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Old 09.03.2016, 03:37
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Student (Type D) Visa questions

Hi everyone,

My girlfriend and I were recently granted admission to an ETH Zurich's masters program this fall and I'm beginning to gather documents for my visa application, and I have two questions. My girlfriend is a non-EU citizen in the US on an F-1 visa and I'm a US citizen.

1. I've read that the student visa is only valid a couple of weeks before classes start (I think they begin Sept. 20), but my girlfriends last day she can be in the US on her current visa is August 8th, so we want to fly to Switzerland on that day. Is there any way I could write a letter to the Migration office and include it with my visa application asking to have our entry day that early? We also have a cat and we figure it will be very difficult to find an apartment so we want to give ourselves enough time. Additionally, we may take the ETH/UZH intensive german courses which start around Sept. 8th so we want to be settled in Zurich by then, so a month seems like a reasonable amount of time to request to find a cat-friendly private flat.

2. When should I submit my visa application? The International Students Office at ETH emailed us suggesting we wait until June but I feel like that is nowhere near enough time for them to process our applications. I would prefer to do it as soon as I receive my official matriculation/registration documents from ETH which should be within a couple of weeks.

Thank you!
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Old 09.03.2016, 09:39
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

I doubt a visa would be for that short a period. Have you asked the Swiss embassy/consulate where you plan to apply for the visa? You could try a letter, it might work if you explain your reasoning.

I would apply earlier myself, April or May. If you want to arrive in August waiting until June may be too short to get the paperwork done.

It shouldn't be too difficult finding a place that allows cats. Dogs are more of a problem.
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Old 09.03.2016, 10:32
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

I agree with Medea. My Type D visa was for 2.5 months and it took a bit too much time (something like 3-4 months). The stamp on my visa's validity date starts from the date they approved it (and not the university's semester start), which does coincide with 2 weeks before the the latter date. I reckon there's no problem, though, in asking them if they could consider giving you an early entry date- you could add your reasons, notably the intensive german courses. Nonetheless, better an early application- which should give you enough time to implement a plan B if needed.
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Old 09.03.2016, 18:52
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Thank you for the responses, I appreciate it. I'll be sure to send in my visa application within a month or so, just in case.

I emailed the NYC consulate and they basically told me that they are a glorified mailbox and it is the Migration office in Zurich that will decide my entry date and everything else, so I think the best option would be for us to include a letter explaining why we would want an earlier entry date.

One of ETH Zurich's immigration guides mentions this:
"Please note: the validity period of a student visa usually starts 2-3 weeks before the start of the semester. If you wish to enter Switzerland earlier, you must mention this in your visa application and give a detailed explanation why you need to enter Switzerland earlier."

This prompted me to assume I'd have to submit some sort of note requesting an earlier entry date.

The consulate also said the Migration Office in Zurich prefers to have the visa application and supporting documents in one of the national languages. Do you know if this means I absolutely have to have everything translated into German or will they still accept documents written in English? The actual word they used was "prefers" so I'd like to think its not a hard-and-fast rule, but if anyone has experience with this it would be very helpful!
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Old 09.03.2016, 18:58
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

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"Please note: the validity period of a student visa usually starts 2-3 weeks before the start of the semester. If you wish to enter Switzerland earlier, you must mention this in your visa application and give a detailed explanation why you need to enter Switzerland earlier."

The consulate also said the Migration Office in Zurich prefers to have the visa application and supporting documents in one of the national languages. Do you know if this means I absolutely have to have everything translated into German or will they still accept documents written in English? The actual word they used was "prefers" so I'd like to think its not a hard-and-fast rule, but if anyone has experience with this it would be very helpful!
Perhaps you could also check if, along with your flat hunting, there are German courses in August? This could be a good explanation as to why you would like to reach here earlier.

In my case (for the Canton de Vaud), everything was in English (apart from all supporting documents in French from my then prospective university).
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Old 13.03.2016, 19:05
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

The german courses offered by ETH/UZH are only in September I believe, I suppose I could see if there are other courses offered elsewhere though.

