Passports & Visas

Passports and visas are two very important types of documents that you will need when you study abroad.


A passport provides official identification while traveling and proof of U.S. citizenship. It will be checked upon leaving and entering almost every country you visit.

You will need a passport to enter a country AND to return to the United States. Your passport must be current and valid for at least six months beyond the time your program ends. To obtain or renew your passport visit the US Department of State: Passports & International Travel website.

Special note: Apply for your passport as soon as you begin thinking about study abroad or international travel as processing time can be lengthy.

Once you have your passport, make copies or scan the page with your picture and passport number on it. Leave one at home with a friend or family member and submit one to the OIE study abroad online application system.  You should also carry a copy separately from your passport when you travel . It is also a good idea to send a scanned copy to yourself by email.  If you lose your passport, having a copy will make it easier to get a replacement from the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.


A visa is official permission to visit a country for a specific purpose and time.  To learn about the requirements for your host country and any countries you might visit while abroad go to the US Department of State: Traveler's Checklist website.

Applying for a Visa

The exact process for applying for a visa will vary depending upon the type of visa and the country. In general, to apply for a visa you will send your actual passport (not a copy), student visa application, and any other required documentation via certified mail, UPS, or FedEx (the consulate will usually indicate a preference) along with a return, self-addressed, pre-paid, trackable envelope to the consular office of the country you plan to visit. The consulate will stamp your passport with the visa and return it to you. You generally apply to the consulate that serves the state of your permanent residence.  For Alabama, this is usually in Houston or Atlanta.

Processing Time

Obtaining a visa could take up to three months so begin early. You will not be able to apply for the visa until you are fully accepted by your host institution or program, but it is a good idea to begin gathering the needed information for your visa as soon as you apply.  The embassy/consulate website/documentation that accompanies your visa application will usually indicate how long it will take to process the visa.