By Emma Stiefel for the Minerva Quest
All Minerva students have to pay student visa fees in order to complete the global rotation, but the total amount varies significantly depending on nationality. Some rotation countries raise fees for specific nationalities, increasing costs. On the other hand, if a student is a citizen of a rotation country, they save money by not having to apply for a visa. This interactive chart shows how rotation country visa fees for Minerva students add up over the course of the four year program.
For the best experience, please view this interactive data visualization on a laptop, not a mobile device.
Scroll down to reveal the student visa fees information in the chart. Hover over a bar to view detailed information about it.
This chart only shows student visa fee information for nationalities that are currently represented at Minerva. This data is sourced from the most up-to-date government and Minerva documents and is intended to show visa fees for the 2021-2022 academic year. Data sources are listed at the bottom of this page, including data for nationalities not currently represented at Minerva.
Visa fees and exchange rates are subject to change, so the information shown here is an approximation, not exact prediction, of costs. Moreover, the data shown here does not account for indirect visa application costs, like shipping documents, which make the process more expensive.
Finally, fees and indirect costs are only one component of the visa application process. Other bureaucratic complexities and inequities are not the focus of this piece but make the process burdensome for some students, especially those with disadvantaged passports.
Most students must apply for a US F-1 visa to enter San Francisco for their first year at Minerva. The basic F-1 visa costs consist of a $160 application fee and a $350 SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee, which funds the centralized collection of data about nonimmigrant students in the US.
Other costs, like shipping documents and transportation for interviews, can make applying for an F-1 visa even more expensive for some students. These costs, as well as SEVIS and reciprocity fees, aren’t always communicated clearly to students. “[Paying for student visa fees is] a game changer,” a Kenyan student wrote in Quest’s anonymous survey. “Imagine having to pay over $700 up front yet people only talk about $160.”
César Castro (M’22) told the Quest he knew applying for an F-1 visa would be expensive when he enrolled at Minerva. He doesn’t live near the capital city of Honduras, his home country, so he had to pay for transportation to the US embassy there. Castro and his family also had to pay visa fees in US dollars, which further increased their financial burden because of unfavorable exchange rates. Still, Castro and his family decided that even though “there were a bunch of costs we had to pay, we paid them because we knew it was a good decision for me to study at Minerva.”
The expensive journey from his hometown to the capital city was one of the reasons why Castro did not return home after his first year at Minerva. It was cheaper and easier for him to apply for a South Korean visa while living in San Francisco, so he opted to stay in the city.
In addition to the F-1 visa application fee and SEVIS fee, some students must also pay an F-1 reciprocity fee. According to the US Department of State, “when a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a reciprocal fee on citizens of that country for similar types of visas.”
Of the nationalities currently represented at Minerva, 13 must pay F-1 reciprocity fees. The median reciprocity fee for Minerva students who have to pay it is $220, but is as high as $1,125 for students from the United Arab Emirates.
Most Minerva students pay a flat rate of $60 for the South Korean visa required to study in Seoul. Several nationalities are exempt from fees. Others pay higher fees — for UK citizens, the cost is $200.
South Korea is one of several rotation countries that require students to submit proof that they can afford to support themselves for the semester. According to the Hub (link accessible with minerva.kgi.edu email), students can submit documents from their personal bank account, their parents’ bank account, or their work-study award.
For some students, required minimum bank balances are a significant obstacle to securing a visa. An anonymous student from a developing country in Asia told the Quest that bank balance requirements once prevented her from joining her classmates on rotation — she only had half of the required amount of savings. Instead of travelling to a new city with her peers, she had to move off rotation.
For the Hyderabad semester, most Minerva students pay about $90 to receive their Indian student visa while studying in Seoul. The fees range from a low of about $15 for Pakistanis to over $250 for Nigerians. That cost includes both the standard application fee as well as the approximately $5 passport delivery fee.
The Indian student visa fees illustrate that the cost of applying doesn’t necessarily correspond with a student’s likelihood of receiving a visa. Despite paying comparatively low fees to submit an application, most if not all Pakistani students have been prohibited from joining their peers in Hyderabad. Conversely, UK citizens pay higher fees for South Korean and Indian visas but have strong passports and are generally successful applicants. Nigerian citizens pay higher fees to study in the US and India but have weak passports and are sometimes denied visas.
