Passports and Visas

Please review the information below for a general overview of obtaining a passport and applying for a visa. Processing times for passports and visas can vary, depending on your program location and nationality. We recommended that you review this information early and give yourself enough time to complete the process. If you have any questions or concerns, directly contact your program or your UGE Adviser.


Having a valid passport is one of the key components of going abroad. If you do not have a passport, please apply for one even before you know if you have been accepted to your program. The application process can be lengthy, and your program may need a valid passport soon after acceptance. Many countries require that you have a passport valid for several months past the end of the program date. Check the consulate of your host country to determine if your passport meets its validity requirements.

If you are a U.S. citizen, please visit the U.S. Department of State to learn more about how to apply for a passport.

For international students, please consult your home country’s equivalent of the Department of State or the “citizen’s services” section of your home country’s U.S. Consulate.

For undocumented students, please visit Columbia University Life for information and assistance navigating resources.


A visa grants you permission to study or visit for a specified period of time in your host country under a particular status. The country issuing a visa generally stamps or provides a document inside your passport which indicates the terms of your entry, exit, and duration abroad.

The visa application process varies from country to country, and for some, it can be long and complicated. So it is important you pay close attention to the visa instructions provided by your program or your host country’s Embassy or Consulate and apply as soon as possible. If your program offers batch or group processing, please participate in that opportunity as it will make the process much more efficient.

Batch processing is when a third-party provider will ask you to submit information in a portal or by mailing items in for them to assist in processing multiple visas at once on your behalf. Again, work directly with your program to capitalize on this opportunity.

To inform yourself about the visa requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State website, search under “Learn about your destination,” and view the tab “Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements.” It is important to pay close attention to the host country’s requirements and program updates, as you are responsible for knowing the visa requirements. Failure to obtain a visa will prevent you from attending the program and can result in financial and/or academic repercussions.

If you are an international student, please note that many of our resources are geared towards advising U.S. citizens on visa requirements. We recommend that non-U.S. passport holders research the visa application early in the process, even before you have been accepted to a program. Contact the host country's Consulate or Embassy (in the U.S.) for information about your specific visa requirements.

Please contact the International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO) to let them know you are traveling abroad. Speak with an ISSO to determine if there are any restrictions on your U.S. student visa that may impose constraints traveling to other countries and re-entry. Please note that they cannot advise on visa requirements for your study abroad destination.

Required Documents for a Visa

When applying for your visa, you may need to include special letters or documents (such as a letter of acceptance from the educational institution or program). You may need to contact your program or UGE Adviser to request an enrollment letter and additional documentation.

Some common documents to obtain a visa include:

  • Passport valid 6 (six) months beyond the stay of the time abroad

  • Proof of insurance

  • Proof of sufficient funds

  • Proof of enrollment in a study abroad program

  • 2×2 color photo

  • Transcripts

  • Standardized test scores

  • Flight itinerary

Please visit your host country’s Consulate or Embassy to help you decide what documents are required when applying for a visa. It is best to apply early for your visa to provide ample time for processing. You can typically apply for a student visa 120 days before your program registration date.

The Center for Undergraduate Global Engagement and Columbia University is not responsible for obtaining student visas, nor are they in any way responsible for visa complications, delays, or denials. Unfortunately, Columbia University does not have the ability to influence visa requirements or consular decisions. However, we are happy to help you in whatever way we can. Please speak with your UGE Adviser for more information.

Taking Care of Your Travel Documents

While traveling, please make copies of your passport, visa (if applicable), all airline tickets and/or itineraries, other ID cards, and bank cards. You can make paper copies to store in a safe place, separate from where you keep your original documents. You may also scan or email yourself electronic versions, so you always have a copy.

If your passport is stolen or lost while abroad, immediately report it to the U.S. Department of State. You will also need to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a replacement and, potentially, a new visa. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s FAQs on Lost or Stolen Passports for more information.