After traveling to 197 countries over the last ten years, I’ve had to become an expert at acquiring travel visas, and now I want to share that expertise with you! This article is a bit more technical than my usual posts, but I want to make sure you guys get all the information you need to be successful.
A travel visa is basically the proof of permission granted to you by foreign governments around the world to stay in their country for a limited amount of time. Visas can be issued for thirty days, sixty days, ninety days, or even many years (depending on the type of visa you receive.)
Visas will always cost you something, so make sure you consider that when you are budgeting for your trip! Usually you can pay for them via credit card but sometimes you do need cash in-person.
Different Types of Visas
- Work Visa: You can get a work visa if you’re going to be doing business. This type of visa gives the necessary permission to work in a foreign country.
- Student Visa: This type of visa is best if you plan to go to a school of some kind in the country you’ll be visiting. You can sometimes get these visas to attend language schools in countries like Italy, Germany, or Spain.
- Volunteer Visa: This is what I did in Syria, and there are many other places you can volunteer around the world.
- Tourist Visa: Also called a travel visa, this will be what you will need 99% of the time, so it’s the visa we’re going to talk about in this blog.
Whether you need a visa to enter any specific country depends on where your passport is from.
How Do I Check Visa Requirements?
Visa requirements change all the time, especially with the pandemic and global political matters. In my experience, the best place to check for visa requirements is Wikipedia. I’ve been using it since 2012, and I’ve found it to be highly reliable.
How to check Visa Requirements in Wikipedia
- Open up Google (or any web browser.)
- Type in “Visa requirements for _________ citizens,” inserting your country in the blank.
- On the Wikipedia page, you will see a list of countries in alphabetical order.
- Choose your country, scroll down, and you will see the map.
- On the map, the one in red is your country.
- The countries in green are visa-free, meaning you can just book a plane ticket, show up, show your passport to immigration, and they will let you in! No fees and no questions asked.
- The countries in blue are the ones that offer electronic visas or E-visas. You can pay to get them online in advance.
- The gray countries are the ones where you need to get a visa prior to arrival.
- You can click on the countries on the map; it’s interactive. If you continue to scroll down, you can see country by country, and it will have all the details next to it.
You can also check out the Henley Passport Index.
Every year, Henley Passport Index comes out with a list of the most powerful & least powerful passports, and you will be able to see how your passport ranks. The US passport is always in the top ten, along with many Western European nations, Japan, and Singapore. You can also use this website to check which countries require a visa for your specific passport, although I recommend confirming that info elsewhere because it often changes.
Different Categories of Tourist Visas
So you’ve looked up the country you want to visit, and it turns out you need a visa. What are your options, and how do you go about getting the right paperwork to enter the country?
Certain governments offer online pre-approval to get a visa before you arrive in their country.
Let’s use Turkey as an example. When I go to Turkey with a US passport, I just google “E-visa to Turkey.” Once you find the website you need, you just fill out the paperwork. This usually includes your name, address, the hotel you’re staying in, what you plan to do in Turkey, and sometimes a few other questions. Then you just pay the visa fee, and they will email you a confirmation. It’s instantaneous—you print it out, present it at immigration, and BOOM—you’re in!
Keep in mind that some E-visas are not as easy to get. One example of this is the country of Angola; while they have an e-visa program, it is more expensive and difficult to navigate. It was quite a process to get my e-visa for Angola, so just keep that in mind and give yourself plenty of time before your trip to get what you need.
Usually, with an e-visa, they will ask you to provide the print-out of your confirmation before allowing you to board the flight. Then you will also show it to immigration when you arrive in the country.
E-visas can vary in cost from $20-$200, but getting one is pretty straightforward!
2. Visa On Arrival
This type of visa is exactly what it sounds like: you receive it once you arrive at your destination! Unlike the last one we talked about, this type of visa is not electronic—it’s all in person. Once you land, you will go to immigration and customs and find the line that says “Visa On Arrival.”
Usually, you’ll need to show them your hotel reservation and outbound ticket, so be sure to print out everything you think might be necessary and bring it with you. Also, know what your plans are because they may ask you some detailed questions about your visit. Once they approve your visa, you will pay them in cash (always US Dollars.)
