Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. ~Malcolm X
How do I get a passport, visa? A passport is a form of international identification that states your citizenship and other important information needed by immigration. If you don’t already have a passport, then you should apply as soon as you know you’ll be studying abroad. Processing can take four to eight weeks, although expedited service is available for an additional charge. A US passport is valid for 10 years (if you are 16 years of age or above). If you already have a passport, be sure it will be valid at least six months after you complete your travels abroad.
You can find applications and renewal forms at post offices, study abroad offices, courthouses, travel agencies, and online. If you are applying for the first time, and you are at least 13 years old, or your passport was issued before you turned 16 years old, you must apply for a US passport in person. You will need to bring two identical passport photos (2 by 2 in.), a photo ID, an original birth certificate (or a previous passport), and two blank checks.
Anytime you plan to stay in another country for longer than a week, you should register with the US Department of State, or your country’s equivalent, in case you’re studying in the US. Registration allows you to record information about your upcoming, international trip so that the Department of State can assist you in the event of an emergency. You can do this at https://travelregistration.state.gov.
Don’t forget to sign your passport and fill in the emergency information. It is also wise for a parent or close friend have a valid passport while you’re away, just in case an emergency comes up that requires immediate travel. If neither of your parents, nor your emergency contacts, have a valid passport, there is a one-day passport service available for a legitimate emergency and an additional fee.
A visa is an official document, stamp, or seal affixed within your passport, which allows you to enter a foreign country for a particular purpose. A foreign government may issue a visa for tourism, study, or work. If you are a US citizen, you can determine whether or not you need a visa by visiting the website of your foreign embassy/consulate. If you determine you need a visa, apply as soon as possible (usually no earlier than 90 days prior to your program), for the period in which you’ll be studying in the host country. The process can take anywhere from a few days to several months.
In most countries, you will need a visa only if you’re staying more than 90 days; however, there are several countries that require a visa for any length of time, even a week. For most paperwork, you’ll need to have a passport (valid for at least six months after your return date), your acceptance letter or enrollment certificate from the host institution, the address where you’ll be staying/living, official verification of your international health insurance, and bank statements that show you have sufficient funds to pay for your entire stay.
A passport and/or visa? You must have your passport before you can obtain the visa. Since both can take some time, you should start the process as soon as possible. Ideally, you should apply for a passport before you apply for your study abroad program. If you need a visa, then you can either use a visa agency or visit the host embassy’s US website for instructions and forms. If you’re running short on time, then use one of many agencies to expedite processing. If you have time, and you would rather save money, then follow the list of instructions below:
1. Go to www.embassy.org/embassies and locate the embassy of your host country.
2. Usually visa information is located under “Consular Services.” You may have to navigate the website.
3. Look for visa information, forms, and instructions for students, provided that you are studying abroad.
4. One you have your passport, your official acceptance letter, and other necessary documents (proof of funds, health insurance, etc.), you can start the paperwork.
5. Double-check your paperwork before finalizing it. Your application could be denied for missing data.
6. Make copies of all paperwork for your records, and provide copies of original documents if requested.
7. If your visa requires a visit, make an appointment as soon as possible and bring all required documents.
8. For security reasons, use certified mail when sending important documents.
9. When talking with consular officials in person or on the phone, always ask for their names.
10. When you get your visa, check the information carefully to make sure there are no errors.
11. Don’t make travel plans until you have your passport and visa in hand, or until you are sure that you’ll have the documents before your scheduled departure.
12. Know that you typically cannot extend a visa; you would have to return to the US and apply for another.
Other paperwork tips:
Do not block out account numbers on bank statements unless the consulate gives you permission to do so.
Staple where it says to staple and glue where it says to glue; keep your paperwork in the appropriate order.
Do not submit scanned photographs; use official passport photos (Walgreens has a good deal).
Follow payment requirements carefully. For example, many consulates will not accept personal checks.