A passport is the document that identifies you as a U.S. citizen. You must have a passport to enter a foreign country.
Important notes on passports:
- Passport processing time can vary depending on the time of year, but typically take between four and six weeks. It is recommended to apply immediately, though, to ensure that you have adequate time, should you need to apply for a visa.
- If you already have a passport,
check the expiration date. Some countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the end date of your stay in that country.
- It is best to apply for a passport at the same time you submit your study abroad application, if you do not already have one.
- Once you receive your passport, be sure to sign it immediately. 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 and the original 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).
You may download an application and read the requirements on the
U.S. State Department's passport website. 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), CMU Passport Fair (every Spring and Fall Semester) or the passport office in your home town.
A visa is the written authorization from the foreign government allowing you to enter the country. When a visa is required, an application must be submitted in advance and, once granted, it is typically stamped in your passport.
- 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's Country Specific Information Sheets provide contact information for the country's Embassy or Consulate in the U.S.
Please be aware that it is your responsibility to apply for a visa, when required.
- Obtaining a visa often involves sending your passport and other documents to the nearest Consulate of the country you are visiting.
- When applications are accepted by mail, be sure to send your application and passport by traceable mail using the service accepted by the Consulate (when limited, the Consulates will specify the accepted mail services on their website). Also, remember to include a pre-paid return envelope through the same mail service.
- Please be aware that some Consulates may require you to appear in person to apply for a visa. This will mean traveling to the nearest consulate, typically in Chicago or Detroit.
Faculty-led program participants will be given visa instructions by the OSA and/or your faculty leader, if a visa is required.
Some countries require that visa applications be submitted at least three months prior to departure. Check the 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 country you wish to enter to inquire about applying for a visa. Be sure to ask 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 is 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. Some websites to get you started are www.statravel.com,
Helpful Tip - Booking Flights!
STA Travel (www.statravel.com) offers an airfare deposit program. This allows students, on some flights, to pay a deposit of $300 - $500 at the time of purchase and pay the balance seven days before their departure.
It is very exciting to be abroad and natural to want to explore new locations and visit different countries. While study abroad is a wonderful opportunity to see new places, it is important to remember that your primary purpose is to attend classes and successfully complete coursework. Be sure to take your school work into consideration when planning your excursions. Remember, all courses taken abroad are for academic credit and will be counted in your CMU GPA. A great way to incorporate travel into your study abroad experience is to visit local sites during the regular term and travel to distant places during school breaks or after your program has ended.
Additional International Travel Information
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, especially when security is heightened. The immigration official will check your documents and stamp your passport.
Once you proceed through immigration, you will collect your luggage and go through customs. Your luggage may be x-rayed or physically searched. 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 and even joking about this will cause you serious delays and perhaps even jail time. It is not unusual to have your luggage opened and searched as a matter of practice.
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 complete on the plane, to be handed to a customs official when you return to the United States. 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 and ask them to allow 48 hours for you to be in touch. Shortly after arrival, please log into your online My Study Abroad account and fill in your overseas contact information under "Address Abroad."
Social customs differ greatly from one country to the next, making it impossible to provide guidelines for every program. Generally speaking, you should act naturally and take your cues from the host nationals surrounding you. Remember that you are a guest in your host country and should act accordingly.
Politeness: In many countries, social interactions follow a much stricter code of conduct than we are used to in the United States. Be prepared to offer a formal greeting to whomever you meet in your day‐to‐day activities. In many languages, there is a formal and informal form of "you." Be prepared to use the formal form until you are invited to use the informal form.
Humor: Each country has its own brand of humor. Even well‐intentioned jokes may appear to be rude or insulting depending on the country or culture you are in (American sarcasm is not necessarily universal). You may want to refrain from making too many jokes until you are able to get a sense of the type of humor that your hosts appreciate.
Speaking the Language: In most countries, the host nationals will be flattered or impressed by your efforts to speak their language. Do not be intimidated if you feel that your language skills are limited or inadequate. Even if you cannot speak the language, it is important to learn a few key phrases (Please, Thank you, Do you speak English?) in order to be polite. You may also want to be careful about using slang words, as it is often difficult for non‐native speakers to gain a proper sense of these phrases.
Physical Contact: Social norms dictating physical contact vary greatly from country to country. While you may feel perfectly comfortable hugging someone or patting them on the back, this type of physical contact may make someone from another culture very uncomfortable. Personal space can also vary greatly from country to country. You may be surprised when a new acquaintance begins standing very close to you when having a conversation. Be sure to take your cues from the locals.
Drinking and Drunkenness: Drinking is often viewed very differently outside of the United States. While those in your host country may enjoy drinking socially, it is less common to see binge drinking or drinking to become drunk while abroad. In some countries or cultures, drinking alcohol may be considered socially unacceptable behavior. Be very sensitive to the attitudes within your host country.
Bargaining: Bargaining over prices is sometimes not only appropriate, but is expected. At other times, bargaining is not acceptable and can be considered an insult. If you are unsure, speak with the merchant and indicate that the price is higher than you expected or more than you wish to spend. If the merchant wishes to bargain, this will give them an opportunity to offer you a lower price. You may find that you quickly become used to the bargaining process and consider it a challenge to get the best price, or perhaps even view it as a game. It is important to remember, though, that those selling their wares are doing so to make a living.
Talking Politics: The people you encounter abroad are likely to be very well informed about politics, about their own country and about the United States. What happens within the United States typically has a very large impact on the rest of the world so our country's political actions are noticed. We strongly encourage you to take some time to research political matters so you are knowledgeable, should the topic arise in conversation. While it is acceptable and sometimes even a wonderful learning experience to discuss politics and international relations with your new acquaintances, it is also very important to always gauge who your audience is before you begin the conversation. You should always make sure that you are in a safe environment with people you trust.
Photographing Others: While you are abroad, you will likely want to capture images to share with others. It is important to remember when taking a photo that includes locals, common courtesy dictates that you ask permission to do so first.