When traveling abroad, one of the first things you need to think about is whether you need a visa. These entry permits are needed for crossing many borders around the world.
There are many different types of visas. They can come as stamps, stickers, documents, or digital files. There may be separate types for tourists and business travelers; some are available on arrival, while most must be applied for beforehand.
Different countries have different rules. That’s why it is very important to check the visa requirements of your destination before you jet off on your travels. In some cases, you might not even need a visa.
What Are Visas?
To put it simply, visas are entry permits. They allow you to travel to a foreign country and enter with certain conditions. Each visa will have terms that you must abide by, including how long you can stay in the country and what activities you can take part in.
Historically, visas were issued to foreign travelers by border officials. The new arrival would be assessed and their documentation checked. The officer would make the decision there and then whether to allow them to enter. If approved, they would stamp a visa in the traveler’s passport.
Nowadays, you usually have to apply beforehand. This can either be done at an embassy or, in some cases, online.
A visa might come in the form of a stamp or a sticker in your passport. It could be issued as a separate document or as a digital visa that will be read when your passport is scanned at the border. It all depends on the country you’re going to.
Who Needs a Visa?
The first thing we should get out of the way is that the rules are usually different depending on if you are visiting a country or moving there in the long term.
If you are visiting another country, the odds are you will need a short-stay visa. But again, this will depend on the following factors:
- Your nationality
- The visa policy of the destination country
- How long you plan to stay
- What you intend to do during your trip
You might be exempt from a country’s visa requirements because the nation that issued your passport is on the visa waiver list. For example, Brits do not need a visa to visit the US. American nationals can visit any country in the European Union (EU) visa-free.
In some cases, there might be an additional requirement to claim the visa waiver. In the case of the US, visa-exempt travelers have to register with the ESTA platform.
Moving to another country
If you are thinking about moving to another country, you will most probably need a visa or permit.
The vast majority of countries require foreign nationals to hold a long-stay visa, residence visa, or residence permit to live there. In many cases, a separate work visa or permit is needed to work in the state.
However, there are certain exceptions. Some blocs of countries, like the EU, have a policy of freedom of movement. All citizens of EU member states have the right to live and work in any other member visa-free.
What type of visa do I need?
The type of visa you need to get depends on the rules of the destination country, your nationality, and what you plan to do on your trip.
Many states issue different visas for different purposes. If you’re going on holiday, you’ll probably need a tourist visa. If you’re attending a conference in another country for work, a business visa will cover your trip. If you’re just passing through the country en route to another destination, a transit visa is what you want.
Some countries issue an all-encompassing short-stay visa that covers tourism, leisure, business, and more.
If you want to do paid work in another country, you will probably need a work visa or permit. Another visa, such as a long-stay visa or residency permit might also be required.
Again, the rules vary from country to country.
How to get a travel visa?
There are 3 main ways to get a visa:
- On arrival
- At an embassy or consulate
You can do pretty much anything online these days and visa applications are no exception. Many countries around the world have introduced their own electronic visa (eVisa) systems. Being able to apply online cuts out trips to a diplomatic mission and lets travelers get their visa delivered by email.
Many countries offer the possibility of getting a visa on arrival. Although this can be convenient for last-minute trips, you need to make sure you come prepared. Don’t forget to bring all of the required paperwork. If there is a problem with the application, there is no time to resolve it. You will probably be denied a visa and sent home. That’s why if you have the choice of getting an eVisa in advance or applying at the border, it’s best to go with the online option.
Visas on arrival and eVisas are often only available to travelers of certain nationalities. Other visitors will have to apply in person at an embassy or consulate.
Most countries have diplomatic missions (embassies and consulates) in at least some foreign nations. These offices issue visas and are usually the only place you can get visas and permits for long-term stays, residency, and permission to work in the country in question.
Embassies also issue short-term visas, including tourist visas. In some cases, visitors from certain countries might need to get these types of visas from a diplomatic mission.
If you’re looking for an embassy, they are usually found in foreign capitals. You might also be able to find consulates in other major cities. Consulates may also issue visas, or at the very least, will be able to help you go about applying.