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Prepare to travel

In order to have a successful study abroad experience, research and preparation are crucial.

This page serves as a guide to help you prepare for your departure to your destination. The timelines and sequence provided are approximate and may vary depending on your individual situation.

1. Get your travel documentation
– as early as possible

  • Proper documentation and identification is required for entry into foreign countries.
  • Each country has its own special requirements for entry based on your citizenship, purpose of visit, and length of stay.
  • Find out which requirements pertain to your situation, and plan in advance.
  • Obtaining documents from embassies or consulates can take months.
  • Visit the local consulate or embassy’s website to learn more about entry requirements. For most countries, the closest consulate to Seattle will be in Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Travel documentation

  • Renew or apply for a passport as soon as possible.
  • If you have a passport, verify that it is valid for at least 6 months after the end of your program.
  • If it is not valid for at least 6 months after the end of your program, renew your passport.

For U.S. citizens

  • Learn more and renew or apply at the U.S. State Department website.
  • The normal processing time is four to six weeks, longer during peak travel season.

For international students

  • Consult your home country’s equivalent of the Department of State, or the “citizen’s services” section of your home country’s U.S. Consulate.
  • Visit the embassy/consulate website of your destination country to find out your specific requirements.

For undocumented students

  • The Resources section of our website has information for undocumented students to help you navigate the study abroad process and obtain the necessary documents that you need to travel outside the U.S.

  • A visa is a document provided by the country where you will be traveling.
  • It gives permission for you to enter the country.
  • Visa requirements vary from country to country.
  • You must have a passport before you can apply for a visa.
  • The country issuing a visa typically attaches various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, period of stay, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc. In some instances, you may need to apply for a visa in person at a consulate.
  • Visas may be paper documents that are requested and received prior to arrival, or may be a stamp that is placed in your passport upon arrival.
  • Information relating to all visas may be obtained from the embassy or consulate of the country or countries in which you will travel.
  • U.S. citizens may also consult the U.S. Department of State website for entry requirements.
  • If you are an international student, you can visit your home country’s equivalent institution.

Applying for a visa
Your visa application may need to include special letters or documents (such as a letter of acceptance from the educational institution or program). Apply early for your visa to provide ample time for processing. Embassies and Consulates can usually issue your student visa 120 days before your program registration date.

Some common forms and documentation required to obtain a student visa include:

  •     Passport
  •     Proof of insurance
  •     Proof of sufficient funds
  •     Proof of enrollment in a study abroad program
  •     2×2 photograph
  •     Transcripts
  •     Standardized test scores
  •     Flight itinerary

Visas and length of stay

  • Research visa requirements early!
  • The consulate or embassy of the country to which you are traveling should always be consulted for current visa entry requirements in tandem with the Department of State or equivalent.
  • Student visas can last from one month to one year depending on the country where you will be studying. If you plan to stay longer, you will need to research if it is possible to extend your visa.
  • Many countries and the Schengen Area (most of Western Europe) do not require a visa for U.S. students traveling to their country for less than 90 days.

    International Students:

    • This provision may not be available to international students. Do not sign a payment contract for your program until you know that you can get the visa you need in the time frame available to you.
    • International students should plan to apply for a visa at the consulate nearest to the UW – likely San Francisco. Consulates of some countries issue visas only for residents of their jurisdiction. When scheduling a visa interview at the consulate, you should confirm which consulate you should apply through. Most consulates will only process visa application in their jurisdiction. As a University of Washington student, Washington Statewill be considered your home address. You should apply for a visa through the consulate that serves Washington State. 
    • You should not plan to apply for a visa in your home country. Applications filed at other consulates are often denied


    Students studying in Europe:

    If you are traveling to the Schengen Area (most of Western Europe), we advise you to familiarize yourself with the restrictions on periods of stay and the ability to do back-to-back programs or extended travel before or after your program. You can consult the U.S. Department of State website for Schengen area borders agreement information. It is unlikely you will be able to remain in the Schengen region for a period of stay that is more than 90 days.

Enrollment verification letter

  • Use the Enrollment verification letter request form. 
  • Please allow us at least one week for processing.
  • Your program director and manager’s names are listed in your program’s brochure.
  • A staff member from UW Study Abroad will email you when your letter is ready to be picked up from our front desk.

Proof of insurance


Confirmation of good health

  • Some countries will require that a health form or letter of good health (confirmation that you are free from certain diseases, etc.) be provided to obtain a visa.
  • You can make an appointment with Hall Health to schedule a pre-travel counseling session and a general physical assessment.
  • Visit the Health, safety & insurance page.

