Travelers from all over know how essential is it to have the proper visa and passport documentation when travelling, and how difficult it could be to negotiate should you arrive at your destination with the incorrect, or incomplete documentation. The official documentation is granted as a Visa, affording you the proper permission to travel through their country, and ideally, it allows the government of the country in question, to know who is travelling in and out of their domain. Here is the AWS Essential Travel Guide: 10 Things You Should Know about Passports and Visas.
Before you start the Visa Application process, you may want to haul your passport out of the back of the cupboard and dust it off. Ascertain if you need to renew your passport, as it is a lengthy process, and you could be without your passport for a few weeks, even months, and you can’t apply for a visa without one. Also for most international travel, officials require a certain amount of pages to be empty, if you have one empty page open in your passport, but it only expires in 2 years time, you will still need to renew it.
Every single country has their own policies and procedures when it comes to issuing visas. Depending on what passport you are travelling on, and your nationality, the country that you intend to travel to, will receive your information completely differently to all other nationalities. Also if you are travelling for work, business or pleasure, they will issue you a visa, based on your requirements and the length of your stay. Some visas are more difficult to get than others, and in some cases the application procedures can be lengthy and frustrating. You will need to contact the Embassy directly of the country you plan on visiting for all the exact information you need.
There can be no substitute for your own research, don’t rely on scattered information given by well meaning friends over drinks. Not all countries require a visa from all travelers, depending again on extensive rules and requirements. Visa requirements for travelers is updated constantly so relying on year old information from that friend of a friend who travelled there, then passed through that place where you are going to is going to land you in hot water. If you find the contacting the Embassy route frustrating, and you have a bit of extra cash, it may be worth contacting professional visa companies that will be abreast of the latest information.
After you have contacted an Embassy, or Visa company, you will be provided with, or given a link to download, a serious amount of pages or forms you will need to complete in full. Be prepared to provide certified proof of everything, so if you don’t have that already, go and save time and get it now. All copies of birth certificates, or other identification documents, letters from your place of work, proof of residence, bank statements, travel documents, itinerary, everything needs to be an original where possible, and certified. You will be asked in most cases for proof of fully paid for air ticket and accommodation in the destination country.
When preparing your documents for Visa approval, take into account that visa offices or Embassy’s have thousands of visas and documents to process daily and that yours is not the only one. Visa officials are not going to be sympathetic to a traveler issuing them with incomplete, disorganized documentation. Make their job easier; and make the visa process less stressful, it is that simple. Have backup copies of everything, in duplicate, correlated, easy to locate and neat, so that in the event that your documents are lost or damaged, you can provide another copy immediately.
In most cases these days, a simple piece of paper is not enough identification for customs officials and you may need to provide photographs of yourself within strict specifications, in some cases, there are only a few certified places that visa will accept photographs from. The color, size and amount of photos required will vary from country to country. Visa fees can also start costing a lot of money, find out well in advance how much all the documentation is going to cost to certify, and all the visa registration fees, as in most cases the fees are non-refundable.
If you are taking connecting flights and passing through airports of foreign countries where you will not be actually disembarking your flight, you may not need a visa at all. This could save a lot of money if you are passing through a few airports. However, you are able to get a transit visa for instance, if you are travelling through Dubai, for 96 hours. Airlines like Emirates organize the visa on behalf of their passengers; other airline passengers will need to apply for one. This comes in handy if you are in transit for 10 hours or so, and want to grab a meal, a shower and a cup of coffee.
There are some cases that countries will happily issue visas as travelers arrive at customs, for a fee of course. However, the potential pitfalls here are enormous and unless you are a seasoned traveler and have been through that exact route more than once before; it is not recommended at all. Currency, cultural and language issues make this scenario a potential disaster of epic proportions. Make the necessary arrangements well in advance and unhappy surprises when you are put back on your plane home will only ruin your entire trip.
For those super organized travelers, well you are not going to like this one bit. Organizing too far in advance is just as detrimental to leaving it all to the last minute. Some visas are valid from the date of issue and you could find yourself with an expired visa before you have dusted off your suitcase. If the processing time for the visa in question is a lengthy one you can approach a visa company to assist you or ask the Embassy in question about their express services for visas. Although they are not cheap, you may need to spend the extra money here.
Don’t panic just yet, they don’t send officials on a man hunt to locate and detain you if your visa expires at lunch time. There is sometimes a window of grace, and depending on the country it varies from days to months. If you are on a transit visa and appear at customs 3 months later, you could find yourself with a serious headache, and very possibly will not be allowed back into the country for a few months, possibly never again. Nobody wants that dark cloud following them around on holiday, do your homework, extensively, and you will have a great time.
At the end of the day there are a few basic rules when it comes to traveling, visas and passports, such as have the right information, have duplicate documentation and be organized. Obviously don’t leave important things to the last minute and find out about all the costs involved. Finding out just before departure that your visa costs have taken a large bite out of your party-budget on the other side, really does put a damper on things. The 10 Things You Should Know About Passports and Visas should give you a solid idea of what to expect if you have never done this before. And all that there is left to do is pack your luggage, don’t forget to leave space for the presents, and enjoy your trip! Do you have any custom entry/exit horror stories to share?
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