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Travel 101: Things to Know about Getting a Visa

In 2017, people holding a valid U.S. passport were able to travel to 172 territories and countries.  If you think about it, that presents with numerous itinerary options and alternatives.  While that is impressive, what is more outstanding is that the USA asks overseas visitors, with some exclusions, to gain a visa prior to entering the United States.


Things to Know about Getting a Visa


While some countries require U.S. citizens obtain visas exclusively because they ask their citizens to do the same – tit for tat – the lack of reciprocity has not influenced the number of countries a U.S. citizen can visit with their backpack and their passport.

What about all the other countries, I hear you ask?  What about Russia, China, Pakistan, Australia, and Brazil?  How can you go about applying for visas to travel to these nations and others similar to them?  This article will discuss the travel visa.


The Passport Versus The Travel Visa


It’s hard to chat about or write about visas without referring to passports; they go hand in hand, if you think about it.  You will require a valid passport to obtain a valid travel visa. In fact, your passport needs to be eligible in the eyes of the foreign government if you are to acquire a visa to enter the country in question.  Requirements vary from country to country and range from having a minimum number of blank pages to being valid for a certain window of time before renewal, such as six months.


Here is one method to review the issue of passports versus travel visas.  Acquiring a passport requires a great deal of upfront legwork, but when you have all of the legal documentation from the U.S. government, it is a one-size-fits-all pass to the various countries available to explore.


The travel visas may be slightly easier to obtain regarding upfront documentation.  This is due to the fact that you already have most of the information, pictures, and paperwork available from when you applied for the passport.  Of course, if your passport application was several years ago, the information may be outdated