Below is information that will help you prepare for your travels.
A passport is a travel document, usually issued by a country’s government, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. Standard passports contain the holder’s name, place and date of birth, photograph, signature, and other identifying information. All students must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of return to the United States.
Processing times can vary depending on the time of year, and occasional unforeseen circumstances. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, students are encouraged to expedite their applications if traveling in fewer than 6 weeks. Please note there is an additional fee for expedited service.
Passport processing times
Routine 4-6 Weeks Expedited 3 Weeks Expedited at Agency 8 Business Days
What is a visa?
A visa is a conditional authorization granted by a country to a noncitizen to enter and temporarily remain within that country. Visas typically include limits on the duration of the noncitizen’s stay, the dates they may enter, or the number of permitted visits.
A visa is commonly a stamp endorsed in the applicant’s passport or other travel document. Students must apply in advance for a visa, sometimes in person at a consular office, by mail or over the Internet.
Do I need a visa?
Some countries do not require visas for short visits. To find out if you need a visa you should contact the foreign embassy of the country in which you hope to study.
How do I get a visa?
It is your responsibility to obtain your visa. The documents required for a visa application vary from country to country. To start the process, you will need the acceptance letter from Mitchell Hamline or from your program sponsor. Other documents you may need include a round-trip plane ticket; proof of designated immunizations; proof of health insurance; and other documents. The documents you will need are determined by each foreign country and may change frequently. To ascertain what the visa requirements are for your country, contact the foreign embassy.
Embassies are based in Washington D.C. and have consular offices around the United States through which you apply. Embassies usually require that you apply through the consulate that is in the district of your permanent address. As a student in Minnesota, you need to work with the embassy in Chicago.
Because visa requirements and procedures change frequently it is important that you understand what is required for your country of destination and begin the application process early.
How long does it take to get a visa?
Visa processing times vary depending on your country of destination. Because of that, advance travel planning and early visa application are important.
Note: Because you are required to relinquish your passport to the embassy or consulate that will issue your visa, remember you may not be able to travel abroad during the visa application process.
How much does a visa cost?
Fees vary. Furthermore, the fees may change frequently and with no notice. You are responsible for paying the consular fee for your visa.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, your visa may differ from those for U.S. citizens. Be sure to review carefully the requirements as stated by the foreign embassy.
Getting ready: A traveler’s checklist
Studying abroad will require careful planning on your part.
These are important steps you can take to prepare for a safe and rewarding trip anywhere outside the United States:
- Learning about travel alerts and warnings for your destination
- Required travel documents
- How to get ready for an emergency
- Driving overseas
- Packing tips
- Documents to photocopy
Learn before you go
The State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS) provides country specific information for every country of the world. You will find the location of the U.S. embassy and any consular offices, information about whether you need a visa, crime and security information, health and medical considerations, drug penalties, localized hot spots, and more.
Look through the State Department’s Country Specific Information to find information about your destination. You can research the entry and exit requirements, get more details about necessary documentation, and find out how to apply.
What to do in case of an emergency
The Department of State will play an important role during a crisis or emergency overseas. The extent of their help will depend on the nature of the crisis, and it will range from simply providing you with information on conditions in the country, to warning about areas of unrest, to recommending you leave the country.
Preparedness in case of an emergency is key to a positive outcome.
Learn what to do in each of the following situations:
- You are a victim of a crime overseas
- Your passport is lost or stolen while you are abroad
- You are in need of emergency financial assistance abroad
- You need to know what to do in case of a medical emergency
- You need assistance in case of arrest or detention
- A natural disaster occurs
In an Emergency, call Overseas Citizen Services
- From the United States or Canada: 1-888-407-4747
- Everywhere else: +1-202-501-4444
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Financing your study abroad experience
The Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1992 has established that students can receive financial aid for the costs of studying abroad, provided they are enrolled in a program approved by the home institution. In addition, it is important to understand that students are eligible to receive grants, loans, or work assistance regardless of whether the study abroad program is a requirement of their program of study.
Websites about financing study abroad
- Financial Aid & Study Abroad: Basic Facts for Students
- Education Abroad for Adult Students PDF, NAFSA
- Mobility International USA (MIUSA) funding tips, and links to fellowships and scholarships (both general and disability-specific) for international exchange.
Study abroad and your health
Keep in mind that some countries require international visitors to carry an International Certificate of Vaccination (known as a Yellow Card) or other proof that they have had certain inoculations or medical tests before entering or transiting their country. You can find that information at the State Department’s Country Specific Information.
Vaccinations and other health precautions
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Country Specific Information on travel.state.gov
Health insurance coverage outside the U.S.
Before you go, you need to learn what medical services your health insurance provider will cover overseas. Most of them may pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad. Few, however, will pay for a medical evacuation back to the United States, which can easily cost up to $100,000, or even more, depending on your condition and location.
Regardless of whether your insurance is valid overseas, you may be required to pay for care when you receive it.
If your insurance policy does not cover you abroad, consider purchasing a short-term policy that does. Many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
Taking prescriptions or other medications: What you need to know if you take prescription medication
Pack enough to last your entire trip, including some extra in case you are unexpectedly delayed.
