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Passports and Visas

U.S. and non-U.S. citizens need a valid passport both to enter other countries and to return to the United States. Certain countries may also require a visa that allows you to enter and remain in that country for a specific reason.



U.S. and non-U.S. citizens need a passport both to enter other countries and to return to the United States.

If you don't already have a passport, you should apply for one immediately as it takes 10-12 weeks for routine service for standard processing. Appling early also helps to avoid complications caused by misplaced original birth certificates and similar problems. Renewing your passport can take just as long as applying for a new passport. If you already have a passport, make sure it is valid until at least six months after your return date.

Passport information and applications are available on the U.S. Department of State website.

The MSU Main Library has a Passport Acceptance Facility, located on the 2nd Floor West Wing and process NEW passports only (not renewals). They also offer passport photos services. For information and hours, visit the MSU Library's Passport Page.

The East Lansing Post Office (1140 Abbot Rd, East Lansing), as well as the Lansing City Clerk’s Office (124 W Michigan Ave, Lansing) are also Passport Acceptance Facilities.

If you need a passport in a hurry, it is possible to get expedited passport processing for customers applying at an acceptance facility or renewing by mail. Processing can take as little as 72 hours as long as you meet eligibility requirements. Additional fees are required for expedited services. See the U.S. Department of State or the Detroit Passport Agency for more information.

Once you have your passport, be sure to sign it and fill in the emergency information page. Take extra photos abroad in case you lose your passport and need to have it replaced quickly.



A visa is a conditional authorization granted by the host country which allows you to enter, leave, and remain in that country or region. Visas can come in many forms.  For some countries it is a page inserted inside your passport. For other countries, it can be a stamp in your passport, not a separate document.

You will need a passport before applying for a visa (and the entire "passport-plus-visa process" may take three to four months, so start early).

U.S. Citizens

If you are a U.S. citizen (carrying a U.S. passport), a visa is not required by most Western European countries if you are spending fewer than three months in the country. However, the regulations change regularly, so check with the embassy/consulate of your host country frequently.

Non-U.S. Citizens

If you are not a U.S. citizen, consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. The procedures that you will follow may be different than those for U.S. citizens. It is important to initiate this process as soon as possible in order to assemble documents and allow time for lengthy procedures. MSU international students must visit the Office for International Students and Scholars (105 International Center) to obtain a signature on visa documents to permit re-entry into the United States.

The cost and requirements for obtaining visas vary. It is your responsibility to determine visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad. This includes countries that you plan to visit before or after your education abroad program. You can do so by consulting a travel agent or contacting the consular offices of those countries. For some countries, certain medical requirements must be met before a visa will be issued. Many countries will not issue visas to persons with any type of police record.

The Office for Education Abroad and Michigan State University are not responsible for obtaining visas, nor are they in any way responsible for visa or entry denial.

You may be denied entry into, or be deported from, a country for which you have not obtained a required visa.

In addition to a visa (and sometimes at an additional cost), some destinations also require a residence permit which allows students to reside in a country for a fixed or indefinite length of time. The Office for Education Abroad will notify you if a residence permit is required for your program.