3. Visa Prior To Arrival
You can also get a visa before your trip by visiting one of the nearby embassies of your destination country. The best way to do this is in your home country: for example, I am from the US, so I can ship my passport to Washington, D.C. (which is where most of the international embassies are.) I either fill out the application online or mail it in, and then they send me back my passport with the visa in it.
The other option (if you’re not currently traveling in your home country) is to get your visa at your destination country’s embassy in a different country. For example, if I want to go to Sudan but I’m currently traveling in Egypt, I can go to the Sudanese embassy in Cairo and apply there. It’s usually a more challenging way to get a visa, but it can be done!
If you are trying to visit certain countries like Pakistan, you will have to go and have an interview in person at the embassy. Dress nicely and show up ready to make a great first impression. At the end of the day, you’re asking them to allow you to visit their country; they want you to have a good time and return in one piece!
4. Getting a visa for a warzone country is more complicated
When I visited __________________, I had to show a letter of invitation from my host, as well as my tour company, outbound flights, inbound flights, and proof of accommodation. I also have been in situations where I was asked to show my bank account (they’ll often check your bank accounts because they want to see if you have enough money to afford the trip, so you’re not going to get stranded there.) They also ask about my profession, so be prepared to tell them what your job is; they might also ask you for your insurance for a doctor’s note to make sure that you’re fit and healthy to go.
You can look up the requirements or call the embassy and ask about the qualifications. Ask them about what you need to bring with you to make sure you have everything set up and ready to go (at the very least, you’ll need your passport and passport photos.) You’re going to print everything out, walk in, hand it to them, shake their hands, and sometimes you’re going to need to meet with the ambassador.
One of the most complex parts about visiting every country or visiting hard, dangerous countries is getting the visas you need. When I was getting ready to go to Venezuela, I visited the embassy seven times over four weeks to have appointments with the Venezuelan ambassador and meet their requirements.
Getting a visa for a warzone or otherwise difficult country is a case-by-case basis. I wish I could just say every time is the same, but that’s part of the challenge! As a rule of thumb, the more uncomfortable situations you put yourself in, the better experience you will have. Remember, life is an adventure. Make sure you know how to stay safe in foreign countries, and then have fun!
Did You Know You Can Have Two US Passports?
This is one of the best tips in this entire course: you can have two US passports at the same time! This trick is one of the ways I was able to visit all the countries I did as fast as I did. It definitely helps you be efficient.
All you have to do is prove to the US Passport Office that you’re a frequent traveler. Start by booking an appointment in one of the satellite passport offices around the country. Make sure you bring along upcoming plane tickets/itineraries and use them to explain that you’re always on the road.
Many people don’t know that you can get two passports. You can actually do it in about 16 countries, including the US, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa, and twelve countries in Western Europe. Get your hands on a second passport if you can; it will change your life!
Try Applying for Dual Citizenship
Some people qualify for dual citizenship, which means you’d be able to become a citizen of another country and carry that passport along with your passport from your birth-nation. It’s not as easy as you may think; you may have to prove that your great grandparents, grandparents, or parents are from that country, etc.
In some cases, you can outright pay for dual citizenship: this is known as “citizenship by investment” and is currently available in 11 countries, including options in the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East. You pay a lot of money (I’m talking between $50,000 and $750,000, depending on the country), allowing you to become a citizen of that country and carry their passport.
If you want to get dual citizenship and need help, just send me a private message. I have a friend who specializes in this, and he could help you out at a reasonable rate!
Are You Overwhelmed With the Visa Process?
Getting a visa is definitely a process, but you don’t have to go it alone! If you’re an American or US passport holder, you can use Passport Visa Express.
I have been using them since 2013, literally since I started traveling. It’s super convenient! You just send your passport in the mail, fill out all the applications online, and they do everything on your behalf. They deliver the passport to the embassy, then collect it and send it back to you in the mail. It’s expensive, obviously—you’re paying for the service and the convenience, but if you want to save time, I definitely recommend it.
If you’re not from the US, be sure to check online! You might have a version of Passport Visa Express in your country.
Which of these visa tips was most helpful for you? Be sure to let me know!