Wry Exchange

New Exchange Students-Passports & Visas
01-28-08, 12:52 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

Congratulations, and welcome to the world of exchange.  This next 18 months will be exciting, scary, and life-changing.  What’s first?

  • Get your passport.  Now.  It takes time to get your passport, and if it’s your first one, it’s not cheap.  You can find applications at post offices and information online.  You’ll need your passport so you can obtain a student visa.
  • If you already have a passport, check it’s expiration date.  My program mandates that your passport be valid for 6 months past your return home date.
  • The difference between a visa and a passport is the US government issues you the passport, and the country you’re going to issues the visa.  The visa will be a permanent part of your passport, and you’ll have to send your passport to the foreign consulate or have it stamped in person. 
  • You may have to go to the nearest consulate for a personal interview.  Not all countries require interviews.   Google for your nearest consulate.  You MUST use the consulate listed for your state.  If you’re supposed to go to New York for Chile, but will be on vacation in Chicago, you can NOT make an appointment for the Chicago consulate.
  • You won’t be applying for your visa for several months.  If your exchange program works with a particular travel agency, they will be specialists in exchange student travel.  Our students receive large packets of information helping them through the visa application process.   If you are applying for your visa by yourself, follow the directions on the consulate’s webpage step-by-step.  If you call for information or advice, write down who you spoke with and the date.
  • Consulates are very picky about photos.  Your photos must be the exact size specified.  If they require front and side shots, or you unsmiling, do it.  Otherwise, you’ll just waste time, and end up doing it their way later.
  • Visa rules change often.  Keep checking the consulate’s webpage for updates.  I was in Bolivia last month.  Their visa requirements went into effect 4 days after I arrived, and had only been posted a week or two before I left home.
  • Don’t be upset about all the documentation you may need for a visa.  Some countries require HIV tests, others may require a police background check.   These are all formalities, and must be followed precisely.
  • One or both of your parents should also apply for a passport.  “Just in case” something happens, and they need to get to you quickly. 

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