Student Visas, as the name suggests are visas issued to applicants whose primary purpose of visit to the country is the pursuit of education. Needless to say, while getting admission in the university is extremely important, these legal documents stand in the way of all your pursuits. Eeach and every country are governed by its own Immigration Laws. These could vary in terms of the requirements of documents to the different proof of funds acceptable to what all the visas would let you do apart from studying in the country. Also, there are some broad commonalities that are visible in all student visa applications.
Irrespective of the duration of the course, some countries classify the student visas basis the type of student. This could be the level of degree applied for (undergraduate, graduate or doctoral), exchange student or student applying for a vocational/ diploma course. Broadly speaking, as these visas also depend on the type, of course, the student is applying for, these are somewhat linked to the tenure. However, in these categories, the first point of distinction is not how long the program would be for. If you are, say for an instance, an exchange student, you could be going for 3month or 3 years, the category would still be based on the type of student and not the tenure.
Every country, depending on their Immigration Laws have a specific list of documents. However, while the exact requirements are different in terms of actual terms, the list is generic. However, there are two documents which you would require certainly.
This is the primary requisite. While you would need a valid passport, what you need to know is that for different countries, the requirement of the validity of your passport might vary. Some countries would want you to have the validity until the end of the course even at the time of applying for the student visa. Some, on the other hand, might let you apply but request you to have a validity that extends beyond the intended stay in the country. You also need to ensure that you have at least two blank pages in your passport for stamping for a visa. What is important to note is that in case you have any expired passports, you would still have to submit a copy of all such passports.
No matter which country you are applying to, if you are applying for any category of Student Visa, you must be able to prove that you are a bonafide student. This is often done by producing confirmation of admission with an educational institute of that country.
Most of the countries would require you to prove that you are capable of not only taking care of the tuition and college expenses but also have the requisite funds to afford your stay in that country for the intended study period. While many countries have a stipulated amount of funds it would require, some have broader more extensive guidelines. For instance, many countries in Europe (like Germany, Netherlands, etc.) have a minimum living cost computed as per government standards. Students applying for student visas in these countries, accordingly, must provide proof that the said amount is available with them in ready cash. Read more about the Financial Documents Required for Study Abroad Applications
Another thing which is required perhaps across various countries is the proof that you can communicate in the language which would be your medium of instruction. Since most of the students plan to study in English speaking countries, most of them would require you to provide proof positive that you can communicate in English - both written and verbal. This is usually done by a minimum score requirement for various English Language Tests like TOEFL, IELTS and/or PTE. Accordingly, if you plan to take up a course in any other language (say German for instance), you would be required to provide certification for that language in accordance to the CEFR Certified Levels.
It is important to note here that while universities might accept different any or either of the above mentioned tests, for Visas, as times, the requirements are set. For instance, UK does not recognize TOEFL for Visas. Hence, it is important that before a student writes an English Language Test, he/she checks whether or not the country's immigration department recognizes that test. Also, Visa Guidelines for different countries usually mandates a minimum score. While Universities might offer admission at a lower score, Visas would be rejected until the minimum standard is met.
The complete list would depend on the country you are applying to. While some countries would require medical proofs, some might require a blocked account. Many countries also require an SOP.