A visa is an official stamp in your passport authorizing you to travel, work, or study in that country for a specified length of time. Each country issues its own visas through its embassy and consulates located throughout the United States. In order to obtain a visa for your country of destination, apply through the embassy or consulate that includes the state of Michigan in its jurisdiction.
It is important to remember:
- You may be denied entry into, or be deported from, a country for which you have not obtained a required visa.
- It is your responsibility to determine the visa requirements for all countries you plan to visit while abroad.
- Obtaining a visa can take several weeks.
It’s best to assume that you’ll need a visa, although there are exceptions to this. For example, U.S. citizens are permitted to travel as tourists to most European countries (with some exceptions such as Russia) without a visa for less than 90 days. But they may need visas for studying or working (unpaid internships included). Most European countries will require a visa for stays lasting longer than 90 days.
For information about entry requirements for US citizens and links to embassies and consulates visit the U.S. Department of State’s Country Specific Travel Information.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, see the International Students section below.
Visas for Internships, Research, or other forms of Working Abroad
In many cases you will need to obtain a special type of visa in order to legally work in another country. This can also be true for unpaid work abroad. See Work Permit Visas for more information about this. The United Kingdom is an example of a country that requires students doing internships (paid or unpaid) to obtain a special internship visa prior to arrival. Unless your host organization or company is able to provide you with a Certificate of Sponsorship (most cannot), your only option is to obtain the visa through the sole organization authorized to provide this visa, BUNAC.
Getting a Visa
Visas must be obtained before you arrive in the country. Some visas can take up to eight weeks to process (depending on the type of visa, your citizenship, which country, etc.). Others can be processed fairly quickly, within a matter of days or even immediately at the consulate. Be sure to check for processing times before going.
- Perry International
- Website features a database that is helpful for determining visa needs. Can expedite visas for an extra fee; their location in Chicago may be an advantage since some consulates located there require Michigan residents to apply through Chicago.
- Travel Document Systems (TDS)
- Can expedite visas for an extra fee; does not have a Chicago office.
For visas to China, we recommend using USChinaVisa, which has a Michigan office.
For visas to Russia, we recommend the following:
- A Briggs (formerly Executive Visa)
Call 202-552-1335 and ask to speak with Esmeralda
*For discounted processing, mention that you are a former Executive Visa client
- Russia House
If you plan to visit several countries which require visas, it may be easier to apply for only one or two visas before leaving the U.S. and get the others at embassies or consulates abroad as you travel. You may need extra passport photos for this. An embassy or consulate in the U.S. can give you the details.
Tourist Cards (Latin American Countries)
Tourist cards authorize entry into a country and are issued instead of visas for some Latin American countries. They can be obtained through an embassy or consulate, or sometimes through an airline or travel agency.
As mentioned above, it is best to assume that you will need a visa to visit another country, even for tourism purposes. You can apply for foreign visas in the United States through the consulate or embassy of your destination country.
Be sure to speak with an international student and scholar advisor at the U-M International Center (firstname.lastname@example.org) regarding your travel plans and obtain the necessary signatures before departure, even for a trip to Canada.
Schengen Visa: For European travel, the Schengen visa covers a number of countries. See the European Commission website for more information about which countries are currently part of the Schengen visa agreement.
Where you apply for the Schengen visa will depend on where you plan to travel:
- If you’ll be traveling to only one Schengen country, you would apply at that country’s embassy or consulate in the US.
- If you wish to travel to several Schengen States, you’ll apply at the embassy or consulate of the country where you are going to spend the majority of your trip.
- If you wish to travel to several Schengen States, with no main destination (the duration of your stay is strictly equal in each country), you’ll apply at the embassy or consulate of the country that’s your first point of entry.
Additional Online Resources
Check the State Department’s Foreign Embassy page for links to foreign embassies in the U.S.