Traveling abroad is an exciting experience. You have the opportunity to visit new countries, try different foods, and embrace the local culture. While most international trips simply require a valid passport when you’re traveling for a shortened period of time, lengthier trips sometimes call for a visa in addition to your passport. Select destinations only require a visa if you plan on staying beyond the outlined limitations, whereas other locales require a visa regardless of the length of stay. Determining whether you need a visa is crucial since the application process must be completed before you embark on your journey. Here’s what you need to know about applying for a visa for your next trip.
Location, Location, Location
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, most countries allow you to stay for a designated period of time without a visa. This time frame ranges anywhere from 30 days to 6 months. Before you finalize your itinerary and book your airline tickets, determine how long you’re permitted to stay in your selected country. For example, if you want to stay in Ireland for three months, you’ll need to know if this requires a visa before paying for the hotel and flight. To give you an idea of what to expect, destinations like Hong Kong, France, Japan, Germany, South Africa, and Italy don’t require a visa for stays of less than 90 days, while other places such as Barbados and the United Kingdom only call for a visa for visits longer than 6 months.
These timelines apply to both business-related trips and tourism trips. Once you’ve reached the time limit indicated for the country you’re visiting, you must leave. Some countries permit you to re-enter without a visa after an allotted time has passed. This varies from one destination to the next. It’s best to check in advance if there are limitations to ensure you don’t run into any trouble with foreign governments.
Some destinations require you to apply for a visa regardless of your length of stay and the purpose of your trip. Australia, China, Egypt, India, Russia, and Vietnam require travelers from other countries to acquire a visa before entering. You might also need a visa for some countries depending on the purpose of your visit. If you’re traveling to the Dominican Republic on business, you must have a visa. If you’re traveling to the Dominican Republic for tourism purposes, you don’t need to complete this step. Since the specifications for visa requirements are different for each country, it’s always best to read the fine print in advance to make sure you know when a visa is and isn’t required.
As every country differs on visa requirements, a good starting point for information on your specific destination is the U.S. State Department website, where you can search for your country of travel, find out if you need a visa, and sort through the necessary stipulations for a visa.
Be Prepared! Gather Your Documents
Traveling abroad calls for set documents to be presented regardless of whether you need a visa. If you’re traveling to a destination that doesn’t require a visa, you still need to present a few documents to gain entry. These documents typically include a valid passport that currently has at least one visa page blank. This blank visa page must remain valid for six months from the date you plan to enter the country in order to pass inspection. In most instances, you must provide proof of sufficient funds to ensure you’re capable of handling all expenses associated with your trip abroad. Proof of onward travel or proof of a return trip is additional necessities, as there must be some indication that you plan to leave the country eventually.
If you’re visiting numerous countries on one trip, you must provide documents for any additional locations you plan on visiting. For example, if you’re staying in Austria for 80 days and then plan to travel to Germany shortly thereafter, you must have proof of your trip to Germany and all required German documents. By preparing your documents before your trip, you’ll have an easier time navigating your way through customs. Be sure to keep all your important documents somewhere secure, such as the safe in your hotel room, to prevent any losses during your time abroad.
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Tourism or Business — Have Your Ducks in a Row Before You Go
When traveling to destinations that require a visa, be sure to thoroughly research the requirements. An application form is required from every country requesting a visa. First, you’ll fill out your application electronically in most cases. The application is commonly available through the country’s official government website or through the official website for the country’s embassy. Application forms call for personal information such as your name, birth date, and home address. You’ll also want to select the correct application, as business visas require a different form than the tourism visa.
Applying for a Schengen Visa has its own set of directions that must be followed to receive approval. Schengen is an area composed of 26 separate European countries including Finland, France, Belgium, Poland, and Norway, to name a few. When you’re applying for a Schengen Visa, you must provide two recent photographs of yourself in addition to your completed application. This process also calls for a valid passport, an accurate round trip itinerary, travel health insurance, and proof of accommodation. The type of accommodation doesn’t matter, but you’ll need to be able to prove you have a place to stay when you’re visiting the Schengen area. If you’re traveling with a minor, they need a birth certificate and a letter of consent from their parents prior to travel.
Once you apply for and receive either a tourist visa or a business visa, be sure to follow the designated time limit applicable to your document. In Australia, a tourist visa remains valid for one year and permits you to have multiple journeys to the country of up to three months each. Exceeding these time limits will result in penalties and thus should be avoided. If you’re going to be jumping from one country to another, apply for your visa directly through the government or embassy of the country you’re spending the longest amount of time. This means if you’re visiting Portugal for 45 days, Greece for 30 days, and France for 15 days, you’ll need to apply for a Portuguese visa prior to travel.
Do you know of any other important info to keep in mind when applying for a visa? Share them with us in the comments.