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General Information

What is a visa?

Visas are granted by governments to permit foreign nationals to enter and then reside in their countries for fixed periods of time. The visa can be on a piece of paper or a stamp in your passport. It is important to determine as early as possible what the visa requirements are for your travels and how and when to apply.

What should I know before I apply for a visa?

Be aware that to apply for a visa you may need to be without your passport for the full period during which your visa materials are being processed by the relevant  embassy or consulate.  Visas application processes can take many forms: some e-visas are processed entirely online, some by mail, while others require in-person interviews and/or hand delivery of materials.   You should make travel plans carefully with the timeline for securing your visa in mind. 

Why is it so important to fill out visa applications precisely as directed? 

Failure to fill in all forms completely and submit all required supporting documents is very likely to result in a a visa rejection or visa delay.  Be extremely careful when filling out visa documents. Be sure to sign all appropriate documents. We suggest that you have another person review your documents before submitting them to the appropriate consulate or embassy.

Do I really need fingerprinting or an FBI check?

Only some countries and visa types will include these requirements.  If you are required to obtain fingerprints or a police or FBI background check as part of the application for the visa, you can consult with Public Safety for assistance.

What does notarization mean, and where can I go for this? 

A "notary public" is an official that can certify documents as official and original.    There are several options for notary services close to campus, including:   

  • Agency by the Mall (on Baltimore Pike)
  • The Media Notary (will come meet you at your chosen location)
  • The UPS Store (in the Olde Sproul Shopping Village). 
What other documents might be required to apply for a visa?

To obtain a visa, you will often you will be required to provide other important documents, such as proof of insurance, official acceptance/invitation letters, letters from an in-country host, medical documents, proof of financial support, and documentation of the address where you plan to reside.  If covered by CISI insurance, you can print out an insurance letter when you log into their website.

What is a "transit visa"?

You may need a Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) if you’ll be changing flights without going through immigration control. If you are planning to transit through certain countries, make sure to check if you are required to obtain any type of airport transit visa well in advance based on your country of citizenship. Before you depart the United States, it is crucial to check the relevant website of the embassy for each country that you are traveling through.  This type of visa typically requires a processing fee and may take weeks to process.  Travel agencies and Swarthmore College are not responsible for transit visas.