Passports and Visas
Passports and visas are two very important types of documents that you will need when you study abroad.
A passport provides official identification while traveling and proof of U.S. citizenship. It will be checked upon leaving and entering almost every country you visit. You will need a passport to enter a country, AND to return to the United States. To obtain or renew your passport visit the Department of State website.
Special note: Apply for your passport as soon as you begin thinking about study abroad or international travel as processing time can be lengthy.
Once you have your passport make copies or scan the page with your picture and passport number on it. Leave one at home with your designated representative, bring one to the Programs Abroad Office and carry the other copy with you separate from your passport. It is also a good idea to send a scanned copy to yourself by email. If you lose your passport having a copy will make it easier to get a replacement from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
A visa is official permission to visit a country for a specific purpose and time. Some countries charge or require an in person interview for a student or long-term stay visa; some countries do not or you may be able to apply on-line. To learn about the requirements for your host country and any countries you might visit while abroad go to the US Department of State website.
Applying for a Visa
The exact process for applying for a visa will vary depending upon the type of visa and the country. In general, to apply for a visa you will send your actual passport (not a copy), student visa application, and any other required documentation via certified mail, UPS, or FedEx (the consulate will usually indicate a preference) along with a return, self-addressed, pre-paid trackable envelope to the consular office of the country you plan to visit. The consulate will stamp your passport with the visa and return it to you. You generally apply to the consulate that serves the state of your permanent residence.
Obtaining a visa could take as long as one to three months so begin early. You will not be able to apply for the visa until you are fully accepted by your host institution or program, but it is a good idea to begin gathering the needed information for your visa as soon as you apply for your program. The embassy/consulate website or documentation that accompanies your visa application will usually indicate how long it will take to process the visa.