That is good to know you submitted most things in English. I'm sure I could find somebody in my current city to translate everything but it would just be a bit of an inconvenience to have to go through the process!
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Old 13.03.2016, 19:57
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

You could ask whether this course might be offered this year? The start date was Aug 1:
http://www.sprachenzentrum.uzh.ch/an...nr=4&gruppe=14
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Old 19.03.2016, 00:32
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Hmm, that would actually be great if that was offered this year, I need to look that up.

The only issue I see is that it seems to be for PhD candidates? I'll be entering a Master's program so I don't know if I would be allowed to register for that class.
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Old 19.03.2016, 01:04
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Sorry for the misinformation. It does seem to be offered for the PhDs. The M.Sc one starts, as you mentioned, in the first week of September.
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Old 22.03.2016, 12:51
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Hello! I entered Switzerland on a student visa from the U.S. Here's the deal: your visa will be for 90 days, starting from the date they grant it. This is what you use to enter the country. You can include a letter to the Migration Office telling them your planned arrival date, but given that your visa covers a 90 day period, it is probably not necessary. They won't speed-process anything either, so it's really a matter of timing your application.

Once you arrive on that visa, you will start your residence permit processing.

You apply for your visa through the NY consulate (no more than 90 days prior to your entry for the reason above). It usually takes about 4-6 weeks to process, so figure that into your application date, leaving some time in case you are asked for more documentation (which is typically proof of ability to pay for your stay). If you follow the directions to a "t", giving them everything they ask for and anything you think they might want, that process is a breeze.

Once your visa has been approved, you will be notified by the NY consulate to send your passport to them, along with a return envelope. They will put your visa into your passport and return it that day, along with the paperwork from the Migration office, all of which you will bring to your Gemeinde within 14 days of your arrival. From, everything rolls accordingly because all of your paperwork was cleared during the Visa process.

One more note, just in case, we also came with our cats from the US. This too was very easy, but required special vet certifications and arrival within 21 days of rabies vaccines, etc. If you know this, forgive my intrusion.

hope this helps!

All the best,
Jesamine
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Old 25.03.2016, 05:00
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Thanks so much! That's all very helpful. I know many people are telling me that the proof of financial resources is a big problem but the requirements seem pretty straightforward. I'll be including a printout of my latest monthly bank statement from Citibank (which has a branch in Switzerland) that has a balance of over the USD equivalent of CHF21,000.

I plan on submitting my visa application now as soon as ETH Zurich sends me back my official registration/matriculation confirmations so there's nothing more I can do other than hope they let us in early! I just think asking for a couple of weeks extra in order to find an apartment and get settled by the beginning of September is a very reasonable request, hopefully they realize that as well. I have every other document needed for the visa application all ready to go so I am optimistic that the process will go smoothly.

Did you have any issues finding an apartment while you had your cats? I am most worried about having to find temporary accommodation in Zurich while we frantically search for a long-term apartment.

Also, did you ship your belongings overseas? I have some expensive kitchenware (pots/pans), video game consoles, and a few books that I would like to ship over but its difficult finding the right company to do it. I'm trying to bring the least amount of things possible but there are some items that I don't want to re-purchase in Switzerland.

Lastly, did you have any issues setting up a bank account as an American? I know stuff like FATCA has scared off most swiss banks but I remember reading that UBS/Credit Suisse still deal with us and even PostFinance sometimes does. I was leaning towards trying to open a PostFinance account when I arrived there since it sounds like that would be the cheapest/quickest option.
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Old 25.03.2016, 08:46
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

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Lastly, did you have any issues setting up a bank account as an American? I know stuff like FATCA has scared off most swiss banks but I remember reading that UBS/Credit Suisse still deal with us and even PostFinance sometimes does. I was leaning towards trying to open a PostFinance account when I arrived there since it sounds like that would be the cheapest/quickest option.
There was a report on EF of PostFinance not allowing an American with a B permit to open a current account. The B permit, as I recall, had about four months left before expiration/ renewal. This has been the only recent report of a denial by PostFinance of an American residing in Switzerland that I am aware of.
Since PostFinance generally has less expensive account fees than UBS and Credit Suisse, it would probably be worth applying at PostFinance. If they deny the application, then you might have to apply at UBS or CS.
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Old 25.03.2016, 10:46
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

