Friday, January 29, 2016

By Rachele Petit, The Daily Iowan


Preparing for a trip abroad may have just gotten easier.

Students and staff at the University of Iowa requiring visas, passport renewals, or other travel document services will now be offered these services at a discounted rate.

The Committee on Institutional Cooperation has signed a contract with CIBT Visa Services to provide passport and visa services to the UI and other Institutional Cooperation institutions — which include other schools in the Big Ten.

“The most important benefit of the new agreement with CIBT Visas is that it will save UI faculty, staff, and students money on passport and visa services for travel abroad,” said Downing Thomas, associate provost and dean of International Programs in an email. “They will also provide reliable information about visa requirements and offer customer support.” Thomas said advantages of the service include discounts on service fees and rush fees, local expertise, dedicated account management, live customer care, and an online database of the most up-to-date passport and visa requirements.

UI sophomore Kaiti Reid, who is in the process of applying for a study-abroad internship for four weeks in Spain this summer, is excited to take advantage of what the services have to offer.

“I would really appreciate live customer service to ask questions concerning the varieties of applications,” Reid said. “As far as saving money on these services — it’d definitely help. So many jobs require internships to show experience, yet many cost money to even apply for.”

Students interested in the services can apply through the Institute for the International Education of Students.

On the flip side, UI alumnus Ian Wilkinson, who traveled through the academic year in Germany, said the visa services would not have been helpful for him because the Freiburg program is long-established and has a very capable coordinator who handles student issues when studying abroad.

The academic year in Freiburg is a one-year study-abroad program at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg. It is offered at the UI, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

However, not all students studying abroad receive the same kind of support, said Wilkinson.

“I know of kids studying in France who didn’t have enough support or assistance,” he said.