Passports & Visas

Start the passport and visa application early and look into the specific requirements for students traveling abroad.

What is a Passport?

A passport is an official document issued by the national government of your home country, indicating the holders’ identity and nationality. Most international travel requires that you carry a passport. For U.S. citizens, passports are issued by the U.S. State Department. U.S. Citizens can start the process to apply or renew their passport at travel.state.gov.

How do I get a Passport Photo?

You can obtain a passport photo at locations such as Walgreens, CVS, FedEx or a local post office. The Campus ID Center in the Illini Union bookstore also issues passport photos. To learn more about passport photos, investigate the U.S. Department of State (USDOS) photo requirements webpage.

How do I Apply for or Renew my Passport?

If your passport is not valid for at least six months after you plan to return from your time abroad, then you need to apply to have your passport renewed as soon as possible.  Allow 4-6 weeks of processing time.  If you find yourself pressed for time, you can have your passport expedited at an extra cost. Visit the USDOS Passport Fees page to find the cost of a new or renewed passport. Instructions to apply for or renew a passport can be found on the U.S. State Department website.  You can also find passport application materials at local post offices.

What is a Visa?

A visa is an endorsement on a passport provided by the government of the host country, indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country.  The type of visa is typically determined according to the purpose of your visit to the country, such as: tourism, attending school, relocating for work, etc. 

How do I Apply for a Visa?

It is the student’s responsibility to determine if a visa is required. To determine if a visa is required, contact the consulate or embassy of the host country. U.S. Citizens can also find additional visa and country info on the U.S. State Department website.

If your program of study requires a visa, IAGE strongly encourages you to apply as soon as you find out about your admittance into the program. Failure to obtain a visa, or the correct visa, may lead to denial of entry or criminal charges and would not result in any program refunds.

If a visa is required, be sure to research what materials are required as part of your visa application. Some countries may require a bank statement showing sufficient funds to study abroad, acceptance letters from host institutions, proof of health insurance, etc. The most up-to-date information on what will be needed for your visa application can be found on the host country’s consulate or embassy website. You will also be able to determine from the website if you need to make an in-person appointment with the consulate or embassy. If you need assistance, there are fee-based companies (visa agencies) that can aid you in the visa process.

Detailed Visa Information for Non-U.S. Citizens

If you are not a U.S. citizen, it is your responsibility to know and understand the rules and regulations of leaving the U.S. to study within another country. You must follow the visa regulations for the country that issues your passport. For example, a Chinese student enrolled at the University of Illinois who wants to study abroad on an Illinois program in Italy should follow Italy’s visa requirements for Chinese citizens.

If you are a non-U.S. citizen and plan to return to the University of Illinois after studying abroad, please remember the following:

  • You must be registered as a full-time student (minimum of 12 credit hours) while abroad to maintain your status with the University.
  • Carry all necessary documents and authorizations to re-enter the U.S. after your study abroad program ends. You may not reenter the US past the program end date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019.
  • If your entry visa were to expire while you are abroad, you must return to your home country to obtain a new entry visa. Your passport should be valid at least 6 months beyond the date you return to the U.S.
  • Your I-20/DS-2019 must have a travel signature less than one year old to return to the U.S.

If you are a non-U.S. citizens and require more information on what you may need to return to the U.S. from your study abroad program, please email the Office of International Student and Scholar Services at isss@illinois.edu.