7 Things You Need to Know About Visas


Our world is growing smaller. More people travel now than ever before: the UN World Tourism Organization estimates that the number of international tourist arrivals jumped from 25 million in 1950 to 1.4 billion in 2018.

Of course, that doesn’t mean international travel has grown any less complicated! If anything, the complexity can feel overwhelming, which is why you can be forgiven for worrying about the details of your passport and visa. Whether you’re wondering “Do I need a visa?” or questioning the travel requirements for a specific country, here’s what you need to know.

1. Do I Need a Passport?

If you’re here because you’re wondering whether you need a visa or passport, you should be aware that you’ll need a passport for any type of international trip you’re taking.

In addition, with the new Real ID Act, a passport can even be useful as identification for domestic flights. This is true whether you have a passport card or a passport book.

2. Do I Need a Visa?

This question is a little trickier for two reasons.

First, not every country requires a visa. Some countries allow passport holders from certain countries to visit, visa-free. U.S. citizens have access to over 180 countries and territories that don’t require a visa to travel. However, it’s worth noting that you will be allowed to stay in the country for only a defined period of time, usually anywhere from 30-180 days.

So, where do you need visas? Check out the information on the U.S. Department of State’s travel site, which offers specific visa requirements by country.

Second, it’s worth noting that you can extend your stay in the countries that don’t require a visa by getting one. A visa allows you to stay beyond the period you’d be allowed with your passport alone.

3. How Do I Get a Visa?

The details of how to get a travel visa will vary from country to country. However, in general, you’ll need to follow some or all of the steps below:

  • Fill out an application
  • Provide photographs that adhere to specific requirements
  • Pay a fee
  • Attend a visa interview or appointment
  • Do fingerprinting and get a background check

Checking the state site of any country you wish to visit may help. Alternatively, search online for visa companies that help expedite the process of getting a visa.

4. What Kind of Visa Do I Need?

Did you know there are multiple types of visas? You can apply for visas that offer extended time in a country for specific circumstances. Here are a few types of visas you might want to consider, depending on your situation:

  • Tourist visa: These visas allow travelers to visit a foreign country for leisure purposes
  • Student visa: These visas are offered to university students studying in a foreign country
  • Work visa: These visas allow individuals to take on employment in a foreign country
  • Business visa: These visas allow individuals to do business without joining the labor market of a country, such as when a traveler is attending a business conference or meeting
  • Working holiday visa: These visas allow individuals to take on temporary employment in a country
  • Spousal visa: These visas allow the bearer to stay with their partner, even if they aren’t a citizen of the country in question
  • Transit visa: These visas allow a visitor to pass through a country while en route to another country

Not every country offers each of these visas, so check your destination’s government website to learn more.

5. What Does a Visa Look Like?

This depends from country to country, but in general, a visa is a sticker or stamp, often placed across one entire page of your passport. It will include your name, place of birth, passport number, and the reason for the visa, among other things.

In addition, it’s worth noting that you can also receive an eVisa in certain countries. These electronic visas are stored in a country’s database, not stamped or stuck into your passport, but they’re linked to your passport number. You may still receive a physical document to present during travels, however.

6. What Are the Document Requirements for a Visa?

Each country will have different requirements, so you’ll need to check the website of any country you intend to visit. However, there are a few common supporting documents you may need to provide:

  • A letter of invitation or support
  • A copy of the first page of your passport
  • One or two photographs of yourself according to specific requirements
  • Proof of travel and/or health insurance
  • Proof that you’ve purchased airplane tickets
  • Proof of the reasons for your travels, such as a letter explaining that you will be studying at a university
  • Proof of financial support and/or your ability to fund your trip expenses

Gathering these documents according to the specifications of the country’s requirements will be crucial to securing your visa.

7. Do I Get a Visa Automatically?

Just because you’ve applied for a travel visa doesn’t mean you’ll get one! This is why it’s often a good idea not to make firm plans until you have your visa in hand.

A consular officer can refuse your application for a number of reasons. These can include one or more of the following:

  • Insufficient or incorrect information
  • Ineligibility for the visa
  • Failed criminal background check
  • Application for the wrong visa
  • A failed interview

For more information about why your visa might be rejected—and how to prevent it from happening—check out this article.

Know the Basics of Visa Travel

Getting a visa can seem like an overwhelming process filled with complex documents, requirements, and interviews—but the reward is well worth it! Now that you’ve stopped wondering, “Do I need a visa?” it’s time to get started. Do your research, check the requirements based on your country of destination, and be diligent about the details to earn a trip you won’t forget.

For more of the tips you need, for travel and beyond, check out our other posts!