My pleasure to help. Let's start here:

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hope they let us in early! I just think asking for a couple of weeks extra in order to find an apartment and get settled by the beginning of September is a very reasonable request, hopefully they realize that as well.
You are stepping into a very impersonal process here, a very well-oiled machine that works on its own. No matter how reasonable you think your request or story is, no one cares. It is not because they are mean or cold. It is because they have a system and you have to follow it. There is no one to "ask" or "consider" any special request you make. Your application arrives on a certain date (along with countless others, most of whom are in the same boat as you are, ie, they too have to find a place to live, and, from that date and no other, yours is processed and stamped with an end date for your visa. Your visa allows you to enter country, which you must do by the end date. It does not mean you have to leave before that. Your visa is your initial paperwork, linked to your student status. As long you enter by that date and then present yourself to the local Gemeinde within 14 days of your arrival, there is no problem. Your visa is your entry card, not your residence card.

You are right about the straightforwardness of the documentation. If you follow it and present everything they ask for (including "declaration of departure", etc, it will go just fine).


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Did you have any issues finding an apartment while you had your cats? I am most worried about having to find temporary accommodation in Zurich while we frantically search for a long-term apartment.
Absolutely none whatsoever - and we have 3 cats. I have offered information on how to secure an apartment elsewhere:

Advice on new flat needed

This system works like a charm.

As for your second concern, you will find the Swiss are extraordinarily pet friendly. We have friends who travel everywhere with their cats, staying in hotels and AirBnBs. Just ask wherever you staying. My suggestion would be to consider AirBnb as your temporary location. You will be able to let them know your personal situation. Otherwise, look up pet-friendly hotels in Zurich. Again though, pardon any perceived presumption of your situation and subsequent offering of unsolicited advice on my part: if your cat does not already have a EU travel card, make sure you follow the USDA/Swiss pet-entry guidelines. If you arrive with your cat without the right documentation, you have 24 hours to send your cat back to the US or they will euthanize. This was positively reinforced and reiterated in every communication I had with the Swiss authorities before my arrival with my cats. I do not know anyone personally to whom this has happened, but still the very thought is horrifying (to me) ...


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Also, did you ship your belongings overseas?
Yes we did and we almost got screwed in the process by one of the many international shipping scams in operation in the US. You might be shocked at who was the best: the US Post, International Priority. We shipped very similar items, along with our art and personal household items. If you can weight your boxes and then fill out your customs declaration online, you will save money - although price-wise, it was outrageously affordable! Fair warning: every time a box arrives, you will likely have to pay customs charges in cash to the delivery person (CHF obviously) unless you label it HOUSEHOLD ITEMS FOR MOVE TO SWITZERLAND. If they don't see that, you will pay up front, but scan the document and email the Post and you will get that money back.


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Lastly, did you have any issues setting up a bank account as an American? I know stuff like FATCA has scared off most swiss banks but I remember reading that UBS/Credit Suisse still deal with us and even PostFinance sometimes does. I was leaning towards trying to open a PostFinance account when I arrived there since it sounds like that would be the cheapest/quickest option.
I had no issues at all and you should not either, as long as you have the actual permit. Don't try to apply before then. I opened my account at UBS with an initial L-permit and my colleague did the same at Swiss Post. One my husband arrived a year later and received his permit (which by then was a B for us), same thing - without issue. Just make sure you go in with all of the same docs you used to apply for your visa, your passport, the registration documentation you will receive from the Gemeinde after you register, and your rental agreement, and you should not have issues. I too have heard the stories, but know not one person with a residence permit who had issue getting a bank account - and I have over 100 international colleagues with no such stories. This does not mean it hasn't happened, but typically there is an "underlying story" being left out of those accounts.

Again, I hope this helps.

All the best,
Jesamine

Last edited by Jesamine; 25.03.2016 at 10:59.
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Old 25.03.2016, 14:48
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

As said PostFinanace may or may not accept you. They may say yes initially and then later change their minds. This thread from February.

