How to Obtain a Travel Visa: A Complete Guide for US and Non-US Citizens

Title pin for Pinterest-Travel Visa

Unless you are very well-traveled which means you probably already know all about obtaining a travel visa, 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! 🙂

What, When, Why

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!


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!

US Citizens

To Get Started: Click here if you are a US citizen and enter your destination country to see if they require a visa.

screenshot of where to select your country for visa information-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov

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. 

screenshot of country information for brazil-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov

Once you have expanded, read through to find out when you must apply for your visa. In most cases, Brazil included, you must obtain your visa in advance, meaning prior to arrival in your destination.

There should also be a link to a website informing you how to start your visa application process such as Brazil has here. (Note: Brazil has recently changed their requirements to include electronic visas for citizens of certain countries including the US).

screenshot of entry, exit and visa requirements for brazil-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov

It might be further down in the section and you will likely be taken to the embassy website where you should look for “visas”, “visa information” or similar terms.

screenshot of embassy of brazil in washington-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Embassy of Brazil in Washington

Sometimes there might be a middle step or two to get to the information page, but the prompts should be clearly marked. In Brazil’s case, it is pointing you to find the correct consulate for your state.


screenshot of embassy of brazil in washington-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Embassy of Brazil in Washington

Now, here is all the information telling you what jurisdiction you are in and how to contact them to get started. The Atlanta Consulate is just the first one that appeared, but you can scroll down to find the jurisdiction for all states.

screenshot of brazilian consulates in US-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Embassy of Brazil in Washington

NOTE: If you are a US Citizen, you can jump to the Important Points since the next section is for Non-US Citizens.

Non-US Citizens Visiting The United States

If you are NOT a US citizen and you are wanting to visit the US, click here and then click on “VISA WIZARD” (on the right) to see if you need a visa to visit the US.

screenshot of visa wizard for US Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov

You can also use the “Visa Appointment Wait Time” section on the same page to check on the estimated wait times for an interview at a US Embassy or Consulate.

screenshot of visa appointment wait time for US Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov


1 ) PRICES: Visa prices will vary. They can range anywhere from $150 USD to $350 USD (though they are always changing and could be outside this range) depending on where you are going and how fast you need your visa. This is why it’s important to look into your destination’s visa requirements as soon as you know you are traveling.

2 ) EXPEDITED SERVICES:  While not all countries offer rush services, a lot do. These are usually needed when one is traveling within 4-6 weeks. Keep in mind these rush features do cost extra money just like anything else does when you put a rush on it!

3 ) PROCESS: You might have to complete some of the process online and then go for an in-person interview OR you might be able to collect all of your materials and mail them off. 

4 ) INTERVIEWS: An in-person interview may or may not be in your town or state. Chances are unless you live in a city with a bustling international airport, you probably don’t have a consulate or local application office. 

5 ) APPOINTMENTS: Keep in mind that appointments might not be readily available. You might have to wait a couple of weeks or even a month or two. 

6 ) DETAILS: Some visa applications are more involved than others, but all details matter. Notaries might be involved or the sizing of photos might have to be precise. The number of copies of certain items requested might sound ridiculous, but even whether or not those copies are in black or white or color is important!

7 ) GUIDELINES: Follow the guidelines JUST AS THEY ARE GIVEN. If you have to ask yourself the question “This isn’t exactly like they wanted, but it would work anyway, right?”, the answer is NO!! This may very well mess up your entire application which in turn is wasting time and money. Depending on your timeline, it could mean the difference in going on your trip!

8 ) BLANK PASSPORT PAGES: For most traditional visas obtained ahead of time, you must send your passport off with the other required items. Oftentimes, countries will require a certain number of pages to 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 for your visit. 

To see how many pages your destination country requires, click here, type in your country and click go. Scroll down just a bit to “Quick Facts” and you find it here.

screenshot of blank passport requirements for China-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov

Use this number as a “heads-up” guide in your planning in case you are getting low on passport pages. You will get the official number when you get your requirements list during the visa application process. Definitely, go with that number!

9 ) PLANNING: Also, plan your travels accordingly as you will not be able to leave the country while your passport is off getting its visa. This includes countries that don’t require you to have a visa to enter.

10 ) PASSPORT VALIDITY: 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 the departure of your trip, but most want 6 months upon returning.

screenshot of passport validity for China, Mozambique, Russia-Travel Visa

Courtesy of Travel.State.Gov

In the photo above, you will see China requires just “6 months”, but Mozambique requires “6 months from the date of entry into Mozambique” and Russia states “6 months beyond intended stay”. 

Remember all of these will mean different expiration dates depending on your date of travel and how close your passport’s expiration date is.


Pin created for Pinterest with title-Travel Visa

I hope this helps answer all your visa questions!

Have you gone through this process? Do you have anything to add? I would love to hear about your experience!

I’m always looking for the latest pricing, timeframes, and what worked well for you! 🙂 For more travel tips and resources including packing and global entry click here.

‘Til next time…

Trimm Travels,


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  1. Obtaining a travel visa is not so easy. Before planning a tour elsewhere it is important to get your visa more smooth way. Without any doubt I would like to suggest that you follow the tips given in this article.

  2. If you are a US citizen in Vietnam. You want to extend your visa to stay in Vietnam. You can go to the nearest immigration office for procedures. Or contact the visa extension service for assistance with offline

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