Paperwork + Finances

Decoding the visa process

You’ve chosen your destination, mapped out your route and set up your travel blog. But before you start your count down, there’s one major detail you’ll need to look into: travel visas. If getting stopped at the customs gate after a 13 hour flight doesn’t sound like an adventure you’d like to have then read on to get the 411 on visas …

A visa is a legal document that allows you to spend a designated amount of time in a particular country for a particular reason (leisure, work, study etc.).

You’ll usually find that countries fall into one of these three categories:

1) More popular destinations that don’t require the traveler to obtain a visa prior to departure.

2) Countries that will require a visa but let you purchase one when you get there. (This group is further dividing into two groups: Countries where it’s cheaper and easier to get a visa upon arrival and countries where it’s harder and more expensive.)

3) Countries that make you go through the visa processes in your own country before you leave. Some countries take this very seriously and may require loads of paperwork or even an interview before granting you a visa. Some take longer to process your application than others. China can process an application in one business day. Some consulates take up to 60 days. This means you’ll need to check into visa requirements several months before you leave.

Countries have absolutely no qualms about denying you entry and putting you on a plane right back home. Although being escorted out of a country by guards may make a great story for parties, it’s easier to just visit Wikitravel or the website of the airline/airport that you’ll be traveling with.

Next step would be to visit the country’s embassy website (a simple Google search will give you all the information you need) to download the most up-to-date forms.  And don’t forget about jurisdictions. In most countries you’ll find that embassies are all located in their capital city (Washington D.C., Tokyo, etc) with consulates scattered across the rest of the country. A lot of these consulates are jurisdictional so make sure you send your application to the correct consulate.

If you can’t find the website or if the country doesn’t have one you will need to call a Visa Agency to get the information.  Visa agencies have long standing relationships with embassies and consulates that can help make the process a little smoother.

Just keep in mind that if you do decide to go with a visa agency be prepared to pay a service fee. Ok, paying someone to help with your visas may not fit into your initial travel budget but, even as goddesses of travel, sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for that peace of mind. It’s better to cut out a day trip you had planned than find out at the last minute that you won’t be having a trip at all…

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