  • You may also be asked to show proof of having received certain vaccinations to travel in regions with endemic diseases, like cholera, yellow fever, etc.
  • You can obtain this documentation from your primary health provider.
  • Visit the Health, safety & insurance page.

2. Secure your student housing for the term you are returning from abroad
 – as early as possible

If you live in UW Apartments & Residence Halls and will be away from campus for an internship or study abroad program, you must complete your Agreement Termination Notice by the deadline set by HFS. UW-affiliated study abroad program participants are waived for their housing and dining charges for the quarter they study abroad. HFS staff will confirm your participation in a UW-affiliated study abroad program.

You may also request Priority Retention status when you complete your Agreement Termination Notice. This will give you the highest priority to return to the residence halls if you would like. HFS staff will confirm your participation in a UW-affiliated study abroad program and, if approved, you will be guaranteed a space in the residence halls and apartments for the quarter that you are returning. If you are approved for Priority Retention, you will be contacted at your UW email address prior to the start of the quarter you intend to return, and you will be asked to complete a housing application.

If you will be studying abroad for autumn quarter and will be returning to campus for winter quarter, you can apply for housing when the application opens in October.

Please contact HFS for more details.

3. Book your travel arrangements
– 3-6 months before

The University of Washington strongly recommends booking refundable/transferable tickets or purchasing trip cancellation insurance to safeguard against the possibility of trip interruptions or cancellations.

4. Complete your orientation requirement
– 0-3 months before

All students participating in a study abroad opportunity must complete an online pre-departure orientation. Depending on the study abroad program, students may also be required to attend program-specific or on-site orientations as well.


  • This orientation covers important health, safety, and cultural adjustment issues as well as important UW procedures, such as enrollment and credits. Using suggestions from previous study abroad students and guidelines from the UW and its partners, this orientation prepares you for some of the issues you will face while abroad and provides you the opportunity to meet with others going abroad.
  • This is an online self-paced course and available in MyGlobal. Log into MyGlobal to access the course.
  • This orientation is mandatory and one of the pre-departure requirements.

Some study abroad programs require program-specific pre-departure orientations in addition to the mandatory orientation. This requirement applies to all UW faculty-led programs and some UW partner programs.

Most study abroad programs and exchanges provide on-site orientations with in-country staff or program directors. These orientations serve to introduce you to the new environment, help you make the adjustment to your new home, as well as provide on-site resources and support.

5. Plan your money management abroad
– 1-2 months before departure

Handling your finances abroad has become much less complicated for students than it was even a decade ago. Globalization has made credit and debit card use commonplace and ubiquitous. There are, however, some important matters to consider when planning access to funds while you are abroad.

Money management abroad

Research the common payment method in your destination country. In some countries, not all shops and restaurants accept credit cards. Check the availability of ATMs. In some rural areas, you might not find any ATMs.

In some cases, you might need actual cash. Determine how much cash you should prepare and get the foreign cash in advance.

Learn about the local currency and the exchange rate. Check the rate every few weeks to make sure that the exchange rate has not fluctuated dramatically. Rates can change hourly, so check an online currency converter to make sure that you are using the correct ratio.

Let your credit card company or bank know that you will be out of the country. Share with them the duration of your travel and your itinerary, the details of where you will be and on what dates. Having your card shut off to protect you from fraud is a great service that many credit card companies and banks provide and also can be a hugely frustrating experience for students abroad if they have not let their banks know about their travel plans.

These fees and surcharges may apply abroad depending on your particular credit card company or bank. If your credit card company or bank charges you a flat rate fee, it may be smarter to take out larger sums of money less frequently in order to avoid multiple fees. If you are not comfortable carrying around large sums of money, consider finding a credit card that charges a lower or no international transaction fee. Research to see if your bank has partner institutions or reciprocity agreements with banks in your host country. In some cases, this will eliminate transaction fees entirely.

For students on programs shorter than a semester this option may not be the most cost effective. If you are, however, abroad for longer periods, you may find having an account in-country provides convenience and savings.

6. Take steps for your health and safety
– 1-2 months before departure

7. Complete miscellaneous tasks before departure
– 2-4 weeks before departure

  • Verify through your MyUW Account that you have been enrolled in the study abroad placeholder course (FSTDY 300/303).
  • Photocopy your important documents (your passport, visa, tickets and other personal documents), then give copies to someone at home you trust.
  • Scan your important documents (your passport, visa, tickets and other personal documents), and email them to yourself.
  • Consider setting up a blog/vlog so friends and family can experience your time abroad with you.
  • Verify that your two-factor authentication to log into your UW accounts will work in the country you will be studying abroad. You will need to log in your UW accounts to register for UW classes for your returning quarter.
  • Memorize the local 911-type number in your destination country