Do You Need a Visa?

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“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.”

Phew!

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!

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About Author

Dawn first became hooked on traveling while studying abroad in London. Who knew how easy it was to hop on a plane, train or boat and emerge in another country! Since then, she has traveled as much as possible and loves how each destination alters her understanding of life. Read her expat exploits on shootandscrawl.com, view her photos on dawnspaulding.com and follow her on twitter @shootandscrawl. Based out of: Luxembourg City and New York City

15 Comments

    • Hi Debbie, Nice to see you on here! I agree with your friend – it’s really stressful to send your passport off, especially if you have a trip planned. I’m glad it worked out for her!

  1. Getting our visa for China wasn’t that bad but it was expensive!! It’s a pretty quick turn around (4 days) but stressful because we had bought our plane ticket beforehand and heard about people getting denied!

    • Hi Jade, Arrgh, yes it is quite expensive! It really adds to the cost on top of the tickets and everything else. I’m relieved to hear you had success!

  2. I recently arrived in Mumbai, India, and had read that you can get your VISA issued on your arrival. Word of advice; get your visas sorted before you arrive in India!!! I could write a book about my experiences!

    • Hi John, Good to know my hours at the India visa office in NYC weren’t wasted since I’m going to Mumbai in a month! Maybe you SHOULD write a book (or at least a long post) about your visa experiences. I think it’s a topic not enough people know about.

    • Hi Jen, Yes, good to check first! Although, I don’t think you will be allowed to board if you don’t have the visa. Thanks for reading!

  3. Ugh, I had the worst visa situation trying to get into Bolivia (this probably deserves it’s own post!). Basically, I was stuck in Peru trying to get over the next day to met someone (a Canadian, who didn’t need a visa) and I had to book it to the embassy in Peru. I had to fill out a bunch of forms, provide proof of onward travel, write an expected itinerary per day, give them TWO passport photos and $135. It took me most of the day, but somehow I did it.
    TIP: ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH PASSPORT PHOTOS.. just in case!

    Brazil was a pretty tricky one too.. you have to send your passport off to an embassy, but there’s only a few in the states.

    • Hi Kelly,
      Good tip to travel with passport photos! I would not think of that. Also, good to know re Bolivia and Brazil. I’m glad everything worked out in Bolivia and would love to hear more.

    • Hi, Yikes, what a nightmare! Luckily, you found out ahead of time. Should not be a problem finding an embassy or expediter if you’re in a larger European city. Just plan on staying in that city for a couple of days since you’ll have to surrender your passport. Good luck!

  4. Pingback: How to Get a Bolivian Visa if You’re From the US — Go! Girl Guides

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