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Santa Clara University

Passports and Visas

Despite the fact that you’ve already filled out heaps of paperwork in order to get admitted to your study abroad program, you’ve still got to fill out some more in order to get on a flight. There are a few crucial documents you need to secure early on in order to ensure both your departure from the U.S. and your entry into your study abroad destination including a passport, and maybe a visa. It is critical to apply for these documents early, as there have been many processing delays due to the impacts of COVID-19. 

It is a student's responsibility to acquire a passport and visa (if applicable) prior to attending their program. Even if a student completes all application materials, failing to procure necessary travel documents can impact their ability to participate in study abroad. Below is information about the travel documents students will need, where to apply for a passport or visa, how much it costs, application materials, etc. 


What is a Passport?

A passport is an official government document that certifies one's identity and citizenship and permits a citizen to travel abroad. All students must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of return to the US.

If you are a U.S. citizen, visit the U.S. Passports section on the U.S. Department of State’s website for information on how to obtain or renew your passport.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, refer to your nation’s Embassy or Consulate for information on how to obtain or renew your passport. 


A Passport is your key to traveling outside of your home country. With this document you can explore, experience and discover – everyone needs one! A passport also serves as your official identification as a citizen of your home country. This means that you can exit and re-enter the U.S. with a passport. Also, it works as a request to foreign governments to permit you to travel in another country’s territories. Say you’re studying abroad in Italy, for example, and want to head to Croatia for the weekend – you’ll need your passport to get across the border. 

How to Apply:

If you are a U.S. citizen, visit the U.S. Passports section on the U.S. Department of State’s website for information on how to obtain or renew your passport.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, refer to your nation’s Embassy or Consulate for information on how to obtain or renew your passport. 


To learn more about U.S. passport costs, please visit

If you need a passport in a hurry, you can request an expedited service (to get the passport to you in about twelve weeks) when you apply in person, for an additional $60 per application. If you are traveling within the next two weeks and really need your passport quickly, you’ll have to go to the closest regional passport agency to apply.

Application Materials 

To apply for a passport, you will need a passport-sized photo. Walgreens, CVS, and Costco all provide passport photo services. Below is a list of the closest locations to campus:

Ad West Mail and Copy Center:




59 Washington St.
Santa Clara, CA 

This center takes SCU Access Flex Points

200 N. Winchester Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95050
3081 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95050

1601 Coleman Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95050

When to Apply:                                              

  • Give yourself several months before your planned trip to apply for a passport; during peak application times it can take up to 18 weeks to receive the final document in the mail.
  • Take into account the time of year you are applying – demand for passports goes up during the spring and summer.
  • While there are regional agencies that can assist you in getting one quickly, it is more cost efficient and an overall smarter choice to plan ahead. For example, if you need a visa, you will not be able to submit a visa application without a passport. 
  • If you already have a passport, make sure it hasn’t expired.All students must have a passport valid for six months beyond the date of return to the US.
  • A U.S. passport is valid for 10 years for citizens who were 16 or older when the passport was issued. 

Passports: Refer to your nation’s Embassy or Consulate for information on how to obtain or renew your passport. 

Visa Applications: Your requirements for a visa may differ from those for US citizens. Be sure to review the requirements as stated by the foreign embassy carefully.  You should also be in touch with an International Students & Scholars (ISS) advisor to ensure that you have all in order with your US documentation so that you can re-enter the US without incident after your Study Abroad program ends.

Travel Visas

What is a Visa?

A visa is an official document issued by a foreign country, formally allowing you to visit. Visas are attached to your passport and allow you to enter a foreign nation. Depending on your nationality and which country you are planning to visit, you may need to obtain a student visa. 

Visas are typically required for semester or year-long programs, not summer or intersession programs, unless participating in an internship abroad.  