No-Go with PostFinance

UBS and Credit Suisse both still take US clients as far as I know. The cantonal bank of Zurich may also still take US clients.

In any case you'll need to sign a W-9 to allow the bank to send your account details to the IRS.
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Old 01.04.2016, 05:38
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Thank you for your help everybody. I think I will try to start off with PostFinance and if that doesn't work out I'll try UBS/CS/etc.


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I have offered information on how to secure an apartment elsewhere:

Advice on new flat needed

This system works like a charm.
This is very helpful but I have a couple of questions:

1. I know I have to apply for my residence permit within 14 days of arriving, and it seems like most folks are saying I need a copy of my lease when I do that. What if I have not found an apartment within those two weeks? My maximum budget for a flat is maybe CHF2500 so I'm assuming it'll take me longer to find a place.

2. On the other side of the coin, you mention that I should include my residence permit with my flat application. How can I do that if I don't have an actual residence yet (other than whatever temporary housing I'm currently in)?

3. Is there any way I could obtain a Swiss debt statement (Betreibungsauskunft) if I haven't signed a lease for a long-term flat, or if I haven't actually been in Switzerland for more than a couple of weeks? I don't know if the US has a similar sort of document.


Thank you and everyone else for all your help again! It's greatly appreciated and it's making my life a whole lot easier.
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Old 01.04.2016, 16:18
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Hello again. From my colleagues and my experiences, a $2500 budget is plenty (assuming you don't want a big 6 or 7 room flat.) This should get you a nice 4-5 room flat. This was our budget and it was enough to get me private showings with real people. Hand them that packet and watch their faces light up.

As for having to have the permit for the flat application: from my experience again, when you show all of your documentation from your school and everything you have from the Migration Office, this is enough. Write it your introductory letter exactly what the process is and where you are in it, how long you will be school, etc.

There is also a way to get what's called a 3-month waiver on the having to "register" by two weeks. I think this is granted by the Migration Office. I will ask my colleague about how this was attained because he was in the same situation as you are in. He was helped by someone at my school. I will ask the woman who helped him how she did it. Between the two of them, I'll get answer and get back to you. The general key here is to keep the authorities apprised of everything. Any time I have had issues, such as permit expiring before I am coming back into the country, I have just kept everyone informed and they have been very helpful. The process here is so tight that that they seem have pathways for for all exceptions. For example, you could go to the Migration Office (I always go in person because I am just like that. I need a face in front of me) and say (in your most humble and un-entitled demeanor) that you have heard of this "waiver" and they should know what are talking about and be able to help you.

You can only get the Betreibungsauskunft after you have registered with your local Gemeinde, however, the fact that you are just coming into the country is enough of an explanation for why you do not have it. If you just mention that you can't get it because of your situation (again, explaining it in your intro letter), it shows you are aware of the "rule" and are on it. I had one because I was in a temporary living situation where I could register upon arrival. It is not necessary to present anything from the US. They just want to make sure you have no bad debt here.

When I hear back about the waiver, I'll post again.

All the best,
Jesamine
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Old 06.04.2016, 05:23
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

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Hello again. From my colleagues and my experiences, a $2500 budget is plenty (assuming you don't want a big 6 or 7 room flat.) This should get you a nice 4-5 room flat. This was our budget and it was enough to get me private showings with real people. Hand them that packet and watch their faces light up.

As for having to have the permit for the flat application: from my experience again, when you show all of your documentation from your school and everything you have from the Migration Office, this is enough. Write it your introductory letter exactly what the process is and where you are in it, how long you will be school, etc.

There is also a way to get what's called a 3-month waiver on the having to "register" by two weeks. I think this is granted by the Migration Office. I will ask my colleague about how this was attained because he was in the same situation as you are in. He was helped by someone at my school. I will ask the woman who helped him how she did it. Between the two of them, I'll get answer and get back to you. The general key here is to keep the authorities apprised of everything. Any time I have had issues, such as permit expiring before I am coming back into the country, I have just kept everyone informed and they have been very helpful. The process here is so tight that that they seem have pathways for for all exceptions. For example, you could go to the Migration Office (I always go in person because I am just like that. I need a face in front of me) and say (in your most humble and un-entitled demeanor) that you have heard of this "waiver" and they should know what are talking about and be able to help you.

