A visa is an essential travel document for U.S. citizens who travel to many foreign countries. It is also known as a travel visa or entry visa. This last description can be misleading since a visa stamped in a passport does not guarantee that you will be allowed to enter your destination country. It only grants you permission to arrive at a port-of-entry. There, an immigration official will examine your documents and determine whether you should be allowed to enter or not.
Did you know that? Many travelers don't. Maybe there are some other things you don't know about this important travel document. The visa information in this article will help you understand what visas look like, the different types that exist, where to apply for one and how much they cost.
The Many Shapes, Sizes and Colors of Travel Visas
Have you ever seen the visa pages of someone who has traveled to a lot of different countries? If you have, then you know visas are produced in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some are mere ink stamps. These are usually small enough that several can fit on one visa page. These can be in the form of a triangle, a square or a rectangle. The ink can be black, blue, green, red or purple. Since they are small, there is little room for information.
More recently, countries have gone to an adhesive stamp. These are usually printed on a special type of paper. While you can find some of these that are similar to a postage stamp, most of these visas take up an entire visa page. Printed on the visa is both personal information and data about the visa. Personal information includes full name, date of birth and sex. Visa data usually includes the type of visa, number of entries permitted, date of issuance, validity, and expiration date.
The Different Types of Visas
Visas are categorized as immigrant or non immigrant. An immigrant visa is usually referred to as a resident visa. It is for people who want to take up permanent residence in another country. There are strict requirements for this type of visa. The process is usually long and expensive.
There are a larger number of non immigrant visas. There are basically three types grouped according to purpose: visit, study, work. Those who plan to visit another country will need to obtain either a tourist visa or a business visa depending on what they plan to accomplish.
Visas for study are not limited to high school exchange students or university students. There are a lot of training programs and exchange programs that fall under this category. Some of these are au pairs, camp counselors, professor, research scholars, and alien physicians.
Anyone who plans to work temporarily in another country needs to acquire a work visa. Nurses, trainees in different fields and missionaries are examples of people who would need a work visa. Others who fall in this category are those with an extraordinary ability in a specific field. It could be in arts or athletics, business or education. Performing artists and entertainers whose work is culturally unique would need this type of visa.
Applying for a Visa
The place to get a visa is the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit. Each embassy has a consular section that reviews and processes visa applications. The fee you will pay depends on the country you plan to visit and the type of visa you are requesting. While you can get a visa to Cambodia for as little as $30, most countries set their fee between $100 and $150.
Most visa applications are processed within a few days or so. Some countries can take up to a couple of weeks. Most provide same day service for emergency situations. Basic requirements include a completed visa application, a valid passport and payment of the fee. You may need to provide a photo or two. Many countries require at least six months validity in your passport. Other possible requirements include a letter of invitation, proof of continuing travel and proof of financial support.
While this article provides you with some basic visa information, it is always a good idea to check with the embassy of the country you plan to visit for updates and news concerning visa issuance, office hours, days closed and any travel concerns.