It can also be difficult to tell exactly how much visa fees will add up to before paying for them. Bella Buchanan (M’21) told the Quest that she only had to pay about $5 for her Indian visa because of a trade agreement South Africa, her home country, is a part of. She didn’t know that, however, until she was already in the process of applying. “It isn’t as simple as googling what the price is,” Buchanan said.
Most Minerva students pay a fee of about $90 to apply for a visa to study in Berlin. Citizens of European Economic Area countries do not require a visa.
In some cases, a student’s initial application for a visa is rejected - something that can happen for any rotation country, not just Germany. If the student decides to re-apply, they typically must pay all required fees again. This happened to one Pakistani student who responded to the Quest’s anonymous survey. “It’s tough and adds to the financial strain,” they wrote. “Minerva doesn't have a good system for appropriate visa guidance, which leads to us low-income students suffering even more.”
Minerva has a team, led by Director of Global Student Services Marianna Panossi, which assists students with securing visas. Currently, it consists of five work-study students and Erin Erskine, who oversees Prepare page modules. According to Panossi, her team guides students through visa application processes, assists them with obtaining required documents, and coordinates with partner universities in relevant rotation countries.
She also told the Quest that staff “provide substantial individual support to students who experience challenges with various embassies/consulates to assist our students during the processes.” Panossi emphasized that “Minerva has no control over the decision that foreign missions make regarding visas nor the fees that they charge.”
All students, with the exception of Argentine nationals, pay an approximately $180 fee to apply for an Argentine student visa while studying in Berlin.
One component of the Argentine visa application is photos, which many students take in Berlin. Most students also have to take photos in Seoul as part of their Indian visa application and must take photos over the summer while applying for some other rotation country visas. While the exact cost of taking and printing these pictures varies significantly with location, it is an example of an indirect cost which is burdensome for some students.
Except for UK citizens, all students pay an approximately $120 student visa fee to study in London.
Prior to the 2021 academic year, citizens of European Economic Area countries did not require a visa to study in London because the UK was still part of the European Union. After Brexit is finalized at the end of this year, however, students from these countries will have to apply for UK student visas. Those costs are reflected in this chart.
All Minerva students, except for Taiwanese citizens, pay $50 for a single-entry visitor visa that allows them to study in Taipei during their final semester.
All Minerva students are required to return to San Francisco for one month at the end of their studies. Many students can enter the US on the same F-1 visa they received for their first year, but for some nationalities the F-1 visa expires before the fourth year. These students must re-apply for an F-1 visa before graduating in San Francisco, which requires paying the $160 application fee again (students do not need to repay the $350 SEVIS fee).
Students whose F-1 visas are valid for shorter periods may also need to re-apply if they choose to return to the US before their fourth year, such as for internships or research programs. Vietnamese and Russian students, for example, receive F-1 visas that are only valid for 12 months and must re-apply every year they want to re-enter the US.
Since Buchanan is from South Africa, her F-1 visa expired after her third year at Minerva. She tried to renew her visa over the summer, but couldn’t due to coronavirus-related embassy closures. Worried that she might lose her ability to enter the US, she booked a flight into the country as quickly as possible.
Buchanan needs to be in the US during her final semester at Minerva so that she can apply for OPT and find a job in the US after graduation. “If I don't [get paid] in a strong currency, I won’t be able to make minimum repayments on my loans after graduation just because of the strength of currencies,” Buchanan said. “And with my passport I can't work anywhere without a visa except for [South Africa], so OPT is my only pathway other than marriage to work in a country with a strong currency.”
Given that the consequences of being unable to re-enter the US and apply for OPT are so high for her, Buchanan wished that the implications of having an expired F-1 visa had been fully explained to her earlier. If she had known the risk, she would have tried to renew her visa in Buenos Aires or another rotation city well in advance. Instead, Buchanan told the Quest, Minerva staff told her early on that it was ok if her F-1 visa expired because she still had her status as a Minerva student, even though she would be unable to enter the US. While that’s true, Buchanan didn’t fully realize the importance of being able to enter the US and secure her post-graduation plans until it was almost too late.