You can only get the Betreibungsauskunft after you have registered with your local Gemeinde, however, the fact that you are just coming into the country is enough of an explanation for why you do not have it. If you just mention that you can't get it because of your situation (again, explaining it in your intro letter), it shows you are aware of the "rule" and are on it. I had one because I was in a temporary living situation where I could register upon arrival. It is not necessary to present anything from the US. They just want to make sure you have no bad debt here.

When I hear back about the waiver, I'll post again.

All the best,
Jesamine

Since it's just the two of us, 4-5 rooms would be more than enough for us so that is very good to know. We would like to live close to ETH if possible though so that might make things a bit more difficult. I know public transit is super efficient but it would still make our lives much easier if we were within 10-15min walking distance.

As for the debt statement, I will make sure to mention it in my apartment applications! Let me know if you hear back about the waiver, it sounds like something I could certainly use. As I'm hoping to arrive in the first/second week of August, I'll probably need to find temporary housing til September 1st (if I'm lucky enough to find a long-term place by then)

One more question - how is dealing with all of the landlords/property managers/real estate firms in Zurich? Do many of them speak enough English for somebody like me to get by? My German is only at an A1 level at best right now so it will make things much more difficult if there's that language barrier. A lot of the flat listings on homegate/immoscout24/immostreet/comparis/etc are in German only which makes me a bit nervous.

Are there any other sites you would recommend for searching?
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Old 06.04.2016, 09:42
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Hi again...

Those sites you listed are the ones I used as well, and as I said, I had no problem finding a place through them. Believe me, I heard so much negativity around it - "you'll never find a place through them" etc, but I did, and, without any of the aforementioned difficulty because of my sacred little packet.

I too was afraid of the German postings, but I used Google translate to read about the places. I have found that just trying in my bad German first thing is the best approach for immediate endearment. If the only method of contact was through the website form, then I apologized (in basic A1-level German) right after my greeting for not speaking German and said I was learning, gave a brief introduction of myself (summarized from that intro letter) and waited to hear back. Almost all of them responded back to me in English.

Whenever I could call a number, I did that - and again, began my conversation in my basic German with "Hello, please forgive my lack of German ..." and then proceeded from there in English. Now, you may get the occasional person who won't speak to you in any English or who may come across less than friendly, but don't take that personally. You will find the right person and place if you don't settle out of fear of not finding something better. You have a nice budget and seem to be well-financed. You will be appealing when that is added to the preparation of the packet.

And again, if you do not mind a bit of unsolicited advice, while I completely understand your initial desire to be walking distance from ETH, I would suggest staying open until you experience the city and how easy it is to get around. This will open so many more doors for you guys (and your cat). Public transit here is unbelievably easy. There is no comparison in the states.

And on the waiver, I misspoke - you do have to register within the two weeks, but you can register in the Gemeinde of a temporary dwelling. I have not heard back from the woman yet on that process, but I don't think she has been in the office since Friday and my colleague wasn't sure of the process because she did it all for him. So, ultimately, I am not so sure what is actually being "waived". Will let you know asap.

Best of luck in your planning...don't worry too much.

jes
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Old 12.04.2016, 14:03
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Okay, I finally connected with the person who could answer the question regarding the "waiver" I spoke of. I am not sure that is the right word, but that is the word my colleague from Japan used. He may have been talking about the waiver of insurance (which he also received).

Here is the information that you are looking for:

As the 14-day deadline approaches, if you find yourself without a place to live then you go to the Kreisboro/Gemeinde of the district your school is in. Tell them your situation and they will give you a form, which you take to your school admission office (or something like that) to have it filled out. This will be a temporary arrangement only, but it buys you more time to look. If you get a place in a different district, you will have to go through the procedure for de/re-registering, but I personally did not find that to be a difficult process.

Best of luck!
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Old 25.04.2016, 03:44
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Re: Student (Type D) Visa questions

Sorry for not replying for so long! But thank you so so much again, you are a lifesaver!

If I have any more questions (very likely) I'll post in here.
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