This was a question I got from a brother.
Q. Assalamualaikum brother. I too want to study in Qum and wanted to ask about the process in regards to applying for Hawzah. Please kindly advise.
Wa Allaikum Salam,
I have only been here for around 3 weeks and while I am still getting familiar with the internal processes my self and how administration works, I can shed light on the process of what one living in the West may need to do in order to get here and begin their studies.
The simplified process is that, you fill out an application form for Jamaitul Mustafa (JM) and submit it in. You wait for JM to issue your student visa and you are on your way. That’s the extremely watered down process.
The more thorough version is as follow. This is primarily from my own experience and things may slightly differ depending on whether you are coming on a Pakistani, American, Canadian or any other passport for that matter. For starters, you need to download the application form and fill it out accordingly. There are a lot of questions one needs to fill out and alongside it, you also need to attach passport photos, photocopies of your degree (if you obtained one), transcript and the photocopy of the passport itself. You can ignore the medical certificate, because they will make you go through a medical test here once you arrive regardless. If you can get a reference letter from a resident scholar of your town, that will be good as well.
One can consider JM as the school board (like the TDSB – an example for those from Toronto). It overlooks some of the various hawzahs and will take care of a lot of the initial administration work. As far as I know, there is no online application process or procedure. You need to actually get someone to physically submit in your documents to JM and the process will then begin. Depending on the passport you intend on coming on, it can take anywhere on average from 6 months to a year. I know some individuals who have had to wait almost 2 years, and some who got it in less than 5 or 4 months. I personally got my student visa in 5 months (a lot sooner than what I was expecting). From what I hear, people coming on Pakistani passports tend to get it sooner, and people coming on a US passport generally have to wait a long time. If you are residing in the UK, Canada or USA, you will need to collect your student visa from an Iranian embassy elsewhere (such as Ireland, UAE or Turkey) since there are no Iranian embassies in the aforementioned countries. Make sure you mention that in the application form, because that is where JM will send your visa.
Once everything is submitted, it is best if you have someone available in Qum who can visit JM every now and then to follow up on your application and to see what its status is. Usually JM will accept you relatively quick, but once the files have been moved on to the foreign ministry (the ministry that will actually issue the student visa), then things are not in anyone’s hands and patience is the best virtue at that time.
Please do know that once you are here in Qum on your student visa, it doesn’t mean you will begin studies the next day or even the next week. There are still further procedures and processes that one needs to go through (like an interview, medical test etc.) before they can actually begin studying. InshAllah I will detail them out in the near future in another post, so those willing to come are aware of what to expect. I hope that helps a bit, and if there are any further questions about the application process feel free to comment below.