Phone, wallet, keys… and passport! Your passport is your ticket to international travel. Without it, your study abroad process might be stalled. Don’t miss out on study abroad as a result of a delayed or expired passport! Apply for a passport or renew your passport TODAY!
First-Time Passport Applicants
Instructions and advice can be found on the U.S. Department of State website: How to Apply for a Passport. Also, make sure to check with your study abroad office on campus to see if your university has a passport grant or assistance in funding your first passport! Here are the materials you’ll need to apply:
- DS-11 form (this is just the passport application, which can be downloaded by following the link above, or check your local post office for physical copies).
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship and a copy (like your birth certificate, or Certificate of Citizenship)
- Photo ID and a copy
- A passport photo
If You Already Have a Passport
If you have a passport already, check the expiration date. Many countries require that the passport be valid for at least 6 months AFTER your intended date of departure from the country. (So, if your program ends in May, your passport would need to be valid through at least November). If you need to renew your passport, instructions on how to do so by mail are available through the U.S. Department of State website. Please note, however, that in order to renew by mail, the following requirements must be met:
- You must have your current passport in your possession, and it must be in good condition (normal wear and tear is acceptable).
- The passport must have been issued within the last 15 years, and you must have been at least 16 years of age at the time it was issued.
- The passport was issued in your current name, or you can provide documentation of the legal change of your name.
If you do not meet all of these requirements, you’ll have to apply in person for a new passport (see link above for how to apply for a new passport).
The U.S. Department of State website says that the processing time for submitting or renewing a passport is 6 to 9 weeks. But we recommend starting the passport process ASAP in case of delays due to Covid. If you’re in a time crunch, API recommends that you pay for expedited processing and pay the extra fee for expedited return mailing fee. In doing this, you can track its mailing and delivery.
Keep Visas in Mind
As a reminder, many countries require U.S. students to obtain visas in order to enter the country. Different countries have different visa requirements. Check the embassy or consulate website of the country you want to study in to find out what is required and how to schedule an appointment.
Similar to the passport process, consulates have been inundated with appointments following Covid. Contact the consulate or embassy as early as possible to secure an appointment. Note: you may need proof of program enrollment from the university or college that you are going to attend. Some consulates may have very specific instructions for when you can officially request an appointment. (If you’ve already applied to an API program, your Program Manager can also provide you with information on the visa process, if applicable.)
Once your appointment is scheduled, the process of obtaining your visa can take anywhere from 2-3 months. This processing time depends on the country, the consular requirements, the volume of requests, and so on. In order to obtain a visa, you must also submit your valid passport. What does this mean? If you plan to travel to a country that requires a visa, and you do not have a valid passport, you’ll need to start the application process early enough to have your passport in hand at least 3 months in advance of your program start date. This allows sufficient time for visa processing.
The good news? Once you have your U.S. passport, it is valid for 10 years, so you have a decade of international travel and opportunities to explore the world!