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Passports & Visas

Students should start the passport and visa application early and look into the specific requirements for your program.


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

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, visit 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, you must to renew your passport 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 that country. The type of visa is typically determined according to the purpose of your visit to the country, such as: study, tourism, attending school, relocating for work, etc. You show the visa to immigration officials at the airport when you arrive to your host country.

How do I Apply for a Visa?

It is your responsibility to determine if a visa is required for your program. To determine if a visa is required, you should consult the consulate or embassy of the host country. U.S. citizens can also find additional visa and country information on the U.S. State Department website.

If your program requires a visa, you to apply as soon as you are accepted into the program and have access to the required materials. 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 the application. Some countries may require a bank statement showing sufficient funds to participate in your program, 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.

Common Required Application Materials

The visa application form can typically be found on the consulate or embassy website. This is the form where you will be asked to input personal information and details about your program. Many forms also require a passport-sized photo.

This may be required to prove that you are enrolled at your home university. Illinois students can obtain this letter on the Office of the Registrar's website.

Some consulates or embassies may require you to submit an official bank statement showing that you have sufficient funds to cover the costs of your stay in the host country. You can obtain this from your bank or the bank of the person(s) funding your program. If you are receiving financial aid for your program, you can also submit your financial aid award letter for this requirement.

You may be required to submit proof that you have been accepted to your program. These letters are issued by your host institution and are often distributed by your study abroad advisor.

If you are required to submit this as part of your visa application, you can access your insurance verification letter once you have been enrolled through the Arther J. Gallagher website.

Other Common Requirements

This is a person who can verify your identity when you are signing a document. A Notary Public will stamp or impress an official seal on the document(s) you bring to them to signify their validity. Documents that need to be notarized must only be signed in front of a Notary Public to be valid. You can find notaries at your university’s Registrar or ID office, post offices, libraries, law firms, or local banks.

This is a form of currency that is set for a pre-determined amount of money. Money orders are often requested by consulate and embassies for the fees associated with the visa application process. Money orders can be obtained at a post office, bank or credit union, grocery store, or pharmacy. Cashier’s checks can only be obtained at a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.

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 Urbana-Champaign who wants to study abroad on a 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 after studying abroad, 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 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 need more information about what you may need to return to the U.S. from your program, please email International Student and Scholar Services at