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Visas: Know the process

Visas: Know the process

When traveling as a tourist you may or may not need a visa. This is determined by the country you are visiting and the length of time you will be there for. Many countries will have a period of 30 to 90 days where you can enter the country without a visa, but others—China for example—require a visa for any length of time. The important part of the visa application process is to prepare early, well in advance of your planned travel. Here are some important tips and things to consider before and during your application process. This is something you can’t rely on rushing last minute, so plan ahead!

Each visa process is different. Every country has a different process, a different amount of time that you can stay for, and many different types of visas. It can get quite confusing. When in doubt go directly to the consulate’s website. The US has many consulates across the United States, located in large cities. You will need to find the general consulate that serves your region and go to that consulate’s website specifically. Once there you can get a list of all the paperwork and applications you will need and can make an appointment for meeting at the consulate to have your visa processed. All appointments must be made through the website. To prepare, here are some helpful tips to remember during the process.

1. Make sure your passport is not expired

This sounds like a simple one—a no-brainer—but we all lose our mind sometimes. Don’t forget to check your passport! Many times people forget to think about it. Don’t let this be you! Keep in mind that in many countries, your passport needs to be valid for 6 months AFTER your planned return home. So if you plan to go to France for 2 weeks in June, make sure your passport does not expire until the end of December of the same year at the very least. Furthermore, make sure that your passport is free of typos, incorrect birthdates and so on. I have seen this happen before and it will keep you from entering another country.

2. Determine the type of visa you will need

Each country may have a few different types of visas. Determine what you are going for. Will you be moving as a permanent resident? Are you going for school? If you are going with an organization such as a school or tourism group, it is a good idea to ask them what type of visa to apply for as they will know best for you circumstance. Also, keep in mind if you will be visiting multiple countries. Look up the laws so that you will be allowed to enter once you get to the border! The last thing you want is the wrong type of visa.

3. Know your timeline

Knowing how long a process takes is probably the most important part of getting your visa. Some visas may require background checks, online pre-applications (such as France), financial statements. Most will require a face-to-face appointment and will require you to send your passport to them for a few weeks. All of these processes add up. I usually say to allow 3-4 months for most countries. However, there are a few countries that have expedited processes where you can pay an extra fee to get it done in a few weeks. Furthermore, there are certain countries where the visa process just doesn’t take long, so do your research beforehand from people who have done it before you to determine the realistic amount of time you will need.

4. Prepare all documents ahead of time and in a nice order

When you are ready for your meeting at the consulate, make sure you have a copy of everything and have it in order according to the list that is on the website. A consulate will not waste time sorting through your disorganized paperwork. They can reject you, so do everything in your power to be organized! Copies are important, so make them! You will be expected to hand everything over to them, so make sure you have copies for your personal files. Another tip that goes overlooked is to dress nice, be friendly and smile!

Photo by Alex Robert on Unsplash

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