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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.


June 2, 2020

NOTE: U.S. passport processing is experiencing significant delays due to COVID-19.  Expedited passport processing has been temporarily suspended and restricted service to cases involving life-or-death emergencies. More information can be found at Passport Operations in Response to COVID-19.


If you don't already have one, you should apply for a passport immediately. You should plan on at least six weeks for standard processing.

U.S. and non-U.S. citizens need a passport both to enter other countries and to return to the United States. If you already have a passport, make sure it is valid until at least six months after your return date. New U.S. passports take six to eight weeks for processing, depending on the time of the year. Passports are valid for ten years. Apply early to avoid complications caused by misplaced original birth certificates and similar problems.

Passport forms are available at many federal and state courts, probate courts, some county/municipal offices and some post offices. They can also be downloaded at the U.S. Department of State website. This site will also link you to the procedures and the form for renewing your passport. This can take just as long as applying for a new passport. For complete information about passport services, visit the U.S. Department of State.

For students in the East Lansing area, the MSU Main Library is a Passport Acceptance Facility.  It's a convenient location for MSU students, faculty/staff and their families.  For information and hours, visit the MSU Library's Passport Page. (Note: the library processes new passport applications only, not renewals.)

If you need a passport in a hurry, consult a travel agent or contact the Detroit Passport Agency who can help get your passport expedited. The Detroit Passport Agency only serves customers who are traveling, or submitting their passports for foreign visas, within 4 weeks. To apply at the Agency you must schedule an appointment by calling toll-free (877) 487 2778, 24 hours/day. In addition to the regular application fees, expedited service costs $60 per application plus overnight delivery costs. You can pick up your passport the next day or receive it through priority mail (3-5 business days). Normally, if you do not appear in person, you will receive your passport within two to three weeks through the expedited service. The office address for the Agency is:

Detroit Passport Office
211 West Fort Street
Detroit, MI 48226-3269
(877) 487-2778

If you need more detailed information, review the back of your passport application. If you still have questions or need to renew your current passport, please contact a post office.

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.

Renew your passport by mail

Visit the U.S. Department of State website to learn about the steps to renew your passport by mail.

International Student Identity Card

Your regular student ID may not be honored in some countries. The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) gives students a single, uniform document recognized worldwide as proof of student status. ISIC cards are $25 and are available for purchase from many travel agencies to any student in a degree-seeking program during the current academic school year. When you purchase an ISIC, bring a clear photo of your face (the size of your driver's license photo) and proof of your current student enrollment (such as a printout of your class schedule).

Card benefits vary widely from country to country, but may include student discounts on airfare, transportation, accommodations, and reduced admission to museums, theaters, cultural events, and other attractions. If you purchase an ISIC, you will be given an ISIC handbook that lists exactly which nations recognize the card, the types of discounts, and the addresses and phone numbers of student travel offices around the world. Besides the student discounts, the ISIC provides free travel insurance (good for before and after your program dates), an emergency help line, and a communications system (phone card). If you should need to use the insurance benefits, you will need to have a copy of your card and proof of purchase for any claim.

Please note that the Office for Education Abroad has received varying reports on the usefulness of the ISIC. In some cases, the card was not honored as expected. The phone card can only be used at public phones. Usually, the greatest benefit to having the card is receiving the reduced airfare.


A visa is an entry/residency permit and official permission granted by the authorities of the countries where you will study or travel which allows you to enter and remain in that country. The visa itself is frequently 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). 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 Office for Education Abroad or the embassy/consulate of your host country.

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, calling the consular offices of those countries, or checking the Travel Document Systems website.

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

NOTE: If you are not a U.S. citizen, visit our page for Non-US Citizens. You should also consult the embassy or consulate of the countries you will visit to learn their document requirements. You should check the U.S. Department of State websites for Foreign Consulate Office listings and for the listings of Embassies and Consulates.

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. International MSU students must visit the Office for International Students and Scholars in room 105 International Center to obtain a signature on visa documents to permit re-entry into the United States.