Whether you need a visa depends on several factors: what the nationality of your passport is, your study abroad destination, and the duration of your study abroad program. As a study abroad student, it is your responsibility to obtain your visa.  You cannot apply for your visa until you have been accepted by your study abroad program. You can, however, begin gathering the necessary supplemental documents. 

How to Apply:

Each country’s visa has a different application and you will have to work with the embassy of the country you wish to visit to find out the details. Browse the U.S. Department of State’s website for a full list of countries that require visas and details on how to apply. 


The fees associated with applying for a visa vary from country to country.  Currently, the costs of visas range from as little as US $30 to over US $500, not including the costs of traveling to and from the embassy/consulate.  Furthermore, the fees may change frequently and with no notice.  You are responsible for paying the consular fee for your visa.

Application Materials

Visa application procedures vary from country to country and consulate to consulate.  Some countries require you to apply in person at their consulate, while others require you to submit your application by mail. The documents required for a visa application also vary from country to country, and can even vary from consulate to consulate for the same country.  Examples of documents required for a visa application may include such items as:

  • Your passport (the consulate keeps your passport while it processes your visa application)
  • Visa applications generally require an acceptance letter (also known as an enrollment verification or visa letter) from the university abroad or study abroad program. 
  • Proof of financial means
  • Round-trip plane ticket or flight itinerary
  • Proof of health insurance
  • A police report from your local police department

IMPORTANT: Enrollment Verification/Visa Letter**

Your visa application may require an acceptance letter (also known as an enrollment verification or visa letter). If you need one, please complete the Enrollment Verification - Request Form as soon as possible. SCU Study Abroad will communicate via email when your letter is ready for pick up at Global Engagement (Varsi Hall, 1st Floor).

Who Can Help?

After you have been accepted by your study abroad program, do not hesitate to contact your program provider or host institution with questions about the visa process for your location. 

Most study abroad programs will provide students with a guide of how to apply for a student visa and will give detailed instructions on how to contact the embassy/consulate to verify the application procedure and needed supplemental documents. 

If your study abroad program offers the option to batch process your student visa (student gathers the needed visa documents, sends them to the study abroad program provider and the provider submits the visa application to the consulate on the student's behalf) we highly recommend this option.

When to Apply:

Be prepared to send out your visa application at least two months in advance, and don’t forget to make copies of your visa and visa number just in case!

Scheduling Visa Appointments

Often, the hardest part of obtaining a student visa is scheduling the appointment at the consulate. Students should work to schedule their appointments as early as possible (most consulates will not accept visa appointments more than 90 days in advance of the start of the study abroad program) to ensure the issuance of their visa and to receive their passport and documents with time to spare prior to departure.

How Long Does it Take to Process a Visa Application?

The processing time for a visa will depend on the country/consulate you are applying to and your country of citizenship.  The process may take as little as one day and as long as ninety days.

Embassies and Consulates

An Embassy is a country's main diplomatic office in another county, usually in the capital city of the host country, where the ambassador resides. An embassy provides crucial help for students in the event of a major or minor emergency. Students who lose essential documents, experience medical issues, or become victims of a crime while abroad should contact the nearest embassy.

The government runs websites for each embassy and communicates information about travel advisories. Here is a complete list of official U.S. embassies and consulates. The U.S. government operates embassies in most, but not all, foreign countries. 

A Consulate is a building where the Consul General can be found. The Consul General is an official appointed by a government to reside in a foreign country and represent his or her government's commercial interests and assist its citizens there. Consulates serve similar purposes as an embassy, but usually do not offer the same variety of services.

The government publishes a complete list of official U.S. embassies and consulates

Santa Clara University requires all students to register their presence abroad with the US embassy in their host country. Registration may be accomplished easily prior to departure through the Department of State's Smart Traveler's Enrollment Program (STEP):

Enrolling in STEP makes your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary for a consular officer to contact you in an emergency. During a disaster overseas, American consular officers can assist in evacuation, if necessary, but they cannot assist you if they do not know where you are. If you are not a US citizen, contact your country's embassy.