Passports & Visas
You must have a valid passport to travel internationally.Additionally, your passport must be valid for six months after your program ends. Furthermore, most countries will require you to obtain a visa and/or residence permit in order to enter and study there.
If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. It should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date that you plan to return to the US. Please note that US passports issued when you are younger than 16 years old are valid for only 5 years.
If you do not have a passport, or need to renew your passport, begin the process early. For complete instructions for US passports, see the State Department's Passport Services website.
You may apply for a US passport in person at most US Post Offices and some town halls. For faster service, you can apply in person at the Passport Agency in Boston.
You will to need provide a variety of documents including an official birth certificate or proof of citizenship, photo identification, passport photos and the application fees.
US passports can take up to 2 months to process, so apply early, especially if you also need to obtain a visa. Expedited passport processing services also exist, but are costly.
Non-US citizens must ensure their passport remains valid throughout the duration of their study abroad experience and comply with US visa regulations for their re-entry to the US. Please consult with an International Student Advisor in the UMass International Programs Office for the details.
A visa is a document required for entry to many countries in addition to your passport. The visa shows that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which the visa was issued, subject to the permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. Most visas will be a stamp in your passport, while others might be a separate piece of paper that needs to be carried in addition to your passport. Others will be a large sticker inserted directly inside your passport book.
The visa application process can be complex, take longer than 3 months and depends on the country or countries you are visiting, your citizenship and other factors. A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and to remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on the time spent in the country, and restrictions on employment. The possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a visa can be revoked at any time.
While US citizens are currently allowed visa-free access to travel or vacation in many countries, a student visa is usually required to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country.
Some countries will issue you a visa upon arrival, other countries require that you apply for and receive your visa before you embark on your journey. Make sure to travel to the country of your destination with the required entry documents to avoid being turned back upon arrival by immigration officials at the airport.
Common requirements include:
- Passport valid until 6 months after your return
- Completed visa application
- Passport size photos
- Payment of required fees
- A bank statement or notarized affidavit of support showing that you will have a guaranteed sum of money at your disposal throughout the entire period of your studies
- Proof of health insurance coverage in the host country
- A copy of your plane ticket
- Acceptance letter from your host institution or program provider
- Address in host country
While some countries may not require US citizens to apply for an entry visa, they may require a residence permit and some countries require both. A residence permit is a card which allows you to legally reside in your host country.
In addition to understanding how to apply for a visa and/or residence permit, you should familiarize yourself with the restrictions of your visa and/or residence permit such as:
- If you arrive in your host country outside of your entry window, you will be denied entry.
- Overstaying your visa/residence permit can result in your being detained, fined and/or banned from future travel to that country.
- There may be restrictions on the number of times you can enter the host country during your period of permitted stay. This could affect your ability to travel outside the host country during breaks.
The above information is essential for booking appropriate flights and making plans to arrive early, stay after your program ends, or travel outside of your host country during your program dates.
Visa and residence permit regulations change frequently and you should consult the website of the host country’s consulate or embassy in the US for the most up-to-date information. In most cases, your program or host institution will also provide guidance for the application process. To avoid delays or complications, be sure to read the instructions carefully and follow them closely. It is your responsibility to obtain the appropriate visa and/or residence permit before you depart the US. If you plan to travel to other countries while you are abroad, you must investigate the visa requirements of each country you plan to visit.
See the US State Department Americans Traveling Abroad website for additional information about country specific visa requirements.