My Permanent Residency Interview in Canada

Yesterday was a big day….I went to my interview to finalize permanent resident status here in Canada.

Yes, I should write up a big post about how I got permanent resident status.  But for now, I’ll share how the interview went:

Continue reading My Permanent Residency Interview in Canada

The Visa Book- a Review

Christine Gilbert of published a guide book and I got the privilege to review it. Consider yourself lucky, too, since by getting to hear about it from me, you can make a more informed decision to buy it.

Too little time to read all below?  Read my 20 word review:

“The Visa Book” is a great reference for the traveler on the go.  Simple, single-purpose structure.  Comprehensive coverage.  Worth the $10.


A Full Review of “The Visa Book”

Here is Christine’s skinny on her newest book:

  • 253 pages
  • pdf instant download
  • covers over 200 countries and territories
  • Only for US citizens (although there may be Australian and European versions in the future)
  • New editions will be produced every year
  • Does not cover long term residency visas, work visas or education visas (in other words, this is for tourist visas only)
  • Cost is $10


And My Feedback:

  • pages are well laid out; 1 page = 1 country/territory
  • a single-purpose, no frills structure
  • little of Christine’s fun personality – the “Visa Book” is all business
  • can’t imagine a place in the world that’s not covered here
  • greatest value: for tourists en-route wanting to quickly compare, offline


Who the Visa Book is Not For

I believe the newbie American tourist traveling to their first country in their life would simply google for needed information on the US State Department.

That said, most anyone would at least verify what “The Visa Book” says, but Christine makes that ultra easy with direct links to do so.

Also, the book isn’t for people looking to answer “How do I work in XYZ country?”  This is for tourist visas, not work permits or residency visas.


Where the Visa Book Shines

Where this book really shines is as a quick, comparative reference that’s already handily on the traveler’s laptop, smartphone or any e-reader for PDFs.

For travellers already on the go, perhaps in between destinations, this book provides fast “how about XYZ country?” answers.  It’s a sweet no-frills reference book that way.

I randomly picked a few countries for the tourist visa information.  I picked Canada, Chile and Croatia.  Sure enough, Christine lays out the essential information, then provides easy links to verify it.

Not only could I read up on these 3 countries on their respective, dedicated full info page, but in an earlier section “The Quick Country-by-Country Guide”, I see and compare my trifecta and all other countries together.  It’s beautiful.

All told, this guide is handy.  At $10, it’s also cheaply priced.  Granted, there’s not a lot of information per country, but that’s not its purpose. This guide answers only a few questions (for every country in the world):

  1. Do I need a visa?
  2. How many days am I allowed to stay?
  3. Any cost to visiting?

Yeah, the guide is well, well worth it.  Even if you don’t travel, if you want a fast PDF-portal to every country’s visa information, pick this guide up at Christine’s site. (book will be released April 5th 2011, but sign up for an alert)


Note: Christine offers other bloggers an “affiliate” commission for reviewing and linking to this book.  However, I turned it down, since she so clearly deserves the entire but meagre $10 sale.



Immigration: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

If you’re a first time reader, a quick, 50-word preface:

I’m an American married to an Canadian.  We moved to Halifax, Canada this summer from our last home in Prague, Czech Republic.  So, we come here as new residents: one citizen and one on “visitor status.”

So, Here I Am, an American in Canada

Against common myth, Americans are not freely welcome in Canada.   Continue reading Immigration: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Visa Process – Timelines

In a prior post, I mentioned how most countries do not require a visa just to visit. But some do. Some examples include Bolivia, India, Russia (& most of the former Soviet Republics), Cambodia, Vietnam. This post will set your expectations about getting a tourist visa for those countries.
Filling out Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
Needing a visa doesn’t mean someone does it for you. You’ll need to fill out a visa application.

Yes, every country has its own visa application form. The form could be available online or you must visit the nearest embassy. Nothing is standard across all forms. And you’d better fill it out as it’s expected.

What Does The Visa Application Ask?
Just “name, rank & serial number” would be nice, but don’t count on it.

Generalizing here, but as a minimum, you will provide:
Name, nationality, birthday, passport number, address (both yours and where you’ll stay) and contact information like phone number/fax/e-mail (both yours and where you’ll stay), why and for how long you expect to stay

You may also be asked your marital status, your occupation and employment history. Some countries even ask you to write a short, personal essay explaining why you want to see their country!

After finishing the form, it is also common to provide:
Bank statement or proof of financial support, a copy of HIV vaccinations, confirmation or invitation from a local hotel or friend (both cases sometimes called your “sponsor” and copies of your hotel confirmation & return flight.
Tack on 1 or 2 passport photos and you’re all set!

Continue reading Visa Process – Timelines

Visa Process – the Basics

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:
    (see graph)

Citizens needing Visas

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?

Visa Process – Intro

This is a Big Topic: the visa process.

By the way, when expats talk about visas, we ain’t talking credit cards!

Whenever I hear the question How do I get a visa?, I cringe. I cringe because I know it’s the most common question to ask and the most difficult one to answer.

Some people may stop at “Well, it just depends on the country.” Instead I will write a series of posts, hopefully answering some of the first and tougher questions about the visa process.


Any questions on your mind? Put them in the comments and I’ll reply.

I got my ears open. Stay tuned…