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Travel visas are an annoying pain in the butt, but they are a necessary part of international travel. Nations seek to protect their citizens from freeloaders and external threats to their society, so they may impose visa requirements on those wishing to travel to their country.
You may argue that the reams of paperwork that you have to fill out is a monumental waste of time, and the egregious fees are nothing more than a tax grab by the government that views tourists as nothing more than walking ATM’s. However, complaining won’t make these hurdles go away anytime soon. As such, it is imperative that you are aware of the visa laws for every country that you enter.
If you head to the country of your choice without checking first, you could be in for the embarrassment of a lifetime, as customs officials detain you, interrogate you for hours, and then finally deport you on the next plane back home. This happens every day all around the world … don’t end up like those people!
This post will inform you of everything you need to know about travel visas before you go on your overseas trip. Pay attention to the actionable steps that follow, and soon you’ll be a travel visa expert that will never be caught unaware by these issues again.
Check Your Passport
First, get out your passport. What, you don’t have one yet? Then get to your local passport office and take care of that already! For those of you that have one, check the information page of your passport. Note the expiry date: is it coming up within 6 months of today, or during your travels? If so, you need to get a new passport, as many airlines will not let you board any flight (except to your country of origin), if your passport is set to expire within six months.
Next, check the physical state of your passport. If it looks ragged or dog-eared via water/heat exposure or rough handling, you may want to consider getting a new passport as well, as some nations may reject your application/deny entry if your passport information page or the passport itself is in rough shape. Any major damage, like a faded picture or smudged ink on an information page, or tears/holes will require a replacement, as most nations will deny entry to people holding these damaged documents.
How Long Will Your Stay Be, And For What Purpose?
Depending on your vacation plans and intentions in a country, you may not require a visa at all. South Korea, for example, grants visa-free entry for up to 90 days to citizens of trusted nations around the world. If you plan on getting a teaching job though, you will need to pre-arrange a visa before arriving in the country. Also, Thailand grants 30 days visa free to many nationalities, but requires proof on an onward or return ticket at the end of the 30 day period. Any stay longer than that for tourist or work purposes requires a pre-arranged visa that is completed outside the country at a foreign Thai consulate/embassy.
Research Visa Requirements
Before you head off to the embassy, you need to know what to bring with you to complete your application and the different types of travel visas available. First, do some research online with sites such as ixpvisas.com etc… Next, download and print the visa application from your target nation’s embassy website. Many consulates/embassies should have copies of these forms on site, but don’t count on that. Now that you have the form, find the answers to the following questions:
How many passport photos do I need, and what size do they require?
What special requests do they make (some nations seek proof of health insurance cover, letters of invitation, HIV tests, etc)?
How much money do they charge for the visa and what payment methods do they accept?
Some of these requirements may seem time consuming and onerous, or even discriminatory, but persevere and try not to be offended. Take your completed form and all the documentation that they request from you and …
Go To The Consulate/Embassy And Submit Your Visa Application
Jump on the website of your target nation’s local consulate and note processing/pickup hours. Many consulates/embassies have separate times where you can apply for and pick up a visa. If you show up outside of these appointed times, they will turn you away. Some consulates in small centres may not even operate every day during the work week, so don’t show up out of the blue and expect the help you need, or for the office to even be open. Alternatively, if you have time, you might be able to mail your application (don’t forget to send your passport with it too!) and avoid all these headaches.
Pick Up Your Visa, High Five The Visa Processing Clerk, And Head Off On Your Adventure!
You did it! You jumped through the hoops of fire that so many governments force on poor travellers and you got through it with your sanity intact. Now, be sure to dress and look sharp for customs in your destination country, board your plane for paradise, and be sure to have tonnes of fun when you get there!
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