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Students traveling outside the United States need a passport both to leave and to reenter the U.S. Students who are U.S. citizens who do not have a passport must obtain one through an application process. The U.S. Department of State provides detailed information about how to apply for or renew a passport. Processing passport applications takes about three weeks, so students applying for a passport should make preparations well in advance of their planned departure dates. Students should also keep in mind that obtaining a visa (see below) requires a passport, and should allow ample time to obtain all necessary documents and authorizations.


Most foreign countries require a visa to enter. Visa application requirements vary by country as well as the purpose of the visit, so students should look carefully at the requirements for their planned destination. The U.S. Department of State maintains country-specific information, including entry/exit requirements. Obtaining a visa often takes several weeks or longer, so students should plan to begin the visa application process well in advance of their anticipated departure date. Harvard University has negotiated a reduced rate with Travel Document Systems, Inc. (TDS), a visa and passport services vendor with a Boston office. For free, they will advise you on your visa requirements, and for a small fee, they will assist you with routine and expedited applications. To access their services and receive the reduced rate, visit the TDS portal for Harvard travelers. Using the visa search widget on their website, you can easily review visa requirements based on citizenship, destination, and reason for travel. For more information, see Global Support Services’ Visa and Passport Services.