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Travel Documents

Your travel documents are your permits to travel the world. They're the most important pieces of ID you'll carry while abroad. Having the right documentation, a passport and, depending on where you are headed, a visa is critical for getting in and out of the country you visit.

Make sure you do your homework on what you need well before you go.  Planning ahead will save you a lot of headache, and possibly heartache, later on.


A passport is an internationally recognized travel document that verifies the identity and nationality of the bearer. A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and leave most foreign countries. Only the U.S. Department of State has the authority to grant, issue or verify U.S. passports.

Give yourself several months before your planned trip to apply for a passport; during peak application times it can take up to 10-12 weeks to receive in the mail. Take into account the fact that demand for passports goes up during spring and summer. See the U.S. Department of State passport site for further information.


A visa is an endorsement stamped on your passport by foreign customs officials that allows you to visit that country. It can be obtained from foreign consulates in the U.S. or in other countries and is issued for a specific purpose, such as work, travel, tourism or study. Even if you are only planning to travel for a short time, some countries require a visa, especially if you're traveling in Asia or Latin America. Many types of visas exist based on country and type and length of visit.

Tips on Securing a Student Visa
  • Start gathering required documents for a student visa application the moment you are accepted to a program.
  • Each consulate sets its own timeline for accepting and processing applications. Know the earliest and latest dates an application can be submitted. Typically, you may not be allowed to apply more than 60-90 days before the program begins.
  • Student visa requirements, processes and even deadlines can change suddenly, so submit the application at the earliest date the consulate will accept.
  • Follow all requirements given by the consulate. Arrange application and accompanying paperwork in the exact order instructed.
  • Make copies of all documents.
  • Students often need to apply for a visa in person at the Consulate or Embassy. Please make the International Programs Office aware if you are having a difficult time getting an appointment with a consulate.

GeoBlue Insurance Card

At Union, we place a high priority on the health and well-being of students. In order to insure that students have appropriate coverage, International Programs partners with GeoBlue (formerly HTH Worldwide Insurance Services) to provide health and emergency evacuation services to Union College students who study abroad outside of the U.S. After being accepted into a study abroad program, visit the GeoBlue website to:

  • Register to use the Member Site Tools
  • Print your insurance card
  • Get a claim form
  • Search for a doctor
  • Check the status of a claim
  • Learn about health information at destination and view a CityHealth Profile
  • Understand the security risks at destination and view a GeoBlue Security Profile
  • Translate medical terms, phrases and drugs from one language to another
  • Prepare for and learn about travel and health issues
  • Read up-to-date health, security and education news
  • Read host country culture resources