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International Travel Documents

Here is some information about international travel documents that might help you in planning a trip abroad.

DISCLAIMER: As information changes quickly and your situation might be unique, we are not able to assure you that this information applies in your particular travel circumstances. Please be sure to check with the appropriate authorities regarding your trip.

Passports

1. What is a passport and why does one need one?

Passports are issued by the country of one’s citizenship. A passport verifies one’s citizenship and allows one to travel abroad and then return to one’s home country. Without this document, it is often not possible to leave a country or to enter another one.

2. How do I get a passport?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you can find out how to get a passport on the U.S. State Department web site. (Note: you do need to have proof of citizenship in order to get your first passport. If you don’t have that handy, you’ll need budget time to acquire that documentation.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, then you need to contact the authorities who issue passports on behalf of your home country (usually the agency that has diplomatic or immigration authority).

Visas

1. What is a visa?

A visa is granted by the country to which you plan to travel. It gives you permission to be in that country for a certain period of time and sometimes for a particular purpose (e.g. for travel, study, business, residence, etc.)

The physical visa usually takes the form of a stamp or paper that is attached to one of the pages in your passport. You must have enough blank pages in your passport to allow for the visa to be placed there. However, some countries (e.g. Australia) are now issuing electronic visas that are not stamped in your passport.

2. How do I get a visa?

Since the visa is granted by the country to which you plan to travel, you must contact them to find out if you need a visa and if so, how to apply for one. The U.S. State Department maintains country information for travelers on every country in the world. This information includes entry/exit information for U.S. travelers. If you are not a citizen of the U.S., contact the consulate of the country to which you would like to travel to find out about visa requirements for you. Visas are often issued for specific purposes (e.g. study, business, conference attendance, tourism) and you often need to supply documentation of your appropriate status in order to get the appropriate visa for your situation.

If you are an international student or scholar coming to CU-Boulder, you need to follow the specific regulations that apply to your case. You can find an overview here:

If you are a CU-Boulder student getting ready to study abroad, you need to follow the instructions you receive from your study abroad program. You can find basic information here.

3. Do I need a passport to get a visa?

Yes! You will not be issued a visa if you don’t have a valid passport. Some countries require that your passport be valid for a certain period (usually 6-9 months) after your travel is planned to end and will not issue a visa unless your passport has this validity. Check the host country requirements and make sure your passport is up to date.