Your passport is the document that identifies you as a citizen of the United States. All travelers must have a passport to enter a foreign country. The passport application may be download from the U.S. State Department's website:
U.S. passport application
Passport applications may be submitted at the Isabella County Building (located at 200 N. Main Street in Mount Pleasant), the Mount Pleasant Post Office (located at 813 North Main Street, by appointment) or the nearest passport office in your home town.
- Apply for your passport immediately. Passport processing time can vary depending on the time of year, but typically take between six and twelve weeks.
- Apply early to ensure that you have sufficient time to apply for a visa, when necessary.
- Two passport photos are needed for the application that in the size and background specified on the application.
- If you already have a passport, check the expiration date. Most countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the end date of your stay in that country.
- Once you receive your passport, check to be sure the information is accurate. Then sign it immediately because it is not valid without a signature.
- Before leaving the U.S., make at least two copies of your passport and leave one copy at home and take one copy with you. Should your passport be lost or stolen, present a copy of the passport to the U.S. Embassy when requesting that it be reissued (this will help speed up the re-issuing process).
- Be sure to keep the copy of the passport in a different place than your passport so they are not both lost at the same time.
A visa is the written authorization from the foreign government allowing you to enter their country. When a visa is required, an application must be submitted to the nearest country consulate (typically within 90 days of departure). Once approved, most consulates put a visa stamp in your passport. Please be aware that it is your responsibility to apply for a visa, when required.
- There are different types of visas and students usually apply for a study visa. Information about entry requirements for your host country can be found on the web by searching for the country's Embassy or Consulate in the United States.
- The U.S. State Department provides information about foreign country Embassies and their Consulates in the U.S. Consulates are assigned geographic areas to provide services. Most consulates that provide services to Michigan residents are in Chicago or Detroit.
- Some Consulates may require you to appear in person to apply for a visa.
- Check visa application requirements early!
Note to students who are not U.S. Citizens: Visa procedures may be different for citizens of other countries. You must contact the nearest consulate for the destination country to inquire about applying for a visa. You may check the country's consulate webpage in your home country for instructions. Be sure to inquire if there are any special procedures you must follow to apply for a visa while in the U.S. In addition, make an appointment with your International Student Advisor to discuss your immigration status while studying abroad and necessary paperwork to re-enter the U.S.
FBI Background Check
Certain countries require an FBI Background Check when applying for a visa. This process may take up to twelve weeks, so it is important to begin early. In some cases, it is possible to expedite this process through use of a channeler. Additional information about this option can be found on the FBI website.
Most students participating in study abroad programs are required to make their own travel arrangements. Here are some tips:
- Wait until you are accepted by CMU and the host institution before purchasing airfare.
- Acceptance letters typically confirm the date on which you must arrive.
- The cheapest option is not always the best option! Whenever possible, choose a direct flight. Alternatively, choose the itinerary with the smallest number of stops and connecting flights. With flight delays being so common, each additional stop increases the chances of missing your next connection and delaying your arrival by one or more days.
- Purchase a round-trip ticket. Many countries require proof of a return flight and they may not issue your visa or allow you to enter with a one-way ticket.
- Review the refund and change of date fees when purchasing your airfare. It is very common for students to change their travel plans and want to see a few more sites before coming home. Purchasing a ticket with a low change-of-date fee will allow you greater flexibility.
- Typically, you will need to check-in online 24 hours in advance for your flight.
- Shop around! Spend some time checking with different travel agents before settling on a ticket. Like any big purchase, you want to make sure that you are getting the best deal. A website to get you started that works with students is studentuniverse.com. You may also contact the airline directly or work with a travel agent.
Customs and Entry Laws
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection provide information regarding regulations when traveling to and from the United States.
- Transportation Security Administration provides current information on regulations and restrictions on transportation, including air travel.
Immigration and Customs Inspections
Once you arrive in your host country and exit the plane, you will be required to go through passport control and customs. Have your passport ready, any arrival documents given to you to complete on the plane, and, when required, proof of immunizations. It is important to be respectful and cooperative as you proceed through this process. The immigration official will check your documents and stamp your passport to approve entry.
Once you proceed through immigration, you will collect your luggage and go through customs. It is not unusual to have your luggage opened and searched as a matter of practice. Your luggage may even be x-rayed. It is also possible that you will be simply waived through without having your luggage searched. DO NOT MAKE ANY JOKES ABOUT BOMBS OR SMUGGLED ITEMS. This is taken very seriously by security officials and even joking about this will cause you serious delays and perhaps even jail time.
Duties and Tariffs
When you return to the United States, you will need to declare any souvenirs or gifts that you purchased while you were abroad. There is a monetary limit on the amount of goods you are able to bring into the United States, without paying taxes. All items that you either purchased or acquired while abroad will have to be declared on the declaration form you will be given on the return flight to be handed to a U.S. customs official after landing. For further information and monetary limits, you can review the U.S. Customs' publication Know Before You Go.
Confirmation of Arrival
Once you arrive and have settled in, contact your family to confirm your safe arrival. Be sure to let your family know you may not be able to call immediately after landing and ask them to allow 48 hours for you to be in touch. Leave your family your flight itinerary and they can check the airline website to see that the plane arrived and the time of arrival.
After arrival, please log into your online My Study Abroad account and fill in your overseas contact information under "Address Abroad."