As soon as you know you will be going abroad, you should apply for a passport. Information about Passports requirements and procedures is available online. Applications may be picked up (and must be signed) at either a Passport Agency or US Post Office authorized to accept passport applications. The Post Offices in South Hadley, Holyoke, and Northampton accept passport applications at designated hours.
Recent changes in passport requirements have created processing backlogs that have forced some students and other travelers to postpone or cancel their plans because they did not receive their passports in time. You must have a valid passport in order to apply for a visa. Apply early!
Make two copies of your passport ID page and all your other important documents (one to leave at home, one to carry separately with you), which will help you replace anything if it is lost or stolen.
A visa is a stamped notarization in a passport authorizing entry to a foreign country for a stated purpose and a stated period of time. Visa requirements, application procedures, and application timing will vary depending on your citizenship, the country to which you are going, what you will be doing, and where you will be at the time you apply. It is your responsibility to find out what is required and to apply for a visa; Mount Holyoke cannot do this on your behalf.
For information on tourist visa requirements, see Foreign Entry Requirements. It is your responsibility to obtain the appropriate visa in a timely manner.
Usually you must apply in advance for a visa to enter a particular country; contact the appropriate Embassy in Washington (or a Consulate in Boston or New York) for details. You may or may not be able to apply by mail. Many countries now have strict requirements and procedures, so follow instructions carefully and allow plenty of time (six to eight weeks).
If you must mail your passport with your visa application, be sure to send it by certified return receipt mail, along with the appropriate pre-paid forms for return certified mail.
Many countries require photographs before granting visas, so it is a good idea to get extra copies made when you have your passport photograph taken. (In fact, you may want to have several extra photos made, as you probably will need them for registration forms, university identification cards, etc.)
International Student ID Cards
Several organizations offer international ID cards certifying that you are a full-time student. ID cards may entitle you to student discounts on airfare and admission to museums and theatres, limited health and accident insurance, and other services. Benefits vary.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which is a product of STA Travel, offers access to student discounts on travel, as well as limited accident and sickness insurance (including up to $300,000 for medical evacuation and up to $25,000 for repatriation of remains, which alone are well worth the price of the card). We strongly recommend that every student going abroad obtain an ISIC card.
Applications are available from STA Travel offices, and from the STA website. You will need:
- One passport-size photo with your name, in pencil, on the back;
- $25 card fee;
- Proof of full-time student status (your Mount Holyoke ID will suffice).
The ISIC validity period usually runs from late summer of each year to December 31 of the following year; if your card expires while you are abroad, you can apply for a new one. However, note that cards bought outside of the US do not include the accident and sickness insurance coverage.
Other international ID cards are also available. CIEE has recently launched the iNext Travel Card, which offers a wide range of benefits for health care, medical evacuation, emergency assistance, and repatriation of remains; it can also work as a global phone card. The iNext Basic card costs $25, the iNext Premium package is $45.
International Driver's License
If you are planning to drive a lot while you are abroad, you may need an International Driver's License, available via the web. Not all countries require an International Driver's License; check online or ask a travel agent for details. Check with your insurance company to see if your US liability insurance is valid abroad.