Passport and Visas

Passports, Visas, and Residence Permits

Passports

You absolutely need a passport to travel abroad. Your passport should have at least six months of validity after your intended return date. For example, if you plan to return June 1st, your passport should not expire before December 1st of the same year.

Save yourself the headache and apply for a new or renewal passport now! Appointments at local passport offices fill quickly during study abroad application cycles. More information on passports and applications is available at the Department of State website: https://travel.state.gov/passports.

First-year or new transfer student? UNC’s Center for Global Initiatives sponsors funding for first-time passports. Learn more here.

Visas and Residence Permits

Most countries require a visa or residence permit for stays of more than a few months. Determining the requirements and obtaining the appropriate documents are your responsibility. The UNC Study Abroad Office cannot assist in the application process.

A visa is official permission from a country for you to visit. It is usually a stamp in your passport, but is also sometimes a piece of paper or electronic document that states how long you are allowed to stay in that country and in what capacity (tourist, study, etc.).

Apply for a visa through the foreign country’s embassy in the United States several weeks or months in advance.

Certain countries may require a residence permit for your length of stay, in addition to or in lieu of an entry visa. The residence permit may be a stamp in your passport, another paper document, or card.

General Tips

  • U.S. passport holders should always check the Department of State website, as well as the website of their host country’s Embassy in the U.S., for updated information on requirements, applications, and necessary documentation.
  • Any discrepancy in your application materials can delay processing times.
  • In-person appointments may be required, and appointment slots are often very limited. Follow guidelines provided by your host institution, and complete each step in your visa/residence permit application as soon as possible!
  • There are companies which provide visa assistance services, for an additional fee, though most students apply on their own.
  • It’s a smart idea to make several copies of ALL of your passport, visa, and residence permit documents– including application materials. Leave one set with a trusted friend or relative at home (or in a secure shared drive online) and carry the other separately from your documents in case of loss or theft.