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Student Visa for Italy Questions

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My daughter will be studying in Rome (Feb - May). She's lucky, I know!! We just got all the info about getting the Student Visa. She can either get it on her own or go through the program where they do a bunch all together and they charge $100. I don't mind the $100, but if you do it that way they say you can't leave the US from Nov. 16 to 2 days before you leave for the trip, which is Feb. 4. I assume, because they can't guarantee that you will get the visa and passport back before then, although they do guarantee you will have it before you leave. We were considering going to Mexico over Christmas, though haven't made any definitive plans, but this would obviously preclude that from happening.

However, it also looks like the Italian Consulate in Los Angeles (where she would need to go) does not have any express processing and she can't apply before 90 days before her arrival date, which means she couldn't apply before Nov. 4 and can take several weeks to get, so not sure she would have for a Christmas time trip anyway. So, I'm leaning towards doing the program route (and discarding the idea of a Mexico trip) - do others agree that is the best way? I just really like that they guarantee you will get it back before your departure date.

Secondly, if she wanted to travel a bit after the program, does that effect the student visa? Does she need to say when she would actually leave the EU or just when she is done with her program?

Sorry this is long, so I appreciate anyone who got through it!! We've traveled a ton but only had to do Visas on Arrival in the past so this is all new to us. Thanks!

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