Plan ahead and know what international travel documents you need. For U.S. citizens, see the Document Requirements section now! For citizens of countries other than the U.S., please refer to your country’s foreign ministry or state department information site.
Obtain a valid passport. If you already have a passport, make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the end of your trip abroad. If not, most countries will not issue you an entry visa.
For U.S. citizens, The Bureau of Consular Affairs Passports section will give you the necessary information on how to apply for a passport, the fees, where to apply, what to do in the event of a lost or stolen passport, and answers to many other frequently asked questions.
Realize that once you apply for a passport, it will take four–eight weeks before you receive it. Expedited passports generally take two weeks and cost twice as much. If possible, plan early since you may need to apply for visas also.
Remember that your passport is a valuable document that proves your identity and U.S. citizenship. Keep it in a safe place while abroad. Make several copies of your passport’s information page before you leave, in case you need extra forms of identification or you lose your passport. Leave another copy at home with family or friends.
Also, before you go, sign your passport and fill in the emergency information page.
Search for the closest passport agencies near you to apply for a passport.
While you are abroad, U.S. embassies and consulates can assist you in replacing a stolen or lost passport. Find your the U.S. Embassies and Consulates near your destination(s) and write down their contact information to take with you.
Visas: Obtain visas if required. Entry/Exit Requirements are found in the Country Specific Information for each country, or you may contact the foreign embassy(ies) through this online foreign embassy directory with links to web pages, addresses, and phone numbers to many foreign embassies located in Washington, D.C. and Foreign Consular Offices provides a regularly updated list of foreign embassies and consulates. Travel Document Systems and Zierer Visa Service also list foreign entry requirements for most countries.
You should start obtaining visas several months in advance of your travel date when possible. If you have to get multiple visas, find out the time it takes to get each visa, you may have to strategize and plan accordingly. You should also consult with several different travel agencies, reputable visa services, and foreign consular offices since foreign entry requirements are subject to change on a regular basis.
- Photocopy the ID page and any visa stamps in your passport. Take the original and copies with you, stored in separate locations.
- If your passport is lost or stolen while traveling, the embassy or consulate representing your country often replaces it the same day if you have a photocopy of the passport information page or other proof of citizenship. Without duplicate documentation, it may take several days to obtain a new passport.
- Some countries will not give you a visa or may deny you entrance into the country if you have stamps or visas from countries they consider hostile. For example, Syria will not allow you to enter its borders nor will they issue you a visa if you have entry and exit stamps and/or visas from Israel. The best way to avoid these problems is to obtain a second visa.
- Record the numbers of your credit cards, traveler’s checks, and passport, and take this information with you. Keep these numbers separate from your original card(s) and documents. Also, leave a copy of the numbers with a member of your family or a friend at home.
- Carry the following telephone numbers with you at all times:
—The embassy or consulate representing your country.
—Your credit cards and traveler’s checks companies.
—Local contacts including police
- If you don't know the language, memorize important local phrases (yes, no, how much, stop here, etc.)
- Do you have valid passportthat does not expire for at least six months after you return home from your proposed travel?
- Have you signed your passport and filled in the emergency information page?
- Have you made some copies of the information page of your passport? Remember to take two with you and leave at least one behind with family or friends.
- If you lose your passport, what should you do? Who should you report it to? Who should you contact to get a replacement passport?
- Do your international travel destinations require visas? If so, how long are the visas good for? Do you have to get multiple visas? If so, what visa should you get first, last?