International Research: Useful Information from HGSA


Information Sheet regarding Research Abroad Visa Information for Pre-dissertation and Research Year:

  • Give yourself between 5-3 months before leaving for research to find out about travel visa requirements;
  • Requirements could include:
    • The need for a long-stay tourist visa
    • Is there a ‘research visa’ that you can apply for, in affiliation with the archive you need, to allow you to stay in the country
    • The need for a tourist visa to enter the country, before receiving a long-stay visa
    • Registering with the authorities upon arrival
  • Determine under what conditions you can get a visa, if you need it
    • For example, you may need an address before you can get the visa in the first place or other such conditions;
  • Ask another student/professor in the department who has gone to the same country/archives for tips

Some helpful websites:


  • Research ATM and credit card conditions
  • Most countries outside of North America operate more on a cash basis, than a credit card basis
  • ATMs could be difficult or dangerous to access, and may charge your account foreign transactions fees and exchange rate charges. Cyber security could be low and credit cards may not be accepted in many places, so you may have to figure out if you need cash before you go and to exchange it here/there, and keep it safe while away
  • Make sure you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees
  • Having a separate debit card and a separate credit card are important, should one get blocked, stolen or lost.
  • Call your bank with your travel dates, so that your cards are not blocked and keep the bank updated with your local phone number (whether you have an unlocked phone with a local SIM card, or an international plan on your phone)

Making connections:

  • One of the best ways to find out about visa requirements, archival culture, academic culture and living/cultural information is by making contacts before leaving on research or during your pre-diss research
  • 1) Affiliation with a local university, through contact with a scholar or department is one way to do this.
    • They can help with gathering information about archives, visas, travel and even living arrangements (i.e. university dorms, knowledge of where to look for an apartment, etc.).
  • 2) Find a research center/research institute
    • This is a great way to make connections to help you with several travel issues.
    • Some may be affiliated with universities, other may be totally independent
    • American scholars have research centers all around the world, and coming from an American university you have access to these centers.
    • Often you also have access to British/Canadian or other Centers/Institutes as well that are located in your place of research, as a student-scholar affiliated with an American university
    • Many of these centers/institutes have dorms or apartments you can rent, have libraries if they are thematically linked to your research, hold events with other scholars and universities/institutes in the region and can generally help you to navigate around the city/place and archives, etc.
  • 3) Archives:
    • Contact the archives you intend to research in
    • For some, you may need specific documents in order to work there and to pay a fee
      • For example: you may need a letter from the department or your advisor. The letter may need to be in the local language. You may need a research visa or note from some official body.
      • Shannon can provide you with a research letter to bring with you. Take one regardless of whether you end up needing it as proof of university affiliation
    • Consider language requirements in your early years of the PhD; take your language skills seriously because many places outside of the English-speaking world will not be able to accommodate you.
    • Classes at UIUC, or even consider taking private lessons/classes in country during pre-diss/diss research
    • Consider research periods and holidays (more abundant abroad) in other countries, find out when archives are closed for the summer, the winter, religious holidays, state holidays, certain days of the week, general hours of operations, and if any current political situation affects accessibility – strikes, etc.
    • Find out from Grad College if you need an IRB for Oral Interviews as requirements have recently changed

Research year in absentia registration:

If you intend not to return to Urbana-Champaign and make use of McKinley, local Student Health Insurance, Dental or the workout facilities (and whatever other fees are attached to that), you may fill out an In Absentia form that will relieve you of most of these fees. You will still have access to the library website and through it JSTOR and other catalogues from abroad.

  • To register while on fellowship, use the HIST 599 CRN connected to your advisor, Shannon can email that to you and provide you with registration information
  • For healthcare while travelling, you must register for the package offered by the Study Abroad office, both because it is a university requirement and this insurance covers all fees abroad and emergency evacuations.
  • In Absentia forms must be filled out each semester you are away.
  • Below is the link or you can google “in absentia uiuc” and it is the first link that pops up and takes you directly to the form.
  • Email it to Shannon.
  • Some storage (cheap) units used and trusted by students include Park150 on University Avenue in Urbana and Urbana Secure Self Storage, on S. Philo Rd., Urbana
  • As well as several others. Check if the units are climate controlled so your furniture/books do not mold.
  • Secure a storage unit at least 2 months in advance as they fill up very quickly, particularly near May.

