Columbia University

Global Travel

Passports and Visas


It can take several months to get a passport; apply now if you don’t have one. Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your date of return from travel. To learn more about U.S. passports, visit the Passports page of the U.S. Department of State (or the website for your home country's embassy.)

Need a Visa?

Many countries require a visa for entry. How this visa is issued, what kind of visa (or work permit) is required, and the length of time that it could take for processing depends on the country.

Faculty and staff conducting research or teaching abroad should make sure to obtain business visas prior to traveling. Conducting research or teaching under a tourist visa could jeopardize an individual’s future ability to travel again to the particular country in which such activity occurred.

Check with your University department as they may have a specific process in place for obtaining visas and may already have arrangements with a vendor, which could help you avoid out-of-pocket expenses.

You Might Need a Letter

Some destinations or events may require official letters of presentation for business travel or letter that include certification of insurance and/or emergency assistance; should you require assistance with this type of letter, please email (click on the email address for a template of the information that will be needed)

The NYC Mayor's Office for International Affairs website includes a convenient list with links to Consular Offices in New York City.

U.S. Citizens

  • The Travel section of the U.S. Department of State website includes a country-specific directory which lists pertinent information by country and includes a link to that country’s U.S.
  • The site also has other useful travel resources.
  • Keep in mind that each different country may have different required documents for their entry visas. For example, some countries require recent documentation of an HIV/AIDS test or a vaccination record.
  • This is why it is essential that you research visa application processes well in advance of your travel.

Non-U.S. Citizens

  • Research entry requirements at your destination country’s embassy website and keep in mind that these may differ from your colleages that are U.S. citizens.
  • If you are an international student or scholar, notify your  program counselor of your citizenship status and the type of passport you hold so you may be properly guided to acquire necessary visas for your time abroad.
  • You should review the International Programs and Services website for available resources prior to applying for a visa to ensure that your immigration papers are in order (e.g. a valid I-20, I-94, etc.) and that you will be able to re-enter the United States at the end of your study abroad program.

All travelers, in researching visa requirements, should ask:

  1. What type of visa do I need (tourist, student)?
  2. How long will it take for my visa to arrive?
  3. Will I need a transit visa (for a layover or travel through another country on the way to my destination)?

Visa service companies can provide information about any letters of support (generally from Columbia) and/or invitation (generally from an in-country sponsor) that may be necessary as part of your visa application. Please check their websites and/or call them to ascertain the requisite content of these letters. Provide this information clearly to the individual or organization when you request the letter. Providing a sample letter may expedite the process.

Either through arrangements by your University unit or for a fee, the following agencies provide assistance in obtaining passports and visas and will work with both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens for travel abroad:

Very Frequent International Traveler?

You may want to consider enrolling in the  U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Precheck programs.

If you have any questions, please email us at