YPC encourages you to join fellow ASABE members next July in Montreal for the 2014 ASABE Annual International Meeting. It's not too early to begin your plans for international travel, and here are some things to begin thinking about. Much of the following applies to those in the U.S., but general principles apply to all traveling abroad.
First, the obvious: Passports are required. If you don’t have one, apply now! For those applying for a U.S. passport, wait times for applications range four to six weeks and sometimes more, depending on the queue. Even if you have a current passport you are not out of the woods - most countries consider a passport expired if it is within six months of the actual expiration date, so check your passport and consider renewing it before you leave. The good news, whether you need a new passport or a renewal, is that the U.S. State Department website is fairly helpful.
Okay, now that you have your passport, it is always recommended that you carry one or two color copies with you. These will be priceless if you lose your passport or it gets stolen (although rare, it is possible). Depending on my destination I generally have copies in my carry-on and checked luggage; additionally I keep a backup in my office.
Once you have arrived at your destination, always know where your documents are. You don’t need to carry your passport with you everywhere, but it should be kept in a safe place. Most hotel establishments will have a small combination safe in the room that you can use to store documents and money.
Now a word about visas. Some countries require them, and no two countries have similar application processes. To determine what is required for your destination country, there are a couple of good resources: the visa service website and the embassy website for the country to which you are traveling. Timing is critical during the visa process, as some countries require you to send your passport to one of their U.S.-based embassies for approval. For example, Brazil, China, and India all require advance purchase, and may take several weeks to acquire. However, Turkey and Indonesia require purchase upon arrival. Other countries, like Canada and most European countries, don’t require visas for U.S. citizens. If you are anxious or don’t understand what is required for the visa process, don’t be afraid to ask. I often use a visa service, which will handle all the logistics in a timely manner for a nominal fee (and a hefty fee for expedited service).
Finally, there may be additional paperwork prior to international travel for international citizens who are currently working or studying in the U.S. This will depend on your nationality and the visa you have for the U.S. For student travelers, a signature from your university's international student services office may also be needed.
I hope these tips will get help lead to a successful, stress-free trip. Watch in coming weeks for part 2 of this series on international travel, which will cover additional topics related to travel abroad. A special thanks to fellow YPC member Andy Lenkaitis for sharing his globe trotting experience.
Livestock Extension Specialist, University of Illinois