“Is this the line for India tourist visas?” a man asked in panicked voice. I glanced up from my paperback and saw a sweaty, disheveled man line up behind me. He was dragging a suitcase behind him and two bulging plastic shopping bags hung from his arms.
“Yes,” I answered. I had been standing in line for an hour, waiting along with 50 others for the embassy doors to open so I could pick up my newly issued tourist visa. I had dropped off my application and passport the day before (and waited in another line) and was thrilled that the visa had been issued without delay.
“What a relief!” the man smiled and wiped his brow with the back of his hand. “I’m leaving for India tonight. I didn’t know I needed to get a visa beforehand. One of my coworkers happened to mention it to me.”
In many cases, visitors obtain on-arrival visas at the airport upon landing. There are, however, a handful of destinations that require advanced planning.
What is a visa?
A visa sets visitation parameters such as purpose, duration and number of trips. It enables the host country to verify your identity. It does not give you rights, including guaranteed entry into the territory. Your entry will be decided at the border and you might be subjected to security checks or health screenings. Additional permits may be required such as work permits or residency permits. Sometimes countries require exit visas for citizens and, in rare cases, tourists.
There are many different kinds of visas. The most common types are: transit visas for less than five days, tourist visas for strict leisure visitations, business visas for engaging in commerce in the country, temporary worker visas and student visas.
Some countries have reciprocal treaty arrangements and do not require visas, for example, a citizen of one EU country traveling to another EU country.
How do you know if you need a visa?
It depends on where you are coming from and where you are going. Check here to see if you will need a visa: http://projectvisa.com/.
How do you obtain a visa?
Find the local embassy or consulate for the country you plan to visit and find out the steps involved. At the minimum, you will be required to complete an application and provide basic information. Additional information such as date of departure, contact information in the intended country, proof that you can support yourself in the host country, proof that you have obtained health insurance and/or are at an acceptable level of health may also be required.
Obtain an in-person appointment at the embassy, consulate or private third party agency that is authorized by the foreign authority to process the paperwork and submit it on the applicant’s behalf. You may obtain a visa via mail, but be prepared to surrender your passport for at least a few weeks.
Even if the visa question seems obvious, taking a few minutes to check before you board the flight will give you peace of mind!
Have you ever been surprised by a visa requirement? Have you had positive or negative experiences applying for a visa? Tell us about it!