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Passport & Travel Tips

Passport and Visa Information

A U.S. passport is your key to international travel and study abroad. A U.S. passport is valid for 10 years for citizens who were 16 or older when the passport was issued and for 5 years for those younger than 16. All travel outside the United States requires a passport, and more importantly, for U.S. citizens, having a valid U.S. passport allows you to re-enter the United States upon your return home. Ensure your passport will be valid at least six months beyond your return date as this might be required by your host country/airline.

The passport also serves as a request to foreign governments to permit you to travel or temporarily reside in their territories and access all lawful, local aid and protection. It allows you access to consular services and assistance while abroad. It is your official identification as a citizen of your country.

If you do not have a passport to present at the time you attempt to check in at the airport, for example, you will not be allowed to board your flight and reach your international destination. In such cases, you may lose the cost of your airline ticket and any deposits and payments for your education abroad program made prior to your departure.

For each education abroad student, Texas State Education Abroad also encourages a parent, family member, or loved one to have a current passport; refer to the Health and Safety Abroad page for more information.

  • If you are planning on studying abroad and don't already have a valid passport, apply for one immediately. Passport applications can take several months to process. Check current processing times at the U.S. State Department website.

    Whether you are applying in person or renewing by mail, you can visit the U.S. Department of State website to download the appropriate form. If applying in person, do not sign the application form until you meet with the passport official, who must witness your signature.

    Apply in Person
    If you are applying for a passport for the first time or if your previous U.S. passport was issued when you were under 16, you will need to apply in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility; for more information, refer to the First Time Applicants page on the U.S. State Department website.

    In the San Marcos and Austin areas, some Passport Acceptance Facilities include the San Marcos Post Office (900 Bugg Lane) and the San Marcos City Clerk’s Office (630 E. Hopkins Street). Double-check whether the Passport Acceptance Facility you choose has on-site photo; if not, you will need to have your passport photo taken and to obtain two identical copies of the photo. Bring your completed (but unsigned) application, passport photos (if unavailable at the facility you choose), required documents, and form of payment to the Passport Acceptance Facility. Be sure to provide your Social Security number on the application; if you don't, the International Revenue Service may impose a $500 penalty.

  • To renew or apply for a U.S. passport, you are required to submit two identical passport photos along with your application or renewal. If you renew your passport by mail or apply for a passport at a facility that does not have on-site photo, you will need to have your passport photo taken—be sure to obtain two identical photos.

    For complete information on passport photos, refer to the photo quality requirements on the U.S. State Department website.

    Passport photo service is widely available from area businesses, including many FedEx Office, Walgreen’s, CVS Pharmacy, and UPS Store locations. Texas State Education Abroad does not recommend any particular location, so please conduct your own inquiries regarding passport photo providers in your area, being aware of the quality requirements for passport photos.

  • Once you have submitted your passport application or renewal, you can track your passport application status online. It is difficult to reach staff at a Regional Passport Agency by phone to ask questions.

    You can try to set up an appointment through the automated system if you are traveling within 14 days or need a foreign visa within 4 weeks, but the phone system is often overloaded.

  • A visa is a document issued by foreign customs officials or immigration authorities that permits you to visit a country for a specified period of time.

    The visa may be a stamp (endorsement) marked on your passport or a certificate appended to your passport. Some countries require that you obtain the visa prior to departure. To do so, you may need to send your passport to the designated embassy and allow time for the visa to be issued and the passport returned to you. 

    Applying for your passport well in advance can be critical since any delay in receiving your passport and required visas could result in cancellation of your education abroad program and loss of funds. Be sure to check your destination’s official government immigration office website to determine visa requirements.

  • If you are an international student currently enrolled at Texas State University, we recommend that you verify your immigration documents and eligibility for international travel with the Texas State Office of International Student and Scholar Services prior to applying to an Education Abroad program.

Travel Tips

Travel Tips (PDF, 3.41MB)

International Airfare

  • Verify your program, travel dates, and airport.
    • PRO-TIP: Take a screenshot or type your flight information on your phone in case you cannot access the airline's app. Make sure to include: Confirmation Number, Flight number, Departure and Arrival times
  • Check your airline's luggage restrictions and fees.
    • PRO-TIP: Take a photo of your luggage in the even it gets delayed or misplace, you have an image to help you describe your luggage. 
  • Whenever possible, get a direct flight. You want the journey to be as simple as possible, and when you only have to board and exit a single plane, you lessen the chance for delays, cancellations, and missed connecting flights. 

  • connecting flight is where you will travel to one airport to join a different flight that will take you to your end destination. Sometimes you may have multiple stops for international flights. 

  • A layover is a time in between these connecting flights. You will exit the plane and wait in another concourse until your next flight is ready to depart. This can be a quick turnaround or several hours long; it all depends on the flight schedule. If you must choose a layover, pick one that is at least 2 hours between the time the plane is scheduled to land and when the next one is scheduled to depart. Any less time may result in a missed connecting flight.

  • When booking your flight, remember:

    • Book a direct flight whenever possible, even if it costs a little more.
    • Give yourself at least a 2-hour layover between connecting flights.
    • Add more time to your layover if you want to eat, freshen up in the bathroom, etc. 
    • Red-eye flights are often cheaper but at the expense of traveling at night.
    • If you see "+1" it means the arrival time is a day after your departure date
  • Education Abroad strongly recommends trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Culture Shock 

Many students may feel uncertainty, anxiety, or/and confusion when traveling in another country. Culture shock is common when experiencing new surroundings and situations that are unfamiliar. Adjusting to different weather, language, food, transportation, values, and customs can take time. 

Symptoms of culture shock can include: homesickness, feeling isolated, irritability, saddess, lack of concentration, and more.

There are four main stages of culture shock: the honeymoon stage, the frustration stage, the adaptation stage, and the acceptance stage.

If you are experiencing culture shock it is important to reach out for support. Contact your family, friends, program faculty, the Education Abroad office, the Counseling Center, or On Call International so that you can received support and resources for students experiencing culture shock. 

Culture shock stages.