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. In addition, Texas State Study Abroad strongly suggests that you ensure your passport will be valid at least six months beyond the end date of your study abroad program.
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 study abroad program made prior to your departure.
For each study abroad student, Texas State Study 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 four to eight weeks 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 (301 N. Guadalupe Street), the San Marcos City Clerk’s Office ( 530 E. Hopkins Street), the Downtown Austin Post Office (510 Guadalupe Street) and the International Office at the University of Texas in Austin. 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.
Renew by Mail
You may renew your passport by mail if
For more information on renewing your passport by mail, refer to the U.S. State Department’s Renew Passport page, and print out and complete the renewal form. Be sure to submit two identical passport photos and the appropriate fee along with your renewal application.
Expedited Passport Service
As indicated above, passport applications can take four to eight weeks to process. Please check current processing times at the U.S. State Department website. If necessary, you can take advantage of the expedited passport service that is available for an additional fee from the U.S. State Department.
Expedited Renewal by Mail
If you are renewing your passport by mail, please refer to How to Get Your Passport in a Hurry on the U.S. State Department website.
Expedited Application in Person
If you are applying in person and require expedited service, you will need to schedule an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency. (The Houston Passport Agency is the facility nearest San Marcos.) Please follow the U.S. State Department’s directions on scheduling an appointment.
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.
Passport photos must be official ID photos that meet specific requirements, which include the following:
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 for a small fee from area businesses, including many FedEx Office, Walgreen’s, CVS Pharmacy, and UPS Store locations. Texas State Study Abroad does not recommend any specific business, so please conduct your own inquiries regarding passport photo providers in your area, being aware of the quality requirements for passport photos.
Once you’ve submitted your application or renewal, you can track your passport application status online. It is extremely 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 study abroad program and loss of funds. Texas State Study Abroad can help determine if you need a visa to study in your country of choice; please contact our office at 512.245.9167 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Be sure to check your destination’s official government immigration office website to determine visa requirements and to see which visa you qualify for.