Pre-departure Series: Passports and Visas

The most important thing you need for international travel is your passport. Getting a passport can take a while – so start early! You also might need a visa, so start your research into them early. Learn more about getting a passport and a if you might need a visa below!

Applying for or Renewing a US Passport

If you do not already have a passport when you decide to go abroad, apply for one as soon as you can. Depending where you are in the US and the time of the year, getting a passport can take 6-8 weeks or longer. If this is your first passport or your first since turning eighteen, you will need to apply in person, so keep that in mind. This usually means going to your local city hall or post office. You will need proof of citizenship, a filled-out application, photo ID, passport photos (you can get this done at places like Walgreens or some passport acceptance facilities will do it for you there), and the required fees. Check out the link at the end of this section to learn more about all of these requirements and the passport process. US adult passports are valid for 10 years, so this is a good investment if you plan on traveling more!

If you already have an adult passport but it has expired, will expire within 6 months of your travel (often countries require at least 6 months of validity for entry), or is out of available pages for entry stamps (some destinations require a certain number of blank pages for entry), you will need to get a new one. Keep in mind that your new passport will have a different passport number after you renew it, so make sure to do your renewal early as you will need the new number to book flights. Also, you will have to send in your old passport in order to get your new one, so keep that in mind.

Keeping Your Passport Safe

While you are abroad, it is best to make sure you have your passport physically on your body at all times, unless you know you have a safe place to stow it. When in doubt, keep it on you, away from your money and wallet in case those get stolen. For anyone carrying a bag or purse, keep your passport out of your bag or purse. Bags are usually easy targets for theft, so keep your passport on you – it is the one thing you do not want to lose. This may mean a front pants pocket, zippered if possible, or a safe inside pocket in a jacket. Often, people will travel with a secret money pouch or belt that you wear under your clothes – this is a good place to put your passport (here are some examples). Also, when you are traveling, it is a good idea to leave a photocopy of your passport at home with someone you trust (like a relative or partner) and to have one with you in your luggage, separate from your actual passport. This will help you in case your passport is stolen or lost.

If your passport does go missing, look for it wherever you can, and then contact the nearest US embassy or consulate as soon as possible. Note where the nearest US embassy or consulate will be before you travel, and keep their contact information with you. (You may have to travel to a different city to visit a consulate or embassy.) Bring the photocopy of your passport with you, an alternative form of ID, and a way to cover the cost of any fees – you might want to have cash in the local currency.


Depending on where you are going, what you are doing, and how long you are staying, you may need a visa. Different countries have different regulations in terms of whether or not a visa is required, and how long you can remain in country. Often, countries require student visas for students traveling abroad to study or intern. No matter what, do your research early – getting visas can take multiple weeks and you cannot apply for them once you reach your destination. To research visa requirements for your destination country, follow the link below (if  you are a US citizen) and/or visit the embassy website of your destination country.  Be sure you are reaching the actual embassy’s website, and not a private business or travel advice page that looks official.

International Students

If you are a citizen of a country other than the U.S., you should work closely with both the Program Coordinator for your specific program abroad and the Office of International Services (OIS) here at OSU. Our CoF International Programs Office can provide you with guidelines to help you research your destination country, prepare to enter your destination country on the appropriate visa (if needed). 

OIS can give you the information you need to ensure that you return to the U.S. in the appropriate visa status to continue your studies. It’s important to do this research before deciding to participate in a particular program and best to begin at least 4-6 months before the start of your program.  Be aware that you may have to book an appointment to travel in person to the consulate of the country you are visiting.  Most countries have consulates in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

​When in doubt, talk to someone! Here at CoF International Programs, we can help you figure out what you need at your final destination or point you toward someone who can help. Google what you can, but also don’t be afraid to reach out for help. That’s what we are here for.

​Looking for more pre-departure info? Check out of Pre-departure To-Do List for a comprehensive list of things to consider before you go!

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