Outbound Travel Visas

Does your destination require a visa? Processing times and application materials vary by country. 


Who needs a visa?
Individuals planning travel to a country for which they do not hold a passport may need a visa. The visa provides the traveler with the clearance to enter a country and remain there within specified constraints, such as, but not limited to:

  • Time frame for entry

  • Time spent in the country

  • Travel purpose (e.g., a tourist visa prohibits employment)

NOTE: Not all international travel requires a visa. This is determined according to both the travel destination and the passport(s) held by the traveler. 

The visa is reviewed by an immigration official at a port of entry or exit (e.g. airport, border crossing, seaport).  Authorization is usually an endorsed stamp within the traveler’s passport, but can also be a document that accompanies the passport.

Travelers should allow plenty of time of visa processing. It is advised to submit visa applications 3-4 weeks prior to a departure date.  Consulates will need time to review an application and consider the applicant's circumstance, such as reason for applying, details of previous visits to the country and financial security. Some countries also require a Letter of Introduction. 

Submitting a visa application does not mean you have been granted a visa. Visas are issued at the discretion of the consulate officer upon reviewing an applicant’s information and supplementary documents.  The consulate officer will determine the type of authorization the traveler has been granted such as the visa category and duration. Applicants may be denied an entrance visa.

This list is not all inclusive.
Typical Visas required by most Penn travelers:

This visa is used for leisure, study tours or group travel, general visits, and visiting family or friends.

Attending conference may also fall under tourism. Non-business meetings or exploratory interactions may occur, however no commercial activity or work is permitted. No remunerative activities may be conducted when travelling for this purpose.

Study (or Student Visa)

This visa is used for students who are enrolled in a foreign institution for full time study; semester or year-long study or exchange programs. Students would need to be formally admitted into the institution.


This visa is for business meetings and discussions only. No compensation generating activities, employment, or paid internships are allowed when traveling for this purpose.

Note: Some countries have Non-business distinctions that falls between tourism and business. This category can include business meetings and non-remunerative activities such as presenting or attending conference. Consult the host country’s consulate website for specifics.

Schengen Visa

The Schengen Visa is for citizens of certain countries that must hold a short stay visa.  The EU’s common list of countries whose citizens must have a visa when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement. There are national derogations from the visa requirements for certain travelers.

  1. The Schengen area covers 26 EU countries without border controls between them.  The visa is an authorization issued by a Schengen State that allows transit through or an intended stay in the territory of the Schengen States of a duration of no more than 90 days in any 180 day period (short stay visa)


Employment or Internships

An Employment visa is work authorization for paid employment in the destination country.

If pursuing an internship in another country, then the host company in that country must endorse you for the required visa that is needed for you to legally work in the country

Outbound Visas for
Non-US Passport Holders

If you are traveling abroad and you are not a US passport holder, it’s important to understand that the visa and immigration process may differ, especially when departing from the US. Consulates/Embassies are accustomed to processing visas from applicants who apply from within their home country and US airlines and airports may also be unaware of nuances associated with your status. We recommend you take the following precautions:

  • Add at least two extra weeks to the normal processing times

  • Carry information or documentation regarding your US residency and association with Penn, in addition to your home country passport

  • If the visa requirements where you are traveling differ for you as a non-US citizen, be prepared with any documentation attesting to the different requirement (letter from host country Embassy/Consulate regarding the requirement for your nationality)

Assistance with
Graduate & Independent Travel

GSS is available to assist Penn students, faculty, and staff with visa questions for graduate programs or independent travel abroad. GSS cannot issues visas. The University is not able to sponsor local students, faculty, or staff for international visas.

Possible cases where GSS can help:

  1. Fellowship recipients

  2. Students doing independent research or internships abroad

  3. Faculty conducting independent research abroad

  4. Faculty/Staff attending a conference or conducting a business visit abroad

Penn's Preferred Visa Processing Vendor

CIBTvisas is Penn's preferred vendor. We have negotiated discounted rates for members of the Penn community. CIBT’s portal provides information on visa categories and country-specific visa application information.  Penn travelers receive a 60% reduction in the processing fees. In order to receive the discounted rate and connect to our dedicated service team, participants must use the Penn CIBT Portal.

For questions concerning your CIBT Visa application you can contact CIBT directly at platinumservices@cibtviasas.com or 800.577.2428. If you have an urgent visa inquiry, contact GSS