There are certain things that you have to check before visiting any country. Before you get to the best sights and great hotel offers, the first thing you need to check is what or if you need a visa to enter the country. After all, there’s no point in planning a holiday to a country you end up not being able to go to. The last thing you want to have to do after a long flight or even multiple flights, is get stuck in immigration because something’s not quite right with your documents. More often than not, this can be avoided by simply going through the points listed below.
Here’s a little checklist on what to look out for when researching or applying for a visa…
- Entry restrictions (passport requirements, diplomatic issues, etc.)
- Reason for travel (name of visa)
- Time frame of visit
- Cost and payment
- Processing time
- Further information and regulations (re-entry, re-application, etc.)
The very first points to look for when researching visas are entry restrictions in the country you want to visit. This can be something as simple as needing a valid passport to something more specific like diplomatic issues with your nationality or religion. The latter is sadly still a big factor in a reasonable number of countries and can change depending on the political climate, so definitely try and stay up to date on this in the weeks leading up to your departure. This is particularly important when travelling to Middle Eastern countries or areas with an instable political climate at the time of travel.
What is your reason for travel and what is the visa called?
This is a very important step in looking for the right visa. If you apply for the incorrect visa, you could end up being banned from entering the country in the future. The main two reasons to pick from are usually tourism & leisure or work & business. If you are simply going on holiday then you are looking for a tourism & leisure visa but as soon as any form of business transaction is involved, make sure you get the correct work & business visa. Work visas usually have more restrictions and require certain formal documents that otherwise aren’t checked when requesting a tourism visa. Student visas are a little bit easier to come by if you have been accepted to a local university and/or have the appropriate references from your university at home. When it comes to student visas, just be sure to sort out everything as soon as you can to avoid complications upon arrival.
A lot of the time if you are travelling for leisure, you will just need a so-called visa on-arrival. This means you will be given a form on the plane, boat or at immigration that will ask you some basic information about your stay, when you plan on leaving and general personal information. One important tip here is to keep your passport handy on the plane and have the address of the first place you plan on staying in that country accessible too. Your passport number and the address of your accommodation will more often than not be information required on the visa form.
If you are travelling in a group, be sure to stay with that group unless your tour guide tells you otherwise. In certain countries in Asia or Africa for example there are certain unofficial proceedings that happen when crossing land boarders, so you’ll want your guide and travel group near to guide you through and speed things up.
In a lot of cases, you will need to apply for a visa beforehand and the names of these visas vary from country to country and can also depend on the following points.
What time frame do you need the visa for?
Now this is one of the most crucial points when applying for a visa – and travel insurance for that matter, but that’s a topic for another day. After looking into the general type of visa you need (tourism or work as mentioned above), these are then further categorized into the length that you can apply for. For example, when travelling to Vietnam you can get a free visa on-arrival if you are travelling for 14 days or less. However, if you plan on staying longer, the type of visa required changes and this will cost quite a bit more. This is especially worth considering when planning the duration of stay in each country when backpacking and/or doing longer trips to various areas. Find out if and when you are eligible for a free visa and then decide if this is enough for you or whether you would like to apply for a different visa type that will give you a more time.
How much your visa will cost will depend on the other mentioned points. Here another short summary:
- Your nationality
- Reason for travel
- Length of stay
As mentioned before, a lot of places offer free visas, but some visas can be quite expensive. Working visas are generally more costly than tourism visas but some tourist visas are also not too cheap. Make sure you pay for your visa correctly and on-time. Wiring money over-seas can take some time and isn’t always done within the expected timeframe. Give yourself enough time to send the money and receive confirmation.
How far in advance do you need to sort it out?
This is one of the last but still a very important point on this visa checklist. Depending on what kind of visa you need and where you’re going, it could take a while to actually receive the visa you have requested. You have to make sure you give yourself and the ministry enough time before you plan on entering the country to sort it out. If you’ve found out that you only need a visa on-arrival, then this is easy because you just need to be prepared when you get there but if you are travelling to the USA for example or if you’re travelling anywhere for work, make sure to not leave everything to the last minute. This is especially helpful in case there are some issues along the way with things such as payment, or you forgot to send in a form or give a certain piece of information.
Further information and regulations
Last but not least, read into the additional regulations that are “included” in your visa. In Thailand for example, there are restrictions on when you can reenter the country and how often. Whereas an ESTA visa for the US can make you eligible to reenter the country with few restrictions within a two-year time frame. It’s also useful to know whether you are allowed to reapply for the same type of visa if you want to go again or if there are restrictions. This is the case with the work and travel visa in Australia for example. You can only stay longer than a year or reenter for another year on that visa if you do 88 days of farm work or are sponsored by an employer.
Certain visas also allow you entry into more than one country. If you’re travelling within Europe, you will only need a Schengen-Visa or an EU passport for most countries due to certain EU travel agreements.
There you have it, a general visa checklist. Those are the most important points I’ve found need paying attention to when finding the right visa. Let me know if you feel like there’s an important point missing on this list or you have a personal experience with any of the issues mentioned. Just be sure to read through everything carefully and put all the right information in and you should be fine. The website for your local foreign ministry can be really helpful too.
If you’re interested in great holiday and backpacking spots around the world, packing tips or general travel advice, check out some of the other articles and stay tuned for more! In case your questions aren’t answered here, or you have any comments or personal experiences you’d like to share, don’t be afraid to get in touch, comment and let me know.
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