4 websites every international student should check out before travelling
Arm yourself with information so you don't get turned away at the check-in counter. Source: AFP/Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In need of a quick getaway before exam season starts? Or for a visit back home to the family and friends you’ve sorely missed?

Or to join that much-hyped Spring Break extravaganza everyone is talking about?

Not so fast, international students.

While we’re all for fun, family and relaxation, our status as international students mean there are added precautions we have to take before packing our bags and going off on a trip.

There is no free movement of people – an extremely unfortunate situation given that this IS 2018 – where nationalities and borders should not matter.

The truth is, Middle Eastern students in US universities have not gone home for months or even years ever since the infamous travel ban was first enacted, in fear they could never re-enter the US.

The UK still wants to include international students into their group of “migrants” that they want to reduce the numbers for.

Even countries as progressive as Germany and the Netherlands are seeing a rise in xenophobic movements, which can make travelling uncomfortable at least and dangerous at worst.

The trick to still being able to travel seamlessly and in peace lies in preparing ahead. And that includes doing your research beforehand at these websites before crossing borders.

These are the authoritative sources of information that every prudent international student should check out before hopping on that next plane or train, and why they are important:

1. Host country’s federal immigration website

Sites like the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office or the US’ Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website are a treasure trove of information about what the country you intend to.

This information includes a brief summary of its crime and security levels, the reasons for them, how previous British and American citizen’s trips to the country have been like, health risks, etc

For international students, this serves as a good introduction to crucial bits of information such as entry requirements, local laws and customs you should be aware of, insurance needs and organisations that can help you in the event of emergencies there.

Note that situations can escalate quickly so it is best you check these websites up until the day or hour you want to travel.

The Bureau also provides a comprehensive list of options for you to stay connected for any notifications here.

2. Website of your consulate, high commission or embassy at the country you intend to travel to

To refine your research from item one, head over to the website of your consulate or embassy at the country you intend to travel to.

Even better, register at your embassy or consulate so it will be easier for your government to contact and help you during times of trouble.

This is where you will get specific information on visa requirements, passport requirements, and other administrative matters.

The High Commission of India in London’s website even has a notice up to warn Indian nationals in the UK to be wary of fraudsters posing as officers from UK Home Office/UK immigration/UK Border Authority to extort money on them on false grounds that there are problems with their travel documents.

3. Travel destination’s news sites

Covering your bases with items one and two above is a good first step. But as mentioned before, situations can deteriorate quick, and sometimes just about as you are about to board your plane.

Thankfully in this era of instantaneous news updates, we can rely on most major news organisations of each country to report situations on the ground (almost) as it happens.

Following the Twitter accounts of the journalists at these news organisations would be helpful too.

4. University’s international student office website

We may dismiss these sites as dormant or unexciting, but this will be to your peril.

Most universities worth their salt have a reputation to protect, especially in the pastoral support they offer to international students.

This includes providing sufficient and comprehensive support in terms of visa and travel needs through their International Student Office’s (ISO) website – some like University of Cambridge even go to the extent of providing advice for student-related immigration matters for family members as well.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s ISO website even has a dedicated page titled “Major Immigration Updates” on US policy, guidance or law.

ISO websites offer more student-centric immigration information, compared to the first three options listed above, such as the travel limitations for DACA recipients, those on F-1 visa status and many more.

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