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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 a number of 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 a list of countries with 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 Global Support Services is able to provide advice on outbound visa requirements and has a number of resources on its website for Harvard travelers.

Harvard University has identified a vendor (CIBT) that can assist with visa and passport issues for international travel. For free, this vendor can advise you on your visa requirements; and for a reduced fee, they can assist you with routine and expedited applications. Visa processing firms are often able to obtain visas more quickly than individual travelers. Due to certain country-specific requirements, they cannot assist with all visa and passport applications—like when you are required to make a personal appearance at an embassy or consulate. If you place an order for services with this vendor, please do so via the Harvard portal so that you will receive the negotiated Harvard rates. For more information, visit Global Support Services’ What You Need to Know about Visas web page.