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What Travel Documents do I Need for Student Travel?

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Question: What Travel Documents do I Need for Student Travel?
Learn which travel documents you may need for student travel -- passport, tourism and work visa, id, travel immunizations record and international driver's license.

Answer:
  • You will always need identification when you travel.
  • You will almost always need a passport (learn about Mexico and Canada passport requirements and substitutes here).
  • You may need a travel visa in some countries.
  • As a US citizen, you will (almost) always need a work visa to work legally in other countries -- this requirement may vary if you have a US employer.
  • You will seldom need, but may want to carry, travel immunization records.
  • You may want, but *may* not need if you are renting a car abroad, an international driver's license.

    Let's look at all the student travel document details.

    Carry Identification

      You will need photo id while traveling when:

      • Boarding planes
      • Passing through customs and immigration
      • Cashing traveler's checks
      • Renting cars
      • In case of difficulty with authorities

      You may need photo id while traveling when:

      • Boarding some trains or ferries
      • Checking in to some hostels and most hotels
      • Using a debit or credit card
    Photo id that works for travel:

    • Passport -- universal id
    • Your driver's license or an international driver's license (be aware that the minute you leave the US, your driver's license *may* become meaningless as id, except at car rental agencies)

    Get a Passport

    Although you can currently use a birth certificate and driver's license as id to enter Mexico and Canada by land (need a passport if flying back to the US -- learn more), you should get a passport anyway. Passports are $97 through a US post office if you're over 16 ($70 otherwise) and are valid for ten years, and function as universal id. You can also use a passport to meet INS employment requirements in the US.

    What's Up With Visas?

    A visa is an endorsement stamped on your passport by foreign customs officials that allows you to visit that country. You get a visa from the country's embassy or consulate (check consular sheets for embassy locations and, in some cases, websites). "Visit", as used above, means the reason for entry. In your case, it may be tourism or work (volunteering and studying abroad are usually considered tourism). Many, many types of visas exist based on country and type and length of visit.

    Few countries require tourism visas. Among them *may* be Africa, Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Russia and Turkey (this can change at any time).

    Work visas are a different story -- you will probably need one if you want to work during your student travel.

    Do I Need Immunization Records for Travel?

    Whether or not you need travel immunizations depends in part on where you will be traveling. Not every country is going to require that you already have shots before you travel to that country -- your concern will be more whether you *want* immunizations for travel. If you get travel shots, you'll get an International Health Certificate to prove it, and you should carry that while traveling. Remember to start a shots series early enough to finish the series before traveling.

    International Driver's License

    Before you decide to get an international's driver's license or permit, whether to use as id or to rent a car, bear in mind that your US driver's license will probably work for renting a car or scooter almost anywhere.

    In some countries, you may rather get a local government-issued driver's license if you're going to be there for a few months or more -- ask how to get one at the local American embassy. To get a local driver's license abroad, you may need:

    • Valid passport
    • Valid American driver's license
    • Valid non-immigrant visa if required in that country
    • Valid work visa if applicable

    Auto club AAA is licensed by the US guv to provide you with an international driving permit.

    Email Yourself Important Travel Documents

    Email yourself important travel document copies. If you lose your passport, visa, airline tickets, credit / debit cards or driver's license, you can download copies while you're traveling.

    Where to Keep Your Travel Documents

    Leave copies of all your travel documents with someone whom you can contact easily, like a parent, and email copies to yourself -- you've then got two ways to access copies if you lose anything. Stash copies in your guidebook or travel journal, too. Make sure that you have the documents to which you need access, like your passport and eticket / itinerary, together at the right time.

    I keep travel life simple by using a passport holder in airports and stashing it in a backpack pocket otherwise. I keep my cash seperate -- usually in a zipped pants, shirt or vest pocket which I'm wearing.

    ---> Return to: Passport News and Rules | Return to Mexico Travel Documents | Return to Travel Immunizations

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