Registering with the Study Abroad department:

  • There is an office at the University that is solely responsible for UIUC students who are travelling abroad (regardless if you an American citizen or an international student)
  • Whether for pre-dissertation research or for dissertation research, if you are going abroad, it is university policy to buy the travel insurance provided through this office, which will automatically enroll you with the Study Abroad office, who tracks events in regions abroad containing Illinois students.
  • Should anything happen in the region that you are living in at the time, they will check in on you and be able to help with any problems.
  • If you experience a health crisis, or an emergency and need to be evacuated from the country, through contact with them and the use of their health insurance, they will arrange everything you need to be removed from the country
  • For every address change, update the office with your new address, should you be travelling to different places, and have not informed them through the purchase of travel insurance

  • Two contacts for the office are below:
  • Andrew Collum,
  • Rachael Dean (email her with your travel information)
  • For general questions:
    • If you have questions or concerns about non-emergency health, safety, or security issues, please contact use the following email:

Health Insurance Abroad:

  • Even you intend to return to Urbana-Champaign during your research year and use the facilities here, for UnitedHealth Student Insurance, all out of country medical use is considered out of network and the premiums alone would cover the travel insurance, therefore it is university policy to purchase travel insurance.
  • Below is the website link for travel insurance provided through the Safety Abroad office,
    • The travel insurance is provided by Arthur J. Gallagher, the International Insurance provider, also has a website specifically for Illinois users.
    • You get a card to print out and keep with you as well as forms for re-imbursement and information regarding any documents you would need for re-imbursement


  • The International Insurance and Safety Fee covers enrollment in International Insurance, as well as the services provided through International Safety and Security, including 24/7 response team in the event of overseas emergencies, pre-departure training and orientation, international travel registry, and other services.
  • Fees are determined by the number of days spent abroad, also referred to as travel or program dates. Students should verify that their travel or program dates are the same as the insurance coverage dates, as listed in the Verification Letter you receive in the e-mail from the International Insurance provider.
  • Personal travel before, or after, your program is not eligible for coverage by International Insurance.


Length of Program or Trip

Fee (in U.S. Dollars)

Up to 2 Weeks (1-16 days)


Month (17-45 days)


Short Term (46-75 days)


Semester (76-195 days)


Academic Year (196-315 days)


Calendar Year (316-365 days)



In the event of an Emergency:


-     +1-217-333-1216 (from a cellphone); From a land line: 001-217-333-1216

  • Be prepared to provide: (Study Abroad provides cards to carry in your wallet with this info)
    • Caller name and contact information
    • Traveler name and contact information (if you are not the one calling)
    • Traveler location (City and Country)
    • Program or reason for travel
    • Nature of the emergency and what assistance is needed
  • We suggest keeping a small card with all this info on it in your wallet, just in case
  • Register with the US state department for alerts through the Smart Traveler Enrollement Program
    • Even if you are going to a low-risk country, this registration also provides information such as the occurrence of country-wide strikes or events that could impact travel, such as extreme weather and so on
  • The website also determines if you are travelling to a ‘high risk’ country. If it is a very high-risk country you may need to fill out a permission and waiver form in order to go and still be able to receive the travel insurance. All of this is found on the Study Abroad website.



General Health & Wellness Tips:

  • Cellphones: having an unlocked phone is helpful abroad as SIM cards and data plans are very cheap
  • If you do not have an unlocked phone, check roaming charges and international plans
  • Think about and develop some strategies about how you will do research in the archives
    • Do you want to take pictures, do you want to read the documents on site, do you want to take notes? What is actually possible to achieve? What is the cost of entry and document copies?
  • Consider cultural differences
    • The first months are most difficult trying to figure out daily life and the archives and a routine, so take some time to orient yourself and become comfortable with your surroundings
    • Do some research about daily-life costs in the region you intend to go to. How expensive is food, rent, public transit? What is the exchange rate, etc.
  • Consider roommates
    • Renting a room from a research institute, or a dorm from a university, is a great way to have contact with people (many of these scholars also on research)
    • Another possibility is that of roommates, which can be a risk, but can also greatly help with feelings of isolation, especially if the academic community/language in the area is unknown or inaccessible to you
    • Airbnb is one option to search for living accommodations.
    • For Europe, a better option for rooms/apartments, etc. is
  • Talk to somebody who has gone to the country that you want to go to, such as previous grad students in our department or your advisor/professor
  • Do something extra instead of just going to the archives
    • Yoga, dancing, meditation classes, counselling (covered by healthcare), language classes and TRAVEL!
  • Something to think about at the end: consider the culture shock of the return, and returning to the rigours of the department and the requirements of the program;
    • Some resources to help cope are counselling offered at McKinley or at the Counselling center located in the Turner Student Services building