Obtaining a Visa for Foreign Travel
Visas are required for travel to many countries. Even countries where U.S. citizens may not normally require a visa, the purpose of travel and length of proposed stay may trigger a visa requirement.
IPO cannot provide advice for individual travellers (unless you are a student on one of our approved study abroad programs or exchanges) and these guidelines are for general reference only. It is the individual traveller’s responsibility to contact the appropriate consulate prior to travel to get accurate and up to date information applicable in their case.
- You will need a valid passport to obtain a visa. Passports must be obtained through the U.S. Department of State. Visas are usually paper documents that are fixed inside your passport, although they may be issued electronically or in e-mail format as well. Some may even be issued at a port of entry. Generally, your passport will need to be valid for at least six-months beyond the duration of the proposed visit.
- If the consulate requires you to submit your passport for processing, you may be without your passport for several days or even weeks.
- Obtaining a visa may take substantial time, and may involve fees. Plan early to reduce costs and uncertainty.
- Check the requirements on an official Government or Consular website for the country you plan to travel to.
- Most countries require different visas for tourist visits, business, or educational visits. Different requirements and time periods apply for processing various kinds of visas. Once again, plan early.
- Some countries also require a minimum number of blank passport pages before a visa will be issued. If your passport does not have the minimum number of blank pages, you may need to acquire a new passport before a visa can be issued.
- The U.S. Department of State will no longer add additional pages to a US passport, and they no longer routinely issue second passports.
- Visa requirements vary by the traveller’s country of citizenship and their status in the United States at the time of application. Non-US nationals frequently have different visa requirements than US Citizens. Read consular information CAREFULLY.
- In some cases you may need to travel to your home country to apply for a visa.
- There are several means to obtain visas, again depending on the destination country, the traveller’s nationality, the time available before your travel, and the purpose/duration of the visit.
- Some countries allow for online, or “eVisas”, which may be delivered by e-mail.
- Most countries that require a visa support a “mail-in” application process. Mail-in visa applications can take substantial time. Plan ahead because expedited processing may not always be available, and when it is, it usually incurs an additional fee.
- Most countries take visa applications in-person at an embassy or consulate. These may be located in Washington DC, New York, Boston, or even Chicago. The jurisdiction of the foreign post will vary with your primary residence.
- A number of travel agents and visa service companies (private businesses) offer visa application and processing services. These companies charge fees for their services, but often can facilitate fast processing. IPO does not recommend any particular service but here are some links to commonly used services: