How to know if you need a visa to travel abroad
Traveling has never been so easy and in a matter of hours or days, you can reach any destination worldwide. Although tickets are easy to book, getting in some countries is not as smooth as flying first class. Depending on your passport you might need to apply for a tourist visa that can be just an online visa form or a tiring process that you must start within a month in advance.
People usually start planning their trip by choosing a destination, searching for things to do, transportation costs, accommodation, food, and curiosities. In general, visa comes as the last thought, especially for travelers who hold strong passports as Singaporeans, British, and Germans. They are so used to travel without worrying about visas that many get in trouble when arriving in a country where visa in advance or on arrival is mandatory. Sounds silly, but we met many travelers who flew to a place without knowing how many days they could stay in the country, which documents they need for the tourist visa on arrival, or even worst, they arrived at the country without a visa and had to go back home.
Checking the visa requirements should be the first thing you do when planning a trip abroad. Most of the US citizens know that they can go to Mexico for holidays without applying for a visa in advance, but do they know the new visa on arrival rules for Europe? European citizens can travel within the Schengen zone freely, but do they know if they need a visa to travel to Vietnam?
I wish there was an easy way to obtain a visa to travel abroad, but in reality, crossing borders is a serious affair and depending on where you are traveling to, visa bureaucracy can be overwhelming and slowly. But don’t give up, things are changing and although applying for certain visas is still a lot of paperwork, searching for information and find guidance to start the processes are becoming easier and fast.
So, how do you know if you need a visa to travel abroad?
As Brazilians, we face visa issues all the time and our friends from Thailand, Turkey, and the Philippines even more. Before planning a trip abroad we need to check if we need a visa, if it’s on arrival or if we need to apply in advance. The research would start at the embassy website of the country we want to visit, and fingers crossed to find information in English or in Portuguese. Then come the travel blogs, but not all of them are up to date, or they don’t give you the exact list of documents… Such a long road.
Thanks God this odyssey is over, we found a website that combines all information about international visas. Online Visa offers worldwide visa application guidance in only one place. Doesn’t matter where you are from, or where you are traveling to, there you can find information about visas, documents required, how to apply, fess and more.
You simply type your nationality in one box and the name of the country you want to travel on the destination box, press “Get Visa Info” and the website will do the hard work for you. The answer will have a link to the official embassy or to a website to proceed with your visa application.
Now that you know how to figure out if you need visa to travel abroad, where and how you can apply, let’s move to some practical stuff. Here are 5 important tips/documents for any traveler crossing borders, doesn’t matter if you are lucky to have visa-free or if you need to apply in advance. Read them carefully, it’s always good to be prepared.
More tips about getting a visa to travel abroad
Before applying for a visa or traveling abroad don’t forget to:
Verify if your passport is valid for at least 6 months
The embassies usually make this information very clear for those applying for tourist visas, but even a country where you can travel without visa can require it too, so check the expiry date of your passport before buying your tickets. The general rule is: your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Buy an onward or return ticket
Not only the immigration officer can ask for it, but many airlines are also requiring it during the check-in process. The onward or return ticket is proof that you are not overstaying or staying illegally in the country.
As a Brazilian, I can stay 90 days in Europe (Schengen zone) and my onward ticket date must be before the visa expires. My visa is on arrival and the immigration officer usually ask a lot of the documents, being the onward flight ticket always the first one.
I know it sounds weird, but many nationalities need to take shots before traveling to certain countries. Worst than getting a jab is being deported for not having it. In many borders, before passing the immigration you need to pass by the health department so they can clear you for the costumes.
That’s what happens to us when traveling to Thailand. Brazilians must show the yellow fever vaccine international certificate before going to immigration. If you fail to have it you can pay to get the vaccine at the airport (if they provide), if you not you have to go back home.
How do you know if you need to take any vaccine? Usually, the countries would advise on their immigration website. Another option is to search on your country’s healthcare website, probably they’ll have a list of the mandatory vaccines and the ones you should take just to avoid some diseases.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend getaway or a 6 months backpacking trip, every traveler should have a good travel insurance. First of all, it’s important to protect your health in case of accident, emergency or sickness. Second, it might help you during unexpected travel issues like delays or lost luggage. Third, it’s a requirement to get into some countries. Bottom line, before traveling abroad you should buy a travel insurance and have your policy or insurance card saved on your mobile. If the immigration officer asks for it you’ll be ready to show, and if you need to contact the insurance company you have all your details in hand.
In doubt about travel insurance? Read our travel insurance guide here!
Have your accommodation bookings and proof of funds with you
Again, not all immigration officers will ask for it, but they might do, so save time and avoid stress by having all these documents saved on your phone. Book your accommodation in advance at least for the first 2 or 3 days. That shows you have a place to stay and won’t raise suspicion. If you are applying for a tourist visa in advance or if you’re getting a visa on arrival it is a good idea to have all the accommodation booked. Someone will be hosting you? So ask them to write a letter saying they are hosting you, add on the latter their ID number, address and signature.
The proof of funds can vary a lot, basically is some sort of document that proves you have enough money to pay for your travels and get back home. If the country you are traveling to requires visa they will explain what type of documents they accept as proof of funds. If your visa is on arrival they might ask for it or not, but again it’s good to be prepared. Our suggestion is to have a bank statement showing your savings, or a travel card with money on it, or a credit card statement showing your purchase limit. Your latest wages slips proving you have a steady income also works.
Now it’s time to start planning your next trip abroad, go check your visa requirements, get your documents ready and have fun!
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