A passport is an official document of identification issued to citizens of their own country and allows the individual to travel to and from a foreign country in accordance with visa restrictions. All study abroad students need a passport to enter into or return from any country in the world. A passport is the most important document a traveler has. You should keep your passport with you at all times when you are traveling. When you reach your study abroad destination, keep your passport in a safe place. You should also have a photocopy of your passport - kept apart from your passport - to assist you in the event that you lose your passport.
You can apply for a passport online, at any federal or state courthouse, at most major post offices, or at a passport agency. Passport processing can take four to eight weeks, but it is possible to get your passport much faster if you are willing to go directly to a passport agency. Between March and August, there is heavy demand for passports. Passports cost approximately $100.
If you already have a passport, confirm that it will be valid for 3-6 months beyond the length of your stay. You can obtain an application to renew your passport at any of the locations mentioned above. This is also an important time for you to make sure that your parents or a family member have an updated passport so that they can get to you either to visit or in the case of an emergency. In addition to having a valid passport, it is important that you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) provided by the Department of State. This program provides you with updates on travel warnings and alerts so you are better prepared if an emergency arises.
- You will need to have a valid US Passport to apply for any visa.
- Obtaining a visa will likely involve additional expenses and travel.
- For non-US citizens the visa process will be significantly different. It is essential that you start planning very early and speak with the Gettysburg College Office of International Student Advising.
- The visa is granted through the foreign government and neither our office nor the United States has influence on visa disbursements. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that a visa will be granted by any foreign government or within any specific timeframe.
- Know that visa restrictions and regulations can change from semester to semester, so it is essential that you do your own research about what procedures to follow.
- Even though this process can be tedious and challenging at times, remember that the reason that these procedures exist is to prevent dangerous individuals from entering your host country. This is a process that helps to protect you while you study abroad!
- Most programs will provide you with information about obtaining your visa. Be sure to check with your program about how to proceed with your visa application, because some programs will process the visa for you.
If you are responsible for getting your own visa, here are some tips from our office:
- Some host countries may require an FBI background check for visa applicants. Not all host countries or consulates will require this, but if your host country or consulate requires it you can find information about how to get a background check at the Criminal History Summary Checks info page.
- Go to the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs website and find your host country under "Country Information." Once you have found your host country, go to the "Entry/Exit Requirements for US Citizens" to view visa information.
- Use the links provided on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website to locate the website of the relevant Embassy or Consulate for your host country. If there are no links available, use a search engine to fine the Embassy or Consulate website.
- Determine what jurisdiction you fall under, this is typically based on your permanent address. This will point you in the direction of the consulate or consular office you will work with to obtain your visa.
- Be thorough in your reading of all instructions for visa applications. Find out if you are required to appear in person and set up an appointment to do so.
- Gather all of the required documents and photocopy them. It is important that you have copies of all of the paperwork you are providing the consulate because they will often require the originals (even your passport).
- Determine how you need to submit your application. Some consulates require physical appearances, some will accept applications via the mail, and others are submitted online.
Many application forms require photos (sometimes as many as ten). You can have them taken at AAA Travel (1275 York Rd., 334-1155) or at CVS (1275 York Rd., 337-2812). Please read the photo requirements carefully regarding size and number of photos.