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Passports & Visas

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Passports & Visas

IMPORTANT: U.S. passport processing is experiencing delays due to COVID-19, with regular processing taking up to 11 weeks and even expedited processing taking up to 7 weeks. If you are thinking about studying abroad in 2022 and need to apply for a new passport, we recommend applying as soon as possible! More information can be found on the State Department's website.

Passports Are the First Step in International Travel!

In order to apply for entry into another country, you must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months past your return date (and some countries require up to 18 months validity). If you do not currently have a passport with this validity, you should apply for a new passport immediately. See the State Department's website for instructions on how and where to apply for a new passport.

Regular passport processing times are typically 4-6 weeks. Expedited passport services are available for an additional fee. General expedited services take 2-3 weeks door-to-door. However, there are faster expediting services through the Colorado Passport Agency if you are traveling within 14 days or need a passport to secure your visa within four weeks. Note that, due to COVID, these timelines are currently much longer and appointment availability at the Colorado Passport Agency is extremely limited (see note at the top of this page).
Pro-Tip: Most students need to have their passports 3-6 months prior to departure in order to apply for student visas.

We also strongly recommend your emergency contacts have a valid passport. This way, not only will they be able to visit you (if applicable), but having a valid passport also ensures they would be able to come to you in case of emergency.


What's the Deal with Visas?

Many countries require that you obtain a visa in order to study, intern, or even visit. The visa is issued by your host country's government, granting you permission to enter and stay in the host country; it is generally stamped inside your passport but can also be electronically linked to your passport number.

For some countries, the visa application process is a long, complicated process entailing substantial fees and out-of-state travel to a consulate. Gathering the required documentation for your student visa can take as much or more time than your education abroad application itself. Other countries may just require a quick online application. Similarly, the processing time for visa applications can range from 24 hours to 3 months, so it is important you pay close attention to the visa instructions provided by your program, and apply as soon as you are able to do so.


  • Know you aren't able to apply for your visa until after you have been accepted into your program (as a formal acceptance letter is a common requirement for visa applications). And application deadlines are set with visas timelines in mind.
  • Once you are accepted into your program, you will find a new item in your MyCUAbroad checklist telling you where to find the visa information specific for your program.
  • Some students even take visa requirements into consideration when choosing where to study. When planning your study abroad program, if you have questions regarding a particular country’s visa requirements, please contact your program manager.

To familiarize yourself with the visa requirements for your destination, refer to your host country’s embassy webpage. You can find your host country’s embassy webpage through the U.S. Department of State’s webpage under Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements. Another good resource is the U.S. Department of State's Students Abroad website.

Know that entry requirements can change at any time! Pay close attention to consular and program updates, as you are responsible for knowing and addressing the requirements for your host country and education abroad program. All students must obtain a visa if required by their host country to participate in their program. Failure to obtain a visa will not only prevent you from attending the program, but it could also result in financial and/or academic repercussions for you as well.

Education Abroad and the University of Colorado Boulder are not responsible for obtaining student visas nor are they in any way responsible for visa complications, delays, or denials. Unfortunately, the University of Colorado does not have the ability to influence visa requirements or consular decisions. Although we're happy to help you in whatever way we can, the decision to issue a visa rests solely with the consulate or embassy.

Still have questions? Check out our Passports & Visas FAQs.

Non-U.S. Passport Holders

Many of our resources are geared towards advising U.S. citizens on visa requirements. If you are a passport holder for a country other than the U.S., know that visa  process for you could look quite different than that required for U.S. passport holders. It is your responsibility to research and complete the visa requirements for your individual situation carefully. Check out our FAQs for Non-U.S. Passport Holders for more details and advice.

If you're an international student, make sure you're also talking to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) about the requirements for maintaining your U.S. visa. Please note that ISSS Advisors are unable to advise on visa requirements for your study abroad destination.

Independent Travel

Some visa applications require students to surrender their passport for several weeks or months prior to the start of the education abroad program. This may impact students' independent travel plans (including travel over breaks or departing early in advance of the program). Students are responsible for researching and complying with any applicable entry requirements for independent travel plans. 

Taking Care of Your Passport and Other Important Documents

  • Make two paper copies and electronic scans of the photo page of your passport, visa (if applicable), all airline tickets and/or itineraries, other ID cards, and bank cards.
  • Leave copies of all your important documents with your parents or another responsible party, and carry the duplicate copies separately from your wallet or purse. Email yourself electronic versions so you always have a copy.
  • Important: If you lose your passport 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 you may also need to obtain a new visa. See the U.S. Department of State’s FAQs on Lost Passports for more information.


Photo by Amanda Bartel courtesy of Unsplash