When applicable, students must also pay the reciprocity fee again if they re-apply for an F-1 visa. Currently, the only nationalities represented at Minerva that must pay a reciprocity fee and re-apply for an F-1 visa are Nigeria and Thailand.
Finally, though not required and therefore not included in this chart, many Minerva students like Buchanan apply for OPT so that they can secure high-paying US jobs after graduation and pay back their student loans. The OPT application fee is currently $410, another significant visa fee many students must pay while attending Minerva.
Student visa costs are significant for most students — the median total cost is approximately $1,100. Depending on their nationality, students may pay anywhere from half to twice this amount.
Most students, however, are not fully aware of these fees when they enroll. Out of 12 students who responded to an anonymous Quest survey, five said they either did not expect to pay for student visa fees or did not have any estimated amount in mind when they enrolled. Eight of the respondents reported paying more for student visa fees than they anticipated.
“We received communications about the US visa [when enrolling], but we were never primed to think about other things,” Castro said. “It would have been important to think about visa fees, which are kind of like hidden costs. Outreach doesn't talk about them and you don't know what to ask about them.”
Minerva’s public-facing Tuition & Fees page does not explicitly mention student visa fees. Panossi told the Quest that students commit to the global rotation when they enroll at Minerva and recommends “that students consider all associated fees as early as possible to ensure that they are able to sustain themselves in the program during their tenure.”
Once students enroll, they can access student visa fee information on the Hub (link accessible with minerva.kgi.edu email), which Panossi’s Global Student Services team created. Currently, however, this page contains out-of-date links for Indian and South Korean visas, provides no fee information for Argentine visas, and does not include re-application and reciprocity fees for US F-1 visas. Visa information on country-specific Hub pages is more up-to-date, and Minerva typically communicates fee information to students once they are actively applying for a visa. Panossi told the Quest that the Hub’s country-specific pages contain the most recent information about visas.
“Our [student visa fees] page was created as an initial guide to provide students with general information about fees,” Panossi said. “Visa fees vary from country to country and in some cases can even be waived if the student can prove that they are on financial aid. It is the student’s responsibility to research and plan for the fees.”
Currently, there is no centralized source of accurate information for students hoping to proactively account for all student visa costs in their financial plans. For many students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, access to financial information about visa fees and other mandatory expenses is essential for ensuring they can afford a Minerva education. As the previously mentioned anonymous Kenyan student wrote, “I think the list of potential fees should be as thorough as possible, and it should be communicated as soon as we receive our financial aid offer.”
The data used to generate the above chart is available here. The same data for 195 countries is available here. The anonymous Quest survey used to collect student experiences with visa fees is available here; the raw survey data is confidential.
Data about the nationalities of Minerva students was provided by Teri Cannon, Minerva’s Chief Student Affairs and Operations Officer. This data lists birth countries and therefore may not accurately reflect the legal status of all students, such as those with more than one passport. Of the 605 Minerva students in this data, nine did not have a birth country listed.
US F-1 visa fee application information was obtained from the US Department of State website. SEVIS fee information is from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement website. F-1 reciprocity fee and validity period information was obtained from the US Department of state website; here is the code used to scrape it.
South Korean student visa fee information is from the Minerva Hub (link accessible with minerva.kgi.edu email). These costs were shared with students applying for visas in 2019.
Indian student visa fee information is from this pdf published by VFS, the organization that facilitates Indian visa applications for students in Seoul. This cost also includes the 7,000 KRW students paid to ship their passports in 2018. Prices were converted from Korean won to US dollars using a 0.00084 exchange rate (USD = KRW*0.00084).
German student visa fee information is from this website, linked to by the Minerva Hub (link accessible with minerva.kgi.edu email). Argentine student visa fee information is from this document (link accessible with minerva.kgi.edu email) shared with M’21 students applying from Berlin in 2019. Both fees were converted from euros to US dollars using a 1.18 exchange rate (USD = EUR*1.18).
UK student visa fee information is from the UK government website. Fees were converted from pounds to US dollars using a 1.28 exchange rate (USD = GBP*1.28).
Taiwanese student visa fee information is from the Taiwan Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
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