Travel Visas - Guide

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If you're planning a trip abroad, you are almost certain to require a visa. But for many people the concept of a visa remains confusing. Here's some useful information about visas to provide you with all you need to know to prepare for your trip abroad.

What is a visa?

A visa is an official permission for you to enter a foreign country. Whenever you travel outside of your own country you will generally need one (unless your country has a special agreement with the country to which you are traveling).

The visa comes in different forms: sometimes it is a paper document, but normally it is a simple stamp in your passport. Sometimes you need to get one before you arrive in the country, and at other times you simply need to turn up and you will be given a visa when you pass through passport control.

A visa determines the length of time you can stay in the country, and the activities you can take part in whilst there, such as studying or working.

You will often have to pay for a visa, and it depends what country you are from and which country you are traveling to, because different agreements are in place for different countries.

Different types of visa

The most common type of visa is the tourist visa. This is usually only valid for a short period of time, sometimes a few weeks, sometimes a few months, and it is this that you will need if you are just planning to visit the country. On a tourist visa you are generally not allowed to take part in certain activities such as working or studying.

Others types of visa include business visas, study visas, fiancée visas, journalist visas and many others depending on the country. All of these provide you with permission to take part in certain activities.

There are also resident visas for people who are planning to live in a country. You will normally require a valid reason to get one (for example you may be getting married to a citizen of the country), and as such these are harder to acquire.

Do I need a visa?

Whether you need a visa depends on where you are traveling and the purpose of your trip. Whereas some countries are very strict in providing visas, others are very relaxed. Always find out beforehand whether you require a visa for your destination country because sometimes the process can be more complicated, even requiring a letter of invitation or a sponsor in the country.

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You can find out more about individual countries' travel visa requirements by viewing our database. The most popular visas that we process are for China, India, Brazil, Russia, Vietnam, Australia and Egypt.

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This article was published on 2010/04/16