Unless you are VERY well-traveled which means you already know these answers, the question of “Do I need a visa and if so, how do I get one?” may or may not be on your radar when it comes to planning an international itinerary. If you are reading this article, congratulations! Visas are on your radar as they should be! If you stumbled upon this article and hadn’t yet thought of this question, congratulations! They’re now on your radar as they should be! 🙂
Fortunately, there are a lot of countries that do not require tourist visas for US citizens. However, there are several that do and they all have different requirements, places of processing, prices, and timeframes. My biggest piece of advice is to allow plenty of time to research your destination country’s requirements and acquire their tourist visa.
When should you start researching your destination country’s visa requirements? The moment you find out you will be visiting that country! Right then? Yes, right then! Why? This is because some countries require that you make an in-person appointment that can take 2-3 months to get on top of the regular processing time. Others are as simple as collecting all the necessary documents and mailing them off. Even with the simple ones, it could take as long as 4-6 weeks to get your visa!
To Get Started: Click here if you are a US citizen and enter your destination country to see if they require a visa.
Find Out Where and How to Apply: Once you enter your country as above and pull up that country’s information, look below the Quick Facts for “Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements” and click to expand. For this example, I used Brazil.
NOTE: Due to the Olympics, Brazil is waiving visas until Sept 18, 2016 for citizens who are passport holders from the following countries: USA, Australia, Canada and Japan.
Once you have expanded, read through to find out where you must apply. In most cases, Brazil included, you must obtain your visa in advance from the Embassy or Consulate closest to your residence.
If you look further down, there might even be a link to the website to start your application process such as Brazil has here:
Sometimes there might be a few steps to get there like Brazil has here, but read closely to catch them! When you click on the link taking you to Brazil’s website, it tells you to click again to expand the paragraph of information:
And now you can FINALLY click the “here” link that will take you to the information you need:
At last! Here is all the information telling you what jurisdiction you are in and how to contact them to get started! These are just the top 3 that appeared, but you can scroll down to find the jurisdiction for all states!
**Now be SURE to scroll down to read the section on Important Points as, you guessed it, they are important! 😉 **
NON US CITIZENS VISITING THE UNITED STATES
Alternatively, if you are NOT a US citizen and you are wanting to visit the US, click here and then click on “TRY OUR VISA WIZARD” to see if you need a visa to visit the US.
You can also use the “Plan Ahead” section on the same page to check on the estimated wait times for an interview appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate.
1) Prices will vary. They can range anywhere from $150 USD to $350 USD (though they are always changing and you might find prices outside this range) depending on where you are going and how fast you need your visa. This is why I recommend looking into your destination country’s visa requirements as SOON as you know you are traveling there! But let’s say you don’t find out until 4-6 weeks before you go. This still might not be enough time for some countries, but a lot do have expedited rush features. Keep in mind, these rush features DO cost extra money just like anything else does when you put a rush on it!
2) You might have to do an in-person interview or you might have to do some of the process online. However, you might be able to collect all your materials and mail them off. Keep in mind that depending on where you live, that in-person interview may or may not be in your town. Chances are unless you live in a city with a bustling international airport, you probably don’t have a local application office. If you’re like me, you live in a state that doesn’t have a bustling international airport and you have to go to another state that does. Fortunately for me, Atlanta is in easy driving distance when I do need in-person interviews. Another thing to keep in mind is that appointments might not be readily available. You might have a little wait for that appointment.
3) Follow the guidelines JUST AS THEY ARE GIVEN. If you have to ask yourself the question “This isn’t exactly like they wanted, but would it be okay anyway?”, the answer is NO!! You may very well have just messed up your entire application which in turn is wasting time and money. It could mean the difference in going on your trip depending on your timeline!! Yes, with some visas there are a lot of things you have to get together. Notaries might be involved, the sizing of photos has to be precise, the number of copies of certain items requested might sound ridiculous and even whether or not those copies are in black and white or color IS important!
4) For most traditional visas that have to be obtained ahead of time, you must send your passport off with all of the other required items. In addition, oftentimes the country will require a certain number of pages in your passport be completely BLANK. This is so they can affix the visa into your passport and have a page beside it for the entry and exit stamps when you are visiting. To see how many pages your destination country requires, click here, type in your country and click go. Look under “Quick Facts” and it should be the 2nd fact “Blank Passport Pages”.
I would use this as a “heads-up” guide in your planning. You will get the actual number when you get your official requirements list during the visa application process. Definitely go with that number! I give the heads-up guide in case you are getting low on passport pages! Also, plan accordingly because you will not be able to travel outside of the country while your passport! This includes countries that don’t require you to have a visa to enter.
5) Finally, PLEASE be SURE that your passport is valid for 6 months after you RETURN from your trip. Most countries require a passport validity of 6 months AFTER returning. Some will say 6 months from departure of your trip, but most want 6 months upon returning. In the photos below, you will find that China just has “6 months”. Mozambique has “6 months from the date of entry into Mozambique” and Russia has “6 months beyond intended stay”. Remember that all of these will mean different expiration dates depending on your date of travel and how close your passport’s expiration date is! And no, countries will NOT budge on this!
I hope this helps answer all your visa questions! Feel free to drop me a comment and let me know how your application process went! I’m always looking for the latest pricing, timeframes, and what worked well for you! 🙂