Traveling Outside the USA
Follow these travel tips to prepare yourself for your study abroad experience.
International Travel Resources
Anyone studying abroad needs a valid passport. If you do not have a passport you must apply for one immediately. You cannot travel internationally without a passport. Processing can take 6-8 weeks or longer so it is crucial that you submit your application as soon as possible.
Your passport identifies you as a U.S. citizen with full rights to travel outside the country. You will need to show it when you leave and re-enter the U.S. and at most other international borders. International situations can change rapidly and without warning. It is important to be informed of entry and exit procedures of your host country. Carry your passport whenever you plan to travel from one country to another.
Apply for a Passport
Adult passports are good for ten years. If you already have a passport, check the expiration date to make sure it will be valid for at least six months beyond your expected return date, as some countries may refuse to issue you a visa if your passport expires within that time frame. To learn more about passport renewals visit the travel.state.gov.
If you do not already have a passport, apply for one immediately. It can take six to eight weeks to get a new passport or renew an old one.
In Grand Forks, there are two issuing bodies:
- County Tax Office at 151 S 4th St
- U.S. Postal Service at 2501 28th Ave S
The process will go much quicker if you have already completed your application and bring all the necessary additional documentation with you. To download an application and view a list of required documentation visit the passport information website. New passports generally costs $165, not including the cost for obtaining required documents and pictures. You will need to apply for the passport book in order to fly internationally.
When you receive your passport, sign it immediately. Without your signature, your passport is invalid.
Keep a Copy
Keep a photocopy of your passport picture page and any visa pages and paperwork in a separate, safe place. Leave a copy at home with a trusted person as well. If your passport is lost or stolen, having a copy of the original greatly expedites the replacement process.
What is a visa or residence permit?
A visa or residence permit is a legal document granting you permission to enter and temporarily remain within your host country as a noncitizen for a specific purpose (i.e. tourism, study, business, etc.). Study abroad students apply for student visas/residence permits which confirm that you are in-country to study.
Do I need a visa or residence permit?
Visas/residence permits are not required for every student/program but are typically needed for semester-long programs. Requirements vary from program-to-program and country-to-country, therefore it is important to do your research.
The US Department of State keeps a list of current country information so begin your research by visiting their website and searching for your destination. You can also visit the website of your host country's consulate to the United States and review their visas pages.
Your host program (whether exchange/direct-enroll/affiliate) will also provide you with information about whether you need a visa/residence permit and how to apply.
Ultimately it is your responsibility to obtain the required visa/residence permit (if required) for your program.
When do I need to apply?
After you are accepted by your host institution as you will need to provide a copy of your acceptance letter. Most visa/residence permits require that you wait until you are within 90 days of your program start date to apply. We recommend you apply no later than 30 days prior to your program start date - if you miss this window you may not be eligible to participate as your visa/residence permit may not be available by your departure date.
Remember that you are requesting permission from the government of your host country to study abroad there. You must take this process seriously.
Please note that you may be required to apply for your visa/residence permit in person, which may include traveling to another US city. Whether you apply by mail, in person, or after arriving in-country will depend on your host country. Do your research!
What is the difference between a visa and residence permit?
Visas and residence permits have a similar purpose and depend on your host country. Visas are commonly stamps in your passport whereas residence permits include your photo and can be physical card you pick up from immigration. Confirm which document you need to obtain by visiting that country's embassy webpage.
What information will I need to submit?
This varies based on location but common materials include a copy of your acceptance letter, proof of financial stability, a local address in that country where you can be reached during your stay, proof of insurance coverage, and one or more official passport-sized ID photos. There is often an additional processing fee.
If you have any questions about the visa process the Study Abroad office will be able to provide you with limited assistance, but please understand that getting a visa is ultimately your own responsibility.
Debit and Credit Cards
Check with your bank or credit card company to find out what fees they may charge you for each withdrawal.
- Visa is the most widely recognized credit card abroad. It is best to have both an ATM card and a credit card.
- Make sure you also have a contact number for the issuing company or bank in case you need to cancel the card due to theft or loss.
- Many local banks do provide a service for you to obtain foreign currency before your departure.
- You may also withdraw money in your host country currency from an ATM once you have arrived.
There are many companies, such as Western Union or TransferWise, that allow for travelers to wire money overseas. This can be used to transfer money into a host country bank account or to access funds directly from the wiring company.
Host Country Bank Account
If you’re going to be abroad for more than a semester, it may be advantageous to look into setting up a bank account for yourself while you’re there. This is a significant step so discuss with your program prior to setting up the account.
Depending on the length of time you are spending abroad you may choose to upgrade your current plan for an international plan, purchase a local phone/SIM card, or leave your phone on airplane mode and use WiFI.
Upgrade your Current Plan
Contact your cell phone company and research rates for an international plan. Some companies offer 'day passes' for international cell coverage.
Purchase Local Phone or SIM Card
If you plan on getting a cell phone plan in your host country there are a couple options:
- Request your current phone to be 'unlocked' by your provider and purchase a local sim card with an international cell phone company.
- Buy an inexpensive phone in your host country and set up a local pay-as-you-go or other cell phone plan.
Whichever option you choose, make sure to contact your current cell phone company to cancel your current plan and unlock your phone if necessary.
This option is great for shorter trips abroad. Be sure to put your phone on airplane mode before arriving in your host country and use WiFI at your accommodation or local coffee shops. You may choose to use this option in conjunction with an 'international day-pass' from your current cell phone company.
- Review insurance information
- Register with US embassy abroad
- STEP registration
- US DOS Consular information
- Review host country's laws