International travel can often seem tricky to those who don’t country-hop frequently. Between passports, visas, birth certificates and the varying rules from country to country, it might seem easier to just stay home than to plan a foreign trip. But we’re here to set the record straight and alleviate your traveling stress with a breakdown of Visas so you’ll know exactly what you need for your next vacation!
1. Traveling Without a Visa
If you’d like to travel with just your passport and not have to go through the hassle of applying for an international visa, you have plenty of options including the entirety of Europe. But be aware that there are restrictions. You can only stay in certain countries for a set period of time without obtaining a visa. If you’re vacationing or heading out on a business trip for less than a month, your options are vast. There are many countries that allow US Passport holders to stay for up to 30 days, like Aruba, Jamaica, Thailand or the Dominican Republic. Some countries let you stay for up to 90 days without a visa such as Sweden, Iceland, Italy, Germany, Bermuda, France, Greece and New Zealand. If you’re looking to travel for up to 6 months, you can gain entry to Mexico, The Bahamas, United Kingdom or Canada with just your passport.
2. Visa Upon Arrival
If you’ve narrowed down your traveling plans and the country you’re visiting does indeed require a visa, you have two options: you can get your visa in advance or you can apply for it when you arrive at your destination. Visas on arrival work best for most vacation travelers since it’s the less costly option, it takes less time overall and doesn’t require waiting in line at the embassy or having to pay to expedite your visa. But, you’ll need to be organized if you want to obtain your visa on arrival. You may need additional documentation; the immigration officer may request proof of immunizations, travel details (like flight passes and hotel confirmations) and proof of sufficient funds in your bank account.
If your passport is set to expire less than 6 months after you depart the country, your application may get denied. And even if all of that is in order, there is still the risk of your visa being denied and having to pay for a return flight home. Visas on arrival are also issued for shorter time periods and are usually only good for single-entry tourist travelers. If you need a business or work visa, you’ll have to apply ahead of time. If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of person, you’ll probably be just fine doing visa on arrival, but if you’d rather not lose sleep at night, apply a few months ahead of time for peace of mind.
3. Visa Required
Despite the lax visa rules in many countries, there are still major tourist destinations that require visas to travel there. China, Australia, Russia and India are among some of the large destinations that will make you acquire a visa before you travel. If you choose to travel to one of these countries, there are a few different types of visas you can apply for depending on the purpose of your trip and the length of your stay. The application process can take anywhere from 10-90 days so get a head start and apply as soon as you know where you’re headed. The most common is a tourist visa, which is what most people use when they’re vacationing in a new country. You can expect a tourist visa to grant you access to a particular country for 10-90 days, depending on local rules.
If you’re traveling for business purposes and the company is not based in the host country, you’ll need to apply for a business visa. A business visa is very similar to a tourist visa and has the same time restrictions, so don’t plan on staying longer than 90 days. If you’re planning on working in the country and aren’t just attending business meetings, you’ll need a work/employment visa, which is different than a business visa. A work visa grants you permission to legally work in that country for a company that is based there. And if you’re planning on studying abroad, you can apply for a student visa. One of the last kinds of visa is a transit visa. These are required if you have a long layover in a country before heading out to a new destination. These visas are only good for 1-5 days, so don’t plan on sightseeing too long.