be prepared to get these before you travel.

So, if you’ve just been handed a list of requirements and are not sure what they mean, don’t worry, this guide will take you through what each document is and what they should and should not include.

For the university

#1 Academic transcripts

The academic transcript is an official document issued by your previous university that details all the modules you studied in each year and the marks (or grades) you achieved. An academic transcript acts as proof of education and academic performance.

It must be on official letter-headed paper, stamped and signed by the registry at the university.

In some cases, the university you’re applying to for your postgraduate studies may specify the language they want the transcript to be submitted in. If your transcript is in another language, you’ll have to get it translated by a certified translator and submit both the original and translation.

If you are applying for a postgraduate course before completing your current degree, you’ll probably have to submit a provisional certificate as part of your initial application. You must submit a final transcript once you’ve completed your degree.

Universities accept both scanned versions of paper transcripts and official e-transcripts.

#2 Language test results

If you are planning to study a postgraduate course in your non-native language, your university will ask you to submit a language test result as proof that you’ll be able to understand the course content and produce high-quality work in that language.

Much like an academic transcript, your language test result certificate will also detail each aspect of your test (usually listening, reading, writing and speaking) and your individual score for each section. Your certificate will also specify your cumulative final score. How your score is calculated depends on the kind of language test you take. They can be in the form of a numerical mark (IELTS 7.0) or a proficiency level (CEFR B1).

Your university will specify a list of acceptable language tests but some widely accepted English language tests are the IELTS, PTE Academic, Cambridge Certificate and TOEFL. You can read our guide on international language tests to find out more.

If you require a visa to study in the country you’re applying to, the immigration office will also ask for a copy of your language test result as part of your application.

#3 Supporting documents

You will also need a CV, a research proposal and two references to complete a PhD application. However, we have not categorised them as official documents because they are not issued by an institution or governing body.

For the visa application

#1 Letter of Acceptance

Once you’ve completed your application and have been accepted into a university, you’ll need a letter of confirmation of admission to be able to apply for a visa.

Depending on the country you are applying to, this can either be a simple letter of acceptance (on official letter-headed paper) issued by your postgraduate university or a unique identification number (like the CAS in the UK) which you’re then required to include in your visa application.

Having a letter of acceptance is the most important part of your visa application, however it is not a guarantee of a successful result. You can minimise the risk of refusal by making sure you have all the correct documents in the right format and order.

#2 Proof of funds

To apply for a visa, you need to prove you have the means to pay for your university tuition fee and your living costs for the duration of your stay. The immigration office at your destination country will detail the minimum amount you need to show you have.

Immigration offices usually give their own list of accepted documents but bank statements and scholarships letters are the most widely accepted.

  • Bank statements - You can provide bank statements for a set period of time in the past. There are a few considerations you should keep in mind:
    • Some countries only accept bank statements from the students, rather than the person supporting them (such as a sponsor or your parents).
    • You must confirm whether your destination country accepts statements from both savings and current accounts
    • You cannot submit digital copies through net banking. The statements should be on official letter-headed paper, duly stamped and signed by the bank.
  • Scholarship letters - If you have been granted a scholarship, you can use that to prove your financial capacity. Scholarships from governments, universities and private organisations (like charities and trusts) are equally accepted.

#3 Accommodation contracts

Most countries expect you to have confirmed accommodation before you apply for your visa. Depending on where you’re studying will decide whether you have guaranteed student accommodation, but it’s most likely you’ll be renting somewhere on campus. Whether you are renting privately or with your university, your contract will look almost the same

You can find a place and sign the contract online. Make sure your accommodation contract details the following things.

  • Name and surname of the landlord. If you are renting university accommodation, the landlord is the university accommodation services
  • Contact details (phone number and email address) of the landlord (or the university accommodation services)
  • Address of the rented place
  • Duration of the rental agreement (how long you are staying there for)

Please be sure that the place is rented legally, which means it must be registered with the relevant authority in the country you are applying to.

#4 Health insurance

Depending on the country you apply to, you might have to show that you have valid health insurance in case of any medical emergencies. In the UK, international students are eligible for the same national health benefits as home students for a fee that is a part of the visa application. In this case, you do not need to submit any health insurance documents. However, in countries like the US and Canada, which do not have a central healthcare system available to students, you need to show you will be able to cover any emergency medical costs.

Along with the documents mentioned above, you will need to submit a copy of the same language test result that we talked about in the university section. Once you’ve been accepted to a university, you probably don’t need to submit each of the individual elements (like the transcripts, personal statements etc) to the immigration office again. However, it is a good idea to keep them at hand, in case they are expressly requested during any stage of your visa application.

Now that you know exactly what you need as an international student, hit that send button on the application and get ready to experience life as a postgraduate student >wherever you plan to be.


Last Updated: 15 March 2023