Do You Need a Travel Visa?

Visa documents

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Many governments require visitors to obtain travel visas in order to enter their country. A travel visa is not a guarantee of permission to enter a particular country, but it signals to customs agents and border officials that the traveler in question has met the entry criteria that the country in question has established.

What Will I Need to Submit With My Visa Application?

In most cases, you will need to apply for a travel visa before your trip begins, although some countries will issue visas upon your arrival. You will need to submit your valid passport, photographs of yourself, an application form, and your fee. In some cases, you will also need to provide additional documents or copies of documents. Typically, your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your visa application, although this requirement varies by country. Even if your visa is rejected, you should expect to pay a fee for handling.

Which Countries Require Visas?

Whether or not your destination requires a visa depends on your citizenship. Your best source of information is your country's Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Foreign Office, or a similar agency. Consult the website of this agency or department and search for the countries you plan to visit. You should be able to find country-specific information that details visa requirements. You can also consult the website of the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit.

United States citizens can search for the country on the State Department Website to see if they will need to obtain a visa before their trip.

How Do I Apply for a Visa?

When applying for a visa, your best information source will be the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit. Some visas can be applied for online and others will require an in-person visit to the consulate or embassy. Many embassies maintain websites in a variety of languages and offer information on visa applications, fees, and processing times. You can also telephone the embassy or consulate nearest to you to get information on the visa application process.

Each country has specific requirements for visa applications, and fees and processes may vary based on your own citizenship. Be sure you understand the application process before you send money, passports, or related documents anywhere. Allow plenty of time for delays, questions, and problems. Keep copies of everything you send and follow application instructions carefully. If the instructions do not make sense to you, call the embassy or consulate and ask for clarification.

You may be able to use an approved visa processing agency if you do not live near an embassy or consulate. For example, China has approved several visa processing agencies for use by United States citizens. Before sending money or official documents to any agency, carefully research this option, starting with your destination country's embassy website.

Even if your destination country does issue visas upon arrival, you may want to consider applying for your visa in advance. You will save time and gain peace of mind knowing that your visa is secure before your trip begins.

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