All students must have a valid passport in order to study abroad. Your passport should remain valid for at least 6 months after you will return from abroad at the end of your program. U.S. passport application forms are available from any U.S. Post Office that serves as a passport agent. For students at Skidmore, the West Avenue Post Office offers this service (tel: 518-584-1545). Students at other schools should check with their local post office to see where the nearest passport office is located.) The application process can take up to takes 6-8 weeks, and some applicants must appear in person. For an extra fee, your application can be expedited. Passport applications and instructions are available online.
How to Obtain a Passport (PDF, 13kb)
In addition to a passport, some students will need a visa to enter the program's host country.
|What is a visa? A visa is an official authorization appended to a passport, permitting entry into and travel within a particular country or region for a specified period of time to do a specific thing (i.e. study, work, be a tourist).|
Remember that you must present a valid passport along with your visa application that the consulate will likely keep until your visa is ready. This could be 3 hours, three days, or the full three months. (NOTE: Applying for a visa does not guarantee that you will be granted a visa. Consult closely with your program provider throughout the visa application process and immediately notify your provider, and Skidmore's OCSE, if you are denied a visa. Visa denial will result in canceled study abroad plans.)
If you will travel to other foreign countries while you are abroad, you should find out about entry requirements for those countries before you leave the U.S. Many Western European countries do not require visas for U.S. citizens entering as tourists and staying less than 3 months. However, many other countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world will require a tourist visa, in addition to a passport, for any length of stay. Many countries now have their visa requirements online. Check out Project Visa for a list of foreign consulates and embassies worldwide.
If you run into serious difficulties obtaining a passport or visa, you may be able to solicit the assistance of a private passport/visa agency. For a fee, they can expedite often your application and assist with the process. Some of these agencies include Travisa, A Briggs Passport & Visa Expeditors, Perry International, VisaRite, or Passport Express. Skidmore does not and cannot endorse any of these agencies; we have simply heard that they provide visa services. Please do some research before you choose one of these agencies. NOTE: Not all countries permit applicants to use a visa agency. If your destination country requires visa applicants to appear in-person to apply for a visa, you will not be able to utilize the services of a visa agency.
When you depart the U.S. and when you arrive at your host country, you will pass through Customs and Immigration. Customs is a country’s method of regulating the goods and currency brought into or taken out of that country. Immigration, on the other hand, establishes that you are legally entitled to enter/reside in that country for a specified period of time. At many airports, Customs and Immigration are handled simultaneously, but occasionally you may be asked to go through both procedures/checkpoints separately. Remember, honesty is still the best policy in the customs business – do not try to bring items into a country that are forbidden, like fresh fruits and vegetables or an animal.
When you leave a country, you will again go through Customs and Immigration checks. Your visa will be canceled and you will declare what goods you have purchased while abroad. When you reenter the U.S., you will go through U.S. Customs at your port of entry (i.e. the first U.S. airport at which you land). Each person is usually entitled to transport up to $800 worth of goods into the United States duty free, although there are some exceptions to this rule. Purchases exceeding that amount are subject to duty taxes. If you plan to buy a lot of items while abroad, you should retain all of your receipts as proof of what you paid. For more information on Customs, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection travel Web site.
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