Chapter 1: Preparing & Personal Documents

Chapter 1


You should apply for a passport as soon as possible, as this can take six to eight weeks or longer. New passports cost $97, and if you are renewing your passport, the cost is $67 (if you qualify to renew by mail). Due to changes in passport policies, it is more important than ever to apply early for your passport. Read this for more information.

You can obtain an application online, or pick one up at the main post office at 2535 Midway Dr. (near Rosecrans) (619) 758-7101. To apply for a passport, you will need:

  •     Completed passport application;
  •     Passport application fee;
  •     Valid proof of citizenship [e.g., an expired U.S. passport, a certified (original) birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, or Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States];
  •     Proof of identity (a valid driver's license or government identification card are acceptable provided they identify you by physical description or photograph);
  •     Two identical 2 x 2-inch passport photographs taken within six months of applying for your passport. The Study Abroad office here on campus will provide you with passport-sized photos for your passport, student visa, and program application.

Please Note: If you already have a passport, many countries require that your passport be valid for six months beyond the dates of your trip. Keep this in mind, in case you need to renew your passport. Also, some Middle Eastern and African countries will not allow entry if your passport indicates travel to Israel; check with the embassy or consulate of the country in which you will be studying for their requirements.

For more information on applying for a passport, see:


Student Visa

It is the students’ responsibility to obtain a visa, if required by their host country. Many study abroad programs provide you information on obtaining the necessary visa, while some process the application for you. Check with your specific program for details. This Web site contains contact information for consulates and embassies around the world:

A visa is an authorization stamped into your passport by a foreign government that permits you to enter a country for specific lengths of time and purposes (i.e. tourism or study). Visa requirements differ from country to country and are fully described in a booklet called “Visa Requirements of Foreign Governments” which is available at any Passport Agency.

In order to obtain a student visa, one or more of the following may be required:

  •     Visa application form
  •     Current, valid passport
  •     Visa application fee
  •     One or more passport-size photographs
  •     Letter of acceptance from the host institution
  •     Evidence of financial support during your period of study abroad
  •     Physical examination
  •     Proof of medical insurance
  •     Police record from Vermont and/or your home state
  •     A negative HIV test

DO NOT wait until the last minute to apply for your visa. Processing a visa can take up to 3-4 weeks. Be sure to check the consulate’s Web site as some consulates require that you apply for your visa in person.

Register at the U.S. Embassy

All U.S. citizens must register themselves with the U.S. Embassy in their country of destination before departure from the U.S. In the event of international, political, or family emergencies, or in the event that your passport is lost or stolen, the U.S. Embassy is much better able to assist registered citizens. Please visit the Department of State’s website and follow the links to register: 
Please print out the confirmation page after you have registered; leave one copy at home and take one with you. Students of other nationalities should check with their own embassies to see if it is possible to register prior to departure.

Birth Certificate

A certified copy of your birth certificate is a valuable document to have with you overseas in the event that your passport is stolen or lost. Keep this separate from your other documents.

Academic Transcript

You are responsible for requesting that your transcript be sent from your program to PLNU. Some programs will do this automatically. Check with your program.

International Student Identity Card (ISIC)

The International Student Card entitles the holder to supplemental travel insurance (NOTE: You will need primary health insurance in addition to this), as well as discounts on transportation, accommodations, museum entrance fees, and special student airfares. When you are traveling, show your card first and ask if there are discounts available. Every student studying abroad will receive an ISIC card before departure.

Absentee Voting

If there will be U.S. elections in which you wish to participate while abroad, you should make arrangements for an absentee ballot before leaving the country, since that will prove easier than doing so through the embassy in your host country. Contact the County Board of Elections or the Secretary of State’s office where you are registered to vote.

Calling Cards

In order to call home from abroad, you may want to consider obtaining an international calling card. The major U.S. long-distance carriers (AT&T, MCI, and Sprint) can now be accessed from most countries. For information on any of the calling cards, contact your long-distance carrier or your local phone company. In addition, services such as Skype can be used to call home where a reliable internet connection is available (see: for more information).


Cell Phones

It is not recommended to take your cell phone with you for international use as rates for this service can be very expensive and coverage is unreliable. If you need to call home or rely on a cell phone for local use, check into pay-as-you-go plans offered in most countries our students travel to.


Personal Property Insurance

You should consider purchasing insurance to cover loss of personal possessions while abroad. It is possible that you may be covered under a policy held by your parents, so investigate this prior to departure. Inexpensive but limited travel insurance coverage can be found at

International Driving Permits

PLNU strongly recommends students NOT drive while studying abroad. If you do, many countries recognize a U.S. driver’s license. However, some countries require an International Driving Permit as well. Contact any American Automobile Association (AAA) office for an application. The permit is valid for one year from the date of issue, and you must also carry your U.S. license. Make sure your U.S. driver’s license will not expire before you return.

**Note that the minimum age for renting cars abroad is sometimes 22-25.