Upon decision to study abroad, students should apply for passport. All study abroad participants must have a passport that is valid for six months beyond the end date of the study abroad program.For example, if your program ends at the end of a Spring semester, make sure your passport is valid through the end of December of that year. If it is necessary to renew the passport, we suggest doing so as soon as possible, as it may take up to six weeks to process your application or renewal. Refer to the U.S. Department of State more information about the application process for U.S. passports. Non-US citizens must have a valid passport from their own country and must comply with the visa requirements applicable to citizens of that country. 

Lost Passports | Students should report the loss or theft of a passport immediately to the nearest US consulate or embassy in their host country, local police, and their host university/program.


A visa is official permission to enter a country for a specific reason and duration. Many countries issue visas, which are typically stamped or glued into your passport. It is the responsibility of the student to learn the visa application process and to complete it in a timely manner.

Students should start making a visa checklist as soon as they have been accepted into a program in researching this process by accessing the consulate or embassy webpages for their host country. Visa processing times vary by country; however, there is often a limited window in which students may need to apply. In most cases, students cannot apply for a visa more than 90 days in advance of travel and processing times take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Before you can apply, you will need your host university acceptance materials, in addition other required documents.

General visa information will be provided to students in orientation programming; however, given the differences for each country and student status, Global Programs coordinators are limited in their ability to offer visa guidance. In all cases, students will be referred to the consulate and embassy pages for the host country for additional information. We recommend that you work directly with your host country’s embassy or consulate, or obtain the services of a visa specialist.

Processes Vary | For some countries and programs, you must apply for, pay for, and receive your student visa prior to arrival in the country. For others, it can be issued upon arrival if you have appropriate documentation (e.g. letter of admission from host institution plus letter of financial guarantee and certification of health insurance from Washington University). Sometimes, it may take a different form, such as a Residency Permit. For visas issued prior to arrival, the process can vary from an online application with email confirmation to complex and inconvenient requirements (e.g. fingerprinting, police record check, medical tests, and/or personal appearance at a specific consulate well ahead of your departure date). The fee for obtaining a visa varies depending upon the country and type/duration of program. With the exception of visas issued upon arrival and those confirmed electronically prior to arrival, you may be required to briefly surrender your passport to the office issuing the visa. Unless you are doing this in person or by proxy (e.g. family member, visa service), you will likely send the passport with required documentation and payment of fee to the appropriate office (typically within an embassy or consulate) with sufficient time for it to be processed and returned to you before you need it to travel. If your visa is to be processed via mail, the recommended procedure for sending passports is via courier with automated tracking system, such as FedEx, or by US Express Mail. Enclosing a prepaid envelope for the passport to be returned to you by courier or express mail is recommended. Be sure to record both tracking numbers. Also, you may be required to drop off and/or pick up your passport in person at the nearest embassy (for most cases, this is Chicago). 

Should you decide to hire a visa processes specialist, explore the services that each company or consultant provides, ask them questions, review their fees, and decide if you would like to work with one of them. This is just a sample and not an exhaustive nor endorsed list: