Passports and Visas
The passport is your official identification as a citizen of a particular country. U.S. passports are issued by the Department of State and are good for a period of 10 years if issued at age 16 or older (5 years if issued at 15 or under). You must have a valid passport with you to show border and customs authorities when you enter or leave the U.S., when you cross most other national borders, and on all occasions that require official verification of your citizenship.
Keep your passport in a safe but accessible place. Although losing a passport while you are overseas is not the end of the world (although it may seem like it), the procedures for obtaining a new one are complicated and often extremely time-consuming. Before leaving the U.S., make two copies of your passport. Keep one copy with you but separate from the actual passport, and leave the other copy with your family.
U.S. passports are issued at any office of the U.S. Passport Agency and through one of the several thousand federal or state courts or U.S. post offices authorized to accept passport applications. Information about obtaining a U.S. passport as well as a downloadable passport application can also be found on the Department of State website.
You must apply for your passport in person unless you are renewing an expired passport. Note that renewing an expired passport can be done by mail only if you were at least 16 years old when the passport you are renewing was issued.
When applying for a passport for the first time, you will need the following items:
- Proof of citizenship—a naturalization certificate if you are a naturalized citizen or a birth certificate if you are a citizen by birth. Birth certificates must be official, i.e., bearing the seal of the state in which you were born; a hospital certificate is not an official document and submitting one will delay the processing of your passport application. Applications for official birth certificates can be obtained from the local post office.
- Two identical color photographs (2" square on white background) taken within six months of the date of your application. You can get a passport photo at a number of photo shops in Princeton and at CVS.
- Proof of your identity, such as a current driver’s license with your signature and photograph.
- Payment. Passport fees are $110 (application fee) plus a $25 execution fee, if you are applying or renewing in person at an Acceptance Facility or Passport Agency (fees are $110 if you renew your passport by mail). For further information on renewing or obtaining a passport, please consult the U.S. State Department passport website at www.travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html. Allow at least six weeks for processing. You can request expedited service(two-week delivery) by paying an additional $60.
Some countries require that your U.S. passport be valid six months or longer beyond the dates of your trip. Please check with the embassy or nearest consulate of the country that you plan to visit for their requirements. If you already have a U.S. passport but it will expire before you complete your time abroad, you must apply for a new passport before you leave the U.S.
Loss or theft of a valid passport while in the U.S. should be reported immediately to Passport Services and directions and requirements for completing the Statement Regarding Lost or Stolen Passport, Form DS-64 should be followed. If the loss occurs while abroad, immediately notify the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy. Consult the list of websites of U.S. embassies and/or consulates abroad to find the closest one. Theft of a passport should also be reported to local police authorities.
Always check the entry requirements for your destination country, which can be found on the country’s embassy website. To enter a country (with or without a visa) or obtain a visa, you may be required to show any of the following:
- Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay, such as a bank statement or a statement or letter from the Financial Aid office
- Acceptance letter from overseas program, university, or host organization
- Proof of medical insurance and required vaccinations*
- Letter of good conduct from local police department and/or FBI background check
- HIV/AIDS test results**
*Because of specific health concerns and conditions in various countries, proof that you have received certain immunizations may be required. In such a case, you must carry an official “International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis” form, issued by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and approved by the World Health Organization. This form is available from University Health Services or from many physicians and travel agencies, and it must be filled out and dated by the physician or clinic administering the immunizations. In some countries, you may be asked to present the form upon entry to the country at the same time that you show your passport and any required visa.
**Some countries require all incoming foreigners to take the HIV antibody test. Check to see if your host country requires a doctor’s certificate showing the results of an HIV antibody test. If you need to be tested, do so only at a center that offers pre- and post-test counseling. Allow at least two weeks for the testing process.
A visa is official permission to enter a country and is granted by the government of that country. Visa formats vary considerably, from a simple stamp imprinted on one of the pages in your passport at the time you enter the country to an official document with your photograph attached. For U.S. nationals, some countries (e.g., South Africa, Hungary, and Russia) require advance processing of visas, while other countries (e.g., many in Western Europe) require no advance processing for brief visits, usually up to three months.
You must check the visa requirements for all the countries you plan to visit during your stay abroad. For requirements for a specific country, consult the Entry/Exit Requirements in the Country Specific Information for the country you are interested in on the State Department website. We advise that you also visit the relevant embassy/consulate's website to verify visa procedures.
You may wish to consult Princeton's Visa Central site (http://www.visacentral.com/princeton) for information about visa requirements.
You may be required to submit your official acceptance letters from your program, host university, or internship site overseas with the visa application. Keep your acceptance letters (and copies) in a safe place until needed.
U.S. permanent residents must check with the U.S. Immigration Service concerning regulations for travel and re-entry into the U.S. It is particularly important to verify procedures for those who contemplate being outside the U.S. for more than six months.
Students in F-1 or J-1 Visa Status
If you are on an F-1 or J-1 visa in the U.S., be sure that your I-20/DS-2019 is signed before departing the U.S. so that you may re-enter more easily. Your I-20 must be signed once per year. If you are on campus, please make sure that you obtain a travel signature on your I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students) before departing Princeton. You may stop by the Davis IC during business hours (8:45 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) Monday - Friday to obtain a travel signature on the spot. If you are abroad and you need a new signature, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a new I-20. If you need to meet with a Davis IC adviser prior to departing the U.S., you may visit Davis IC during walk-in hours or schedule an online appointment with your assigned adviser.
Applying for a New F-1 or J-1 Visa: To re-enter the U.S., you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport. If your visa has expired, you will need to renew it while you are abroad. A visa can only be obtained abroad at a U.S. embassy/consulate. Specific procedures at embassies/consulates may vary. Information about individual U.S. consulates can be found by accessing the U.S. Department of State website: travel.state.gov/content/visas/english.html. For your visa application, at the minimum, you will need a valid passport, valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a current travel signature, evidence of adequate financial support, and any other documents that might be required by the consulate. Complete F-1 and J-1 visa travel information can be found at www.princeton.edu/intlctr/davis-ic-home/immigration/travelguidance.
Important Note: Students in F-1 or J-1 visa status who require a visa to travel should be aware that some countries require a student’s visa to be valid during their entire stay in that country, even if the student intends to renew the F-1 or J-1 visa before returning to the U.S. You should verify directly with the country’s consulate before traveling. A list of consulates can be found at www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/.