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Obtaining the necessary documents is one of the first steps that students preparing to study abroad must take. Be aware that acquiring passports and visas can be a several month process.

Passports

If your student does not already have a valid passport, he or she should apply for one immediately. U.S. citizens can apply at the nearest Passport Agency of the U.S. Department of State or at some post offices. The U.S. Department of State maintains a website at http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html that provides instructions on how to obtain a passport, and a printable application can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/passport/forms/forms_847.html. Students can also call the government hotline at The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) 1-877-487-2778 for this information. Passports are mailed to the applicant two to four weeks after the application is received and are valid for ten years.

If your student′s passport′s expiration date is within six months of the end of the program, the passport must be renewed before your student leaves the country. Otherwise, it might be difficult to either enter the host country or re-enter the U.S. Also, your student may be required to surrender their passport, restricting their freedom to travel while abroad.

Student Entry Visas

Many countries require a student entry visa. This is an official authorization for entry into a country that is amended to the passport, and is granted by the country where the student will be studying. Each country has different requirements for obtaining visas. Furthermore, practices for granting visas can vary among consulates of the same country within the US. Keep in mind that your student may need to get visas for additional countries he or she will visit while abroad (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html). Also, some countries require transit visas for people to change planes at their airports -- particularly the Schengen countries in Europe. For more information, see: http://www.schengenvisa.cc/.

Make a photocopy of the Identification Page of your student′s passport as well as his or her visa in case the originals are lost overseas.