A common question for those traveling abroad is “how to get a travel visa?” Travel visas are documents that allow you to enter a specific country for a certain period of time in order to study, work, or just tour the country. Governments use visas to verify who is visiting the country and for what purpose. It’s essentially a way to get official permission to enter a country.
How to get a travel visa?
If you’re in the US, you may want to start with the U.S. State Department website and search for your destination country. The next step would be to look at your destination country’s embassy or consulate website to determine your travel visa options. Most embassies will require you to fill out your application online and send in your passport via postal mail. Once your visa application is approved and processed, the consulate or embassy will send you a visa. The visa will be attached to your passport. The process can take anywhere from a week to two months to complete. The cost ranges from $50 to $200, with some embassies offering expedited services for an additional fee.
What about e-visas and visas-on-arrival?
Some countries also offer an e-visa and/or a “visa-on-arrival” option. Both an e-visa and a visa-on-arrival allow you to apply online before your trip and without having to send in your passport. This is usually the easiest and fastest way to get your visa. Determining which one to get can be confusing. It usually depends on your port of entry and whether you to plan to enter the country multiple times. It’s important to do a Google search on visa options for your destination country as the official websites are not always up-to-date.
What else should I know?
In addition to the process, here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Use expedited shipping and tracking when sending your passport:
If you need to send in your passport to an embassy or consulate, make sure to use Priority or Expedited Mail with tracking. It’s generally safer to send your passport via one of the premium shipping options at the post office.
2. Take screenshots of your confirmation pages:
If you’re filling out any documents online, take screenshots along the way. This is especially handy if the page doesn’t advance properly when you hit the submit or next button. Also, if you submit your application and do not get a confirmation email, it can be extremely useful to have information to reference.
3. Avoid getting your visa revoked:
Just because you get a visa doesn’t mean that you’re immune to having your visa revoked. Research local laws before your visit and be respectful and considerate of the customs.
4. Show proof of onward travel:
Even if you are granted a visa, you’ll often have to show proof that you will be leaving the country in the near future. If you need more info on how you can show proof onward travel, check out our post on the topic.
5. Check the passport requirements:
There may be special passport requirements when entering a country. It’s common for countries to require one to two pages free in your passport. Also, many will countries require that your passport isn’t expiring within three to six months of your trip. We also recommend carrying spare passport photos with you when traveling. For more information, see our post on doing on your own passport photos.
6. Be cautious of your entry and departure dates:
When you apply for a visa, you will need to set the start date of the visa. Since is especially important if you’re backpacking or traveling with an open itinerary. The last thing you want is to arrive a day or two before your visa is valid and be denied entry.
7. Be cautious of your port of entry:
This is especially the case if entering a country via a land border. Most e-visas require that you enter through an airport, you’ll want to verify that you have the correct visa for your travel plans.
8. Watch out for fake visa officials at border crossings:
You’ll often see scammers waiting around the border offering to help expedite your visa for a fee. Be wary of this situation. Not only will they ask you to take your passport, but they can sometimes issue you a fake visa. It’s almost always better to go with the official process to be safe.
9. Be prepared to pay with cash:
If you’re paying for visa on arrival, it’s unlikely that you’ll be allowed to pay with a credit card. In these situations, there will often be an ATM available to withdraw money, so you don’t have to obtain local currency beforehand. Though we highly suggest carrying a debit card like the Charles Schwab Debit Card. The card allows you to get cash from any ATM while being reimbursed for the fees.
10. Be careful of visa agencies:
There is a whole industry of visa agencies to help you with the visa process. Some of these agencies are legit and can help you navigate the process. Some may be looking to charge you a lot of money for something that you can do yourself for little or no fee. The key is to do your research before using them though. A quick Google search can often reveal whether other travelers have had positive experiences with specific agencies.
Do you have any travel visa tips or experiences from your travels? If so, please share them below!
- “How To Get A Visa: A Beginner’s Guide To Travel Documents” (Huffington Post)
- “All 22 Countries that offer e-visas: the Ultimate Guide” (Nomad Capitalist)
- “Visa Services: Are They Worth It?” (Zero to Travel)