Carry your medications in their original labeled containers, and pack them in your carry-on bag in case your checked baggage is lost or delayed.
Ask your pharmacy or physician for the generic equivalent name of your prescriptions in case you need to purchase additional medication abroad.
Get a letter from your physician in case you are questioned about your carry-on medication; some countries have strict restrictions on bringing prescription or even non-prescription medications into the country without proper medical documentation.
Traveling with disabilities
While abroad, remember that attitudes, accessibility, and accommodations for people with disabilities vary a great deal from country to country. It is important that you research your host culture to learn if support will be available.
In most cases, accommodations can be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with your program coordinator or host institution. Because of that, it is imperative that you disclose your needs early on in your application process.
Countries differ as far as standards of accessibility for students with disabilities. In fact, some may not require accommodations similar to what you would find in the United States.
Advance preparation is key! Ensure your travel is accessible, safe, and enjoyable.
Other websites for travelers with disabilities
- Mobility International USA
- Common Questions Regarding Travel for People with Disabilities PDF
- Access-Able Travel Source
- Disabled Travelers
- Global Access News – Disabled Travelers Network
- Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality
- Emerging Horizons Travel Information Travel information for wheelchair users and slow walkers
- Students with Disabilities Abroad Diversity Abroad
- Addressing Mental Health Issues
Disabilities and study abroad: print resources
A World of Options: A Guide to International Exchange, Community Service, and Travel for Persons with Disabilities, edited by Christa Bucks, Mobility International USA, 1997
New Manual for Inclusions of Persons with Disabilities in International Exchange Programs, Mobility International USA, 1996
Able to Travel: True Stories by and for People with Disabilities Able to Travel: True Stories by and for People with Disabilities, edited by Alison Walsh, The Rough Guides, 1994
Diversity and inclusion in education abroad
Mitchell Hamline is committed to encouraging diversity and fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment for all students, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, disability, gender, religion, or any other difference in background or identity. Diversity of participation in education abroad is essential. However, we recognize that students from underrepresented groups face distinct challenges when considering and preparing for their overseas experience.
Being a “minority” in a “majority” environment can be challenging. You may face unwanted attention or biased attitudes due to different aspects of yourself you will bring along with you, such as your skin color, hair type, the way your dress, or physical appearance. Some of these challenges may also be due to cultural differences and norms. Knowing how to address these challenges is essential to a successful experience abroad.
Handling racial and ethnic challenges overseas
Depending on where you go, your physical appearance is one of those aspects of your identity that will either distinguish you as an “outsider” or it may help you “blend in.” Being a racial minority in your host country can lead to challenging or uncomfortable situations. The following websites may help you prepare for these situations.
- Race: Are We So Different? A New Look at Race through Three Lenses a project of the American Anthropological Association.
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh
- All Abroad: Resources and Advice for African American, Asian/Pacific Islander American, Hispanic/Latin@ American, and Native American students
- Diversity Abroad
- Resources to Support Underrepresented Students Project for Learning Abroad, Training, and Outreach (PLATO)
Resources for female students
Attitudes towards women and gender-ascribed roles vary a great deal across cultures. It is important that you research these cultural differences before you go. Seeking the guidance of a cultural informant, especially a female one, will be very helpful. To avoid unwanted attention and as long as you feel comfortable, try to emulate the behavior and dress code of the local women
- Her Own Way – A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide Canadian Government
- Women Abroad Diversity Abroad
- Journeywoman The Premier Travel Resource for Women
- For Women Travelers U.S. Department of State: Students Abroad
Inclusion and study abroad: print resources
Gutsy Women: Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road by Marybeth Bond, Travelers’ Tales, Inc., 1996
Traveling Solo by Eleanor Berman, Globe Pequot Press, 1997
Are You Two…Together? A Gay and Lesbian Travel Guide to Europe by Lindsay Van Gelder and Pamela Robin Brandt, Random House, 1991
Detour’s London: An Alternative Guide by Jonathan Nicholson and Jonathan Williams, Detour Publications, 1993
Handbook for Women Abroad, edited by Jane Wemhoener, 1991, available from Kenyon College, Office of International Education, Gambier OH 43022
Resources for LGBTQ Students
You will find that attitudes towards sexuality and gender vary considerably across cultures. Do your research before your overseas experience so that you know what to expect and how to stay safe and avoid discrimination.
- Sexual Orientation Abroad Diversity Abroad
- Information by Country International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
- State Homophobia Map PDF, International Lesbian and Gay Association
- Attitudes towards Homosexuality Pew Global Research
- Study Abroad for GLBT Students Michigan State University
- LGBT Student Guide for Going Abroad PDF, University of South Florida
- A Compilation of Cross-national Studies of Attitudes towards Homosexuality and Gay Rights PDF, University of Chicago
- U.S. Students Abroad NAFSA Rainbow Special Interest Group
- For LGBT Travelers US Department of State: Students Abroad
- LGBT students: a forgotten market with potential
- Nine Major Life lessons I Learned Studying Abroad as an LGBT
Video: The importance of having six months’ validity left on your passport