Rather than dive into filling out forms, let’s be sure we’re all starting on the same page.
Read the below Q&A. Once you know & understand them, you’re ahead of most. 🙂
What’s a Visa?
- Not the credit card. Here, we’re talking about permission to visit a country. Consider it like your personal “green light” to go.
When I traveled around Europe, I got lots of stamps in my passport – are they visas?
- No. A passport stamp just acknowledges you’re “in” or “out.” You get those when crossing a border. A visa is something you must apply for ahead of time.
How do I tell if I need a visa?
- Two things determine if you need a visa: your citizenship and where you’re going.
If you intend to stay a while, that might affect things, too, but more on that later.
US citizens can check on this page to see if your destination country wants you to get a visa first.
If I’m American, do I need a visa to visit ABC country?
- For most countries, no. US citizens need visas for only about 20% of the world’s countries. Bottom line reason why you need a visa is reciprocity. It’s a tit-for-tat thing. If the US requires a visa for that country’s citizens, then often that country will enforce the same on Americans. What breaks the “visa mini-cold-war” is a strong desire between countries to be friends. Example: To visit Mongolia, Americans don’t need a visa, but citizens from all European and most Asian countries do. Interesting, huh?
Combine those two facts and you’ll see Americans travel very freely. In fact, only folks from Denmark and Germany travel more freely than Americans:
Does it matter why I’m going to that country?
- Yes, sort of. When filling out the visa application, it matters whether you’re a tourist or someone visiting on business. However, in general, the requirements -and more importantly- the wait for your visa to get approved is the same.
A business person visiting a country is very different from someone needing a work visa.
Do I pay for it? How much?
- Yes, visas cost. My rough experience and sample research says this: you’re going to pay between $20 and $100 for the permission to fly to that country.
Sure, it’s not much when compared to the flight or accommodations, but paying for permission to come over (plus the added paperwork) isn’t exactly welcoming either.
How long does it take to get a visa?
- See the next part: Visa Process – Timelines