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Visas, Passports, and Vaccination Records

You’ll need to ensure your travel documents are up-to-date and correct before you travel abroad.

Open passports with stamps from different countries.

Make sure your passport is valid and that you have obtained the proper visas before you embark on your Cornell travel. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be required by your destination country to provide additional immigration documentation, including proof of vaccination (COVID-19, Yellow Fever, etc.). In addition, if you are not a United States citizen, you may need some specific documents to re-enter the U.S. after your trip. 

What Is a Visa?

A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter or leave a specified area and is subject to an immigration official's permission at the time of actual entry. The authorization is commonly a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport, but it may also be a document to accompany a passport. 

A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. When you apply for a visa in advance of your arrival, you allow the country to consider your circumstances, such as your reason for applying, details of previous visits to the country, and financial security. Some countries also require a Letter of Introduction.

Obtaining Travel Documents

When should I apply for a passport or a visa?

It can take more time than you expect to obtain a passport or a visa. If you need a new passport or need to renew your old one, apply as soon as you can for it. You should also apply for a visa early to avoid delays or disruptions in your travel.

My old passport will expire soon after my anticipated return from my trip. Do I need to worry?

Your passport should be valid for at least six months after your anticipated return date and needs a minimum of two or more blank pages. Otherwise, some countries may not let you enter. 

How do I find out my destination country’s visa, passport, and vaccination requirements? 

Each country's visa, passport, and vaccination requirements are different and depend on your citizenship, the reason for travel, length of stay, country of trip origin or transit, and the number of entries required. Entry and exit requirements for all countries can be found in the country-specific information provided by the United States State Department.

If I get a tourist visa for my travel destination is that sufficient?

Make sure to obtain the proper visa prior to traveling. Conducting research or teaching under a tourist visa could jeopardize your ability to return to your destination in the future. Consider the nature of your activity to assess the type of immigration documentation needed. Travel Document Systems’ (TDS) website can help determine if and what type of visa is required for your destination. Learn more about TDS below.

What if I have to show proof of evacuation, repatriation or emergency health coverage to obtain a travel document? 

If you're required to show proof of evacuation, repatriation or emergency health insurance coverage in order to obtain a visa or other travel document, reach out to Risk Management and Insurance ( with proof of travel registration and your full name as it appears on your passport.

Should I travel with my COVID-19 vaccination card?

Yes. As countries determine how best to verify COVID-19 vaccination status for entrance requirements and mobility restrictions, International Travel Health and Safety advises you to bring your original, fully completed vaccination card when you travel abroad. For entrance into some countries, you may need to upload an image of this card into an app or system and fill out “registration” forms before arrival. These requirements are changing often and should be verified repeatedly. 

This card is difficult to replace, and in most cases, Cornell cannot assist you—so treat this card as you would your passport. With ever-changing travel restrictions, the loss of or inability to provide this card may mean you can’t travel as planned. We do not suggest you laminate your card, particularly if the data was printed on thermal printer paper or stickers. The heat from laminating can cause your information to be unreadable.

What kind of travel documents do I need to travel to Cuba?

If you are traveling to Cuba, you will need special documents. Visit our Cuba resource page for more information.

Cornell’s Visa and U.S. Passport Preferred Vendor

If you are a member of the Cornell community engaged in Cornell travel or travelling for personal reasons, we encourage you to take advantage of Cornell's preferred visa and United States passport processing services vendor, Travel Document Systems (TDS). Cornell travelers receive a 25% discount on processing fees.

How do I use TDS?

If you are a first-time user, you will need to create an account on the new order page on Cornell's TDS website.

  • Faculty or staff on Cornell business have the option to pay online or send a check. If you select "by check," TDS will send you an invoice, which you can submit for payment via an I Want Doc. You will need to request payment immediately upon receiving the invoice.
  • Faculty or staff on personal business should pay by credit card at the time the ordered is placed.
  • Students need to pay via credit card at the time the order is placed.

What kinds of services does TDS offer?

TDS offers the following support services:

  • Detailed information regarding what is required for visa application.
  • Answers to any questions about visas or U.S. passports you may have.
  • Collection of your visa applications, passports, photos, etc.
  • Ensuring accuracy and completeness of your applications; this avoids delays.
  • (In most cases) hand delivering your application to the visa-granting agency.
  • Follow up as necessary to receive the visas.
  • Returning all documents to you/Cornell.
  • Expedited and urgent services, if needed.

Can Cornell help me obtain a visa or U.S. passport?

Generally, no. There is no Cornell office that offers visa or passport acquisition services. However, in limited cases (group travel or study abroad) an administrative assistant or the Office of Global Learning may help collect documents and apply for visas at a “local” embassy.

Note: A third party, for example a Cornell staff member, may fill in most of the information requested by TDS if the general information is the same for everyone in a group. Nevertheless, applicants themselves must sign their applications and provide their passports.

How can I track the progress of my visa or passport request once I’ve submitted it to TDS?

You can track your TDS order through the "Check Order Status" link on the TDS website.

International Students and Scholars Traveling Abroad

If you are an international student or scholar, you should always consult international service advisors at the Office of Global Learning before leaving the United States to ensure you can return to the U.S. without incident. For example, if you have a single-entry U.S. visa and you plan to return to the U.S., you will need to obtain a new U.S. visa while you are abroad.