Travel visas

Many countries require you to purchase a visa before entering their country. A visa is an endorsement by a foreign country that allows you to visit their country, in the form of a stamp or a piece of paper placed in your passport. Visas usually allow a person to stay in that country for a specified purpose (ie. work visa, study visa or tourist visa) and amount of time (from one week to one year). Most visas are not free – it depends on your citizenship and the country you are trying to get into. In most cases, Western-European countries do not require visas for entry.

Visa stamps

Backpackers take pride in passport pages like this.

If a visa is required, you may want to obtain it from the appropriate foreign consular representative before proceeding abroad. You have two options when applying for your visa. You can 1) get it well in advance, because it may take a while to be issued to you, or 2) apply for your visa just before entering the country. Your choice of these two will be determined by how long it takes to process your visa application (which varies between countries) and when your visa becomes valid. For example, some visas become valid immediately, so if you don’t plan on entering the country for another month or two, your visa time is being wasted. Visas can also be purchased at borders, airports and embassies, but sales locations will vary so found out ahead of time.

Because visa rules vary from country to country, it is best to check your up-to-date guide book and call the consulate or embassy of that country for current information. If you will be applying for a visa while you are away, take a passport photo with you (rather than get a photo made while you are there) to save time. Keep in mind that some embassies issue visas only on certain days or for very limited times during the day.

If you lose your visa, you must get a new one immediately to prove that you have permission to be there. You may not be allowed to leave the country if you do not have a valid visa. Go to the nearest passport office, embassy or consulate for help in this matter.

Visit Travisa to find specific information on travel visas for most major countries. They have visa forms online for many countries that you can print, fill in and then submit for approval.