Everything You Need To Know About Visas
Many travels, (even those who leave the country frequently), don't completely understand how a visa works since most countries don't require one for travel. In this post, I'm going to explain what a visa is, how to obtain one, and some other good information to know. Let's get to it!
What is a Visa?
A visa is essentially your key to enter certain countries. It can either be in digital form, (an e-visa), or paper form attached to your passport. It allows you to enter and exit a country for a certain purpose, (tourism, business, transit, etc.), within the allotted time frame. Visas allow countries to collect more information about you before granting you permission to enter the country.
Why Do Some Countries Require a Visa?
In general, countries may require you to get a visa for a few reasons. The biggest reason is if you wish to study in that country, work, or conduct business. Most countries require you to get a visa if the purpose of your trip is for any of those reasons. Another reason countries require visas is due to a risk factor. The government of the foreign country issuing the visa doesn't know anything about you. The application you fill out to apply for a visa will tell them where you live, what you do for a living, if you have a criminal history and many other things.
How Applying For a Visa Works
Most countries don't require a visa or will give you one upon landing. You can find out if you need a visa for any country by doing a simple google search, or by checking Wikipedia. Here's a map from Wikipedia that shows visa requirements for U.S. citizens.
As you can see, most popular tourist destination don't require a visa or offer one upon landing, (Canada, Mexico, Europe, Australia, Japan, almost all of South America, India, etc.). However, many countries do require a visa before traveling such as China, Russia, Nigeria, etc. If you're a U.S. citizen, you can check what countries require a visa here. If you're not a U.S. citizen, you can google "visa requirements for ______ citizens" and you should be able to find what you're looking for.
Now let's say the country you want to go to is Russia. You know you need a visa, now what? I'm going to show you what I think is the easiest way to apply for a visa. Start by going to visahq.com. This is a great travel service that I've used many times, It allows you to select your nationality, the country you wish to visit, and the type of visa you want (business, tourist, work visa, etc.). It will also tell you what you need for the visa you're trying to obtain.
So now you're on the VisaHq website looking at visa requirements for Russia. (You can see what this looks like below)
You now know that you will need to fill out an application form, have your original signed passport, a passport photo, a letter of invitation, and electronic copies of these documents. It will also give you a couple options in terms for the number of times you plan on entering the country, and how long the visa will last. If you only plan on going to that country one time, you get can apply for a single-entry visa. If you think you might go multiple times you can get a visa that lasts longer and will allow multiple entries. Russia, for example. offers a three-year multi-entry visa.
Now that you know what is needed for your visa, you have three options.
1. You can use VisaHq. This is the option I normally go with because it tends to be the easiest. You send your documents to them and they handle everything else. (They can even give you an invitation letter). This option is a bit more expensive because, in addition to paying for a visa, you have to pay for their fees.
2. You can go to the website of your countries embassy, (google Russian embassy USA, or China Embassy USA, etc.), and do it through them. This option is cheaper because you will only be paying the visa fees but it can be more difficult and there is usually less information on how to pay and send in the documents. There's also a greater chance your application will get denied when preparing it yourself vs having a travel agency do it. You can see what this looks like below when you go to the Russian embassy's website.
Your third option is to use another travel agency. There are many out there and if you google visa services, tons of different websites and travel agencies will come up. VisaHq is highly rated and very easy to use. For those reasons it's the only agency I ever go through.
That's it! Now you just pay the fees, send in your application and wait. Once you get your visa you are all set to travel to that country. Many people avoid travel to certain countries because they need to arrange a visa beforehand. It can be an annoyance, but it is often not very difficult and most visas aren't too expensive, (Russia has a very high visa price). I hope this helped you understand how visas work and now you'll know exactly what to do before your next trip abroad!