You must have a passport valid for the duration of your stay abroad, and it should be valid for at least six months past your expected return date (in order to allow for any unanticipated delays in your return). If you already have a US passport that was issued when you were age 16 or younger, then it remains valid for only five years from the date of issue. If you apply for (or renew) your passport at age 17 or older, then it will be valid for ten years from the date of issue.
Processing a passport application can take six weeks or longer. Don’t delay; apply for or renew yours now.
TIP: We strongly recommend that you make a photocopy of your passport (and visa, if applicable). Take the photocopies overseas with you as well as the originals. Store the copies in a safe place, but in a different location than the originals. Should your passport/visa be lost or stolen, they will be easier to replace if you have a copy.
A visa is official permission, granted by the authorities of the country where you wish to study or visit, which allows you to enter and remain in that country for a specific purpose and for a designated period of time. You must have a valid passport in order to apply for a visa, and the visa often takes the form of a stamp in your passport. Note that many countries require that your passport be valid at least six months past your intended stay in that country. In other words, if you intend to study abroad in the spring semester (January-May), your passport should be valid at least through November of that year. Some countries require you to obtain a visa either in the US or at a consulate abroad. Costs and entrance requirements vary, but expect to pay between $75 and $400. Find out now what visas, if any, you will need for places where you will either live or visit. Visas can take four weeks or more to process, and you may be required to appear in person to obtain the visa.
It is your responsibility to determine the requirements and to apply for a visa in a timely fashion. In most cases, you will need to allow 30-90 days for application processing.
If you are not a US citizen: Check now with the consulate of the country in which you’ll be studying to determine the visa requirements. Also, consult with an international student advisor about requirements for your re-entry to the US following your stay abroad.
Visa application requirements and processes can vary greatly from country to country, and even from Consulate to Consulate. The process can be time-consuming and complicated and we provide the following tips to help you know what to (possibly) expect as you begin the process.
- When applying for a visa, you are dealing with the government of a foreign country. They can make and change their policies and procedures at any time.
- We are not agents of foreign countries, so our ability to help you fill out visa applications is extremely limited. It is always best to get answers directly from a Consulate employee.
- Read very carefully the application and instructions before contacting a Consulate. This will enable you to ask appropriate and informed questions.
- If you download visa application materials from a website, call the Consulate to be sure that it is the most recent version (unless the website states that it is).
- Consulates generally have very limited open hours both for answering the telephone and for public appearances.
- When you speak with someone in a Consulate write a detailed record of the conversation: date, time, full name of person with whom you spoke, and their comments or answers or recommendations.
- Never assume that because your friend got a visa in one week, that you will, too.
- You may have to appear at a Consulate in person to submit your visa application materials. If this is a requirement, there is most likely no way to get around it. If the NY Consulate of Spain, for example, requires you to apply there, you must be prepared to drive, fly, or take a bus or train to NYC. We cannot ask them to eliminate this requirement for you.
- Don't assume anything. If, for example, the visa application asks for your address while in [country], and you won't have that information until you arrive overseas, ask the consulate what to write in that space. Some may accept "TBA", some may accept the program address, some may not accept it without the actual address. We cannot guess how or what to answer for any question; neither should you.
- Again, requirements vary, but in general, you can expect to provide the following when applying for a student visa: demographic information about yourself and your parents, including dates and places of birth; your passport; your round-trip plane ticket to your study abroad country; certification of health and/or certain immunizations; letter of acceptance to your study abroad program and/or host institution; letter verifying that you are currently enrolled in a degree program in good standing; detailed financial support information, notarized, e.g., bank statements (family and self), financial aid sources, etc.; proof of health insurance coverage abroad.
- Don't be surprised if this is not all that is required! This is why it is absolutely essential that you determine your specific requirements very early on in the study abroad application process.
- Most of all, be patient and be prepared. The visa application process is normally the most daunting and time-consuming part of the study abroad process. Keep in mind the end result!