Before You Go

The pre-departure period is the time after approval to study abroad and before departure. SMU Abroad hosts an Abroad 201 pre-departure orientation for all semester applicants and program directors host pre-departure orientations for their facutly-led programs. After moving into the post-decision phase, students will be contacted directly regarding dates and times for these sessions. These orientations go over important information to prepare students for studying abroad such as but not limited to:

  • Passports and visas
  • Health and safety (including insurance)
  • Academics abroad

Pre-Departure Tips

In order to travel outside the United States, you must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your program's (or your personal travel) end date.


  1. You will be asked to submit your passport information in your SMU Abroad application.
  2. You will need a clear, full-color image of your signed passport information and signature pages to complete this portion of the application. 


Apply for a new passport NOW! Don’t wait. 

  1. If your passport will expire soon, or if you do not currently have a passport (as described above), you must apply for a new one.
    1. We strongly recommend that you apply using the expedited process.
    2. U.S. Citizens, please refer to the U.S. Department of State for instructions:
    3. Your passport does not need to be expired in order to begin the renewal process.
    4. Be sure to complete this process in time to receive your passport before your departure from the United States, AND before applying for a visa if your program requires one.
  2. If you are in the process of applying to an SMU Abroad program while you are renewing your passport, you will enter the word 'Pending' and upload proof of your passport application or renewal so you can submit this application item.
  3. Then email the SMU Abroad office at to inform us of your progress.
    1. In your email, include the program and term for which you are applying.
  4. Proceed with your study abroad application.

Participants are personally responsible for meeting all safety measures required for international travel and extended stays in foreign countries. These safety measures include, but are not limited to, rules mandated by the program provider as well as international, national, and local laws.

Participants may be required to submit proof of vaccinations to the program or housing provider, federal, state, or foreign governmental authority(ies), or transportation provider(s), as well as any other applicable compliance requirements that may arise between the date of your acceptance and departure, as well as during the SMU Abroad program. 

Although SMU Abroad and the program provider will make every effort to share information with participants regarding any all-hazards health emergencies, each participant is responsible for identifying and complying with any health and safety requirements necessary for travel, or presence in-country. 

Please note, if a U.S. federal or state authority or foreign governmental authority, or program or housing provider require vaccination(s), masking, quarantine/isolation, or other requirement associated with an all-hazard health emergency, including, but not limited to COVID-19, SMU cannot grant an exemption from any such requirement on the basis of a medical condition or disability, or sincerely held religious belief.  Please contact SMU Abroad if you have questions in this regard.

Information is constantly evolving and SMU may adjust policies and procedures to best support the health and safety of students. Important updates will be communicated via the participant’s application and SMU email as soon as possible. Participants are personally responsible for reviewing these updates and marking them as read as soon as possible.  SMU will send reminder emails until the update is marked as read and verified by the participant.


Some programs require U.S. citizens to obtain a visa. This is generally dependent on the duration of the program or the specific immigration relationship between your country of citizen ship and the destination country. Obtaining a visa is the responsibility of the individual student.

  1. January/May/Summer Programs: Since these programs are less than 90 days, only a few programs require U.S. citizens to obtain a visa. These programs will inform accepted applicants when it is time to apply for the visa and will provide instructions at that time.
  2. Semester Programs: Since most semester programs are longer than 90 days, U.S. citizens must require a visa. The program provider is the primary resource in the visa application process and will provide instructions for the specific program's visa requirements.
  3. International Students: Students with F1 or J1 visa may have additional visa requirements. It is your responsibility to research your visa requirements and apply for one if needed.


  • Pay close attention for information from the program regarding the visa application process.
  • Don't wait! Apply as soon as instructed to do so.
  • Direct visa questions to program provider.
  • Do not plan any international travel between submitting your visa application and the abroad program start date.

While our office is happy to assist students applying for visas, program providers are the best support resources for students during the visa application process. As the applicant, you are responsible for managing your visa application process. Please keep in mind visas take months to process, and during this time you will not have your passport. Therefore, as a general rule you should not make international travel plans while applying for a visa. SMU Abroad is unable to expedite the visa process with a foreign consulate.

For students who receive accommodations at SMU, it is important to request an accommodation letter through DASS Link and then share with the SMU faculty (electronically through the DASS Link system) in order to discuss any anticipated challenges, due to a disability and any barriers in the course or city/country of study. If participating in an affiliated semester program, share the accommodation letter from the most recent semester with the new program/school in order to determine reasonable accommodations in that new program.

Lastly, students should consider medication needs before they leave the country. Any medications students carry overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled. Some U.S. prescription medications are illegal in foreign countries. Be sure to check with the foreign embassy of the host country and any country you may be transiting en-route to make sure your medications are not considered to be illegal narcotics in that country.

Students should consider several factors when packing for their time abroad: location and itinerary, seasons and weather, length of stay - to name a few as well as cultural norms, host country style, and comfort level. Items to pack will vary based on program, term, as well as personal choices. One universal truth is that you will be responsible for carrying your own luggage and should pack accordingly. 

Airline restrictions on baggage size and weight should be checked before arrival at the airport to avoid additional baggage fees. Luggage should be labeled with name, home address, forwarding address, and telephone number. Remember to pack a change of clothes and any essential items in a piece of carry-on luggage. It is not recommended to bring any precious valuables/heirlooms that cannot be replaced.

Check out this article for 7 items you should always pack in your carry-on bag.

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports.

Currently available at 53 U.S. airports and 15 Preclearance locations, Global Entry streamlines the international arrivals process at airports for trusted travelers. The more than 4 million Global Entry members bypass traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk to complete their admission to the United States. As an added benefit, Global Entry members are also eligible to participate in the TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening program.

How to Apply

Tips for When And How to Renew Your Global Entry Membership

Most countries will use a different currency and will have an exchange rate. Students should notify their bank or credit card company of their plans to study abroad, including any additional trips you take. Check with them about fees for the use of international ATMs and foreign currency transaction fees. We recommend choosing several different forms of money so that if there is a problem with one, students will still have access to funds. It is a good idea to take enough local currency to pay for initial expenses before you can get to an ATM.

Keep all money and checks in a money belt, neck pouch, or other safe place on your person. Precautions against theft should be taken at all times and particularly on trains and buses. Purses, wallets, passports, credit cards, money are lost each year through lack of vigilance. Never put documents, money, or traveler's checks in your backpack.

Learn as much as you can about the local laws and customs of the countries where you plan to visit. Good resources are web resources, books, tourist bureaus and U.S. embassies around the world through their consular services. You can find Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements for every country of the world at It is also a good idea to create a Google News Alert to follow the news in your future host country or city.