If you're fortunate enough to hold a passport from a country where it is very easy to travel the globe like the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to name a few --- be appreciative! Many others have to go great lengths in order to board that same flight.
Although, which ever passport you hold, a certain amount of research must be put in place when you're planning a trip abroad. Will you need to get a Visa before you arrive?
It depends on which countries you're visiting, where you're from and what you're planning on doing while you're there. It can be confusing in certain places of the world, but a little preparation and investigation will go a long way!
I wanted to write a simple guide on the basics and to help anyone that didn't know anything about Visas. Below I'll cover the types of Visas you're most likely to come across, How to get a Visa, How to Extend a Visa and What happens if you don't have one.
So what is a Visa? It's basically a document held within your passports database that allows you to visit a specific country. It could be shown as a sticker/stamp in your passport or paper document but every Visa will limit you to be in the country for a certain amount of time and will allow you to do a certain thing such as visit temporarily as a tourist, study or work.
Every country has different immigration rules and regulations and issue their own type of Visa. However, they usually fall under the same category. You should head to a country's official government or consulate website for their correct up to date visa requirements and information. Lets look at which Visas you will more than likely come across or have to get while wandering the world.
VISA EXEMPT (aka FREE TOURIST VISA ON ARRIVAL)
This is when you don't need a Visa to visit a country but will still have only a limited amount of days there. It's easy -- all you have to do is arrive to your destination and you will have your passport checked. You will not be charged and are free to travel as a tourist for a certain amount of time stated by the country. You will be given a stamp with the date you have arrived and a date you must leave by. This amount of time can range from 14 days to 90 days or even 180 days. If your stay in the country goes past the expiry date then you will have 'overstayed' and could be charged. Being Visa Exempt means you can visit the country to explore, visit friends and family and have a holiday -- it does not permit you to work.
TOURIST VISA ON ARRIVAL (FEE)
The process and rules of travel are basically the same as above but this time you need a Tourist Visa to enter the country, which will be given to you upon entry. You will be charged the cost of the Visa either at the border or at the airport when arriving. It's usually around $30 and can be paid in US dollars or local currency. Some places will ask for a couple of passport photos to support the application so it's best to carry spares with you on your travels. Your passport should have at least 3-6 months left before it's expired but you should check with the country's requirements before departure in case it's more.
Also, some countries charge an Entry or Exit fee or both when arriving/disembarking which can usually be paid in US Dollars or local currency too. That's why it's good to carry US dollars in cash with you while backpacking for times like these.
TOURIST VISA (TO BE ACQUIRED BEFORE ENTRY)
A country may require a traveller to get a Tourist Visa before their travel date and won't let you enter said country without one. You will have to fill out an application form, pay for the Visa and show any supporting documents that's asked including passport photos. You may also be asked to show your bank statements or proof of funds so they know you have sufficient money to visit the country and return home.
You can also obtain a Tourist Visa before you trip if you would like to visit a country longer than a Tourist Visa on Arrival lets you do so. These may allow you to stay in the country for 3--6 months or even a year. These long-term Visas will be more expensive and may come in the form of 'Single Entry' or 'Multiple Entry'. Single Entry means your Visa will terminate when you leave the country (even if it's before the expiry date of the Visa). Multiple Entry Visas mean you can come and go until your Visa expires.
EDUCATION / STUDENT VISA
This Visa lets you study, enrol in University or carry out a course in that particular country. It depends on the place but you may be able to apply for the Visa once you're actually there or you might have to be outside the country to apply. To obtain this Visa you will have to provide the required supporting documents such as a letter from the school or education centre you wish to study in. Once you have the Visa, there are usually check ups in place to make sure you're attending what you've signed up for.
NON IMMIGRANT / BUSINESS / WORKING HOLIDAY VISA
A non-immigrant or business Visa lets you attend meetings, conduct work, find a job or start a business in the issuing country. They vary in length and all have their own terms and conditions. You usually have to apply for this Visa before you enter the country.