One of the first steps in preparing to travel abroad is to obtain a passport. Passports should be valid at least six months after the end date of the student's program. Whether the student is applying for a first time passport, or renewing an old passport, it is important to start the application process early as it can take several weeks to receive the passport after submitting and application. Similarly, students who need to obtain a visa or other immigration document for their study abroad program will need to research the requirements well in advance and be sure to submit the appropriate application materials in a timely manner.
While it is not required to have a valid passport at time of submitting an application to study abroad, students will be required to submit a copy of their valid passport upon receiving approval to go abroad. The OEA encourages students to apply for a passport as soon as possible as all students will be required to have a valid passport to travel abroad and will need it for a variety of purposes in order to prepare for their study abroad experience.
A passport is an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder's identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel under its protection to and from foreign countries.
Each student needs to ensure their passport is valid per the entry and exit regulations of the host country. This means that the passport does not expire before a certain period of time. To check the passport validity requirement of a particular country, do the following:
- Go to the U.S. Department of State's website
- Type in the country within the "Learn about your destination" search box
- Scroll down to the "Quick Facts" box, where the validity requirement will be listed
If a student needs to renew or apply for a new passport and they are a U.S. citizen, they can refer to the following resources:
- U.S. Department of State Passport Application Instructions
- Union Station in the Student Union at UNC Charlotte
The OEA does not issue passports and cannot advise on passport applications.
Students who do not hold a U.S. passport should consult their home country's embassy or consulate for more information.
VISAS and OTHER IMMIGRATION REQUIREMENTS
In addition to needing a valid passport, students may also need to apply for a visa, transit visa, residency permit, or other type of immigration document. A visa is an immigration document that is an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a particular country. A visa is issued by the host country government and is usually a sticker or stamp that is affixed inside of your passport. Not all countries will require a visa, and not all students need to obtain one prior to departure. A transit visa may be required when a person travels though but does not remain in a particular country on the way to another destination. If a transit visa is required for a country on a traveler’s itinerary, a traveler without one will not be allowed to board transportation that goes through that country and will need to make alternate travel arrangements at their own expense. In some cases a student may need to obtain a residence permit upon arrival in the host country, register with the local police office, and/or fill out additional documentation.
Entry and exit requirements of a host country will vary widely based on:
- Destination country
- Traveler's citizenship
- Where the traveler was born
- Reason for travel to the country (i.e. study vs. work, unpaid vs. paid work)
- The duration of stay in the country
It is possible that one student may need a visa to enter the host country while another student participating in the same program may not need one. It is very important that students research immigration requirements based on their individual situation.
If a visa is required, students will be able to begin their visa application process upon receiving approval to go abroad by the OEA and upon receiving official acceptance into the program.
Immigration regulations change often. The Office of Education Abroad cannot advise on immigration requirements on behalf of a host country government, to include answering questions or interpreting embassy websites. It is each student's responsibility to research the entry and exit requirements of the host country government before applying to go abroad.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to refer to the U.S. Department of State website for visa and immigration information.
Navigating the Department of State website:
- U.S. Department of State's website
- Access the "Find International Travel Information" section
- Enter the host country in the "Learn about your destination" field
- Refer to the "Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements" heading carefully, where there should be a link to the host country embassy
Students who do not hold a U.S. passport should consult their home country's embassy or consulate as well as the host country embassy or consulate for more information. Additionally, non-U.S. citizens who are studying at UNC Charlotte on a visa need to consult with the International Student and Scholar Office to ensure they have the proper documentation to reenter the U.S. upon completion of the program.