Study abroad is an incomparable experience. If you have the chance to take an educational trip or attend school overseas, you’ll find that you learn just as much outside the classroom as in it… if not more! Studying abroad gives you the chance to practice your foreign language skills, and to really see how people live in other countries. It’s an opportunity to make memories you’ll keep for a lifetime, and friends you’ll cherish forever.
Before you pack your bags for your foreign studies, you’ll need to make sure that you have all the right travel documents. Read on to learn more about what you will need for your study abroad.
Passports for Study Abroad
No matter where you are going or what you’ll be studying once you get there, one thing is for certain… you are going to need a valid passport! If you don’t have a passport yet, the very first thing you should do is to apply for one. You’ll need to have your passport number in order to book your flight, and you are likely to need to provide your passport details when you register for your classes. Students under age 16 will need to apply for a minor passport, and older students will use the new adult passport procedure.
Do you already have a passport? Excellent! You will want to check it and make sure that:
- Your passport has plenty of validity left. For most countries, your passport will need to be valid for at least six months after your return to the States. Also, it’s going to be a lot easier to renew your passport now, while you are still in America, than when you are overseas.
- Your passport has blank pages marked “visas.” You’ll need to have several blank pages available for your entry stamps and visas. If you plan to visit other countries while you are abroad, you’ll need to have even more blank pages.
- Your passport is in good condition. A worn-out or damaged passport can cause all kinds of trouble when you travel, so replace it before you leave.
Visas for Study Abroad
Will you need a visa for your international studies? The answer to that question will depend on a number of different factors:
- Where are you going? Some countries, like China or India, require US citizens to have a visa to enter, no matter what, so you will definitely need to get a visa before you leave. Other countries don’t require US citizens to get visas for shorter trips, and for those countries you may or may not need a visa for your studies.
- How long will you be staying in the foreign country? Even countries that don’t normally require visas for US citizens, like Canada or Spain, will require visas if you are staying for more than 3-6 months at a time.
- What kind of program are you attending? If you’ll be earning credits at a registered, accredited school or university, you are more likely to need a student visa. If you’re taking classes at a non-accredited school or program, like a language academy or a massage school, you will likely be able to use a tourist visa.
Minor Travel Authorization
If you’re under 18 and about to go study abroad, you’re in for a great adventure! It’s probably the first time that you’ll be away from your parents for an extended period of time. You might be thinking about how you’ll keep in contact with your family, or what you’re going to do with your newfound freedom, but have you thought about whether you’ll need extra documentation when you travel?
Travelers under 18 who will not be accompanied by their parents will need to prove that they have the consent of their parents for their travel. This is typically done with a notarized consent letter, like this sample document from the State Department. It’s also a good idea to carry a photocopy of your birth certificate and copies of both parents’ passports.
Some countries have very specific requirements for minors traveling alone. South Africa, for example, doesn’t require visas for US visitors but does require unaccompanied minors to have a sheaf of paperwork proving they have parental consent!
If you’ll be getting a visa for your study abroad, you will need to prove parental consent as part of your visa application process. If you don’t need a visa, you will definitely need to travel carrying parental consent documentation. We recommend you carry it even if you do already have a visa in your passport.
Passports for Parents
Is your child going to be studying abroad? You should make sure that your passport is valid and fit for travel, too!
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. I’m not the one traveling, it’s my kid. Why do I need to have a valid passport? It’s a safety precaution. If, God forbid, your child gets seriously ill or injured while they are studying abroad, you are going to want to fly out immediately to be by their side! In an emergency, you won’t want to be held up by not having a valid passport. And when you are already worried about your child’s health and safety, you definitely do not need the added stress of having to get a rush passport! For your own peace of mind, go ahead and get yourself a passport, too, or renew your passport so you’ll be ready to travel.
Besides, having a kid studying abroad is a great excuse for you to do some travel, too. Why not plan a vacation around visiting the kiddo, and then doing some exploring on your own?
We hope you have a fantastic time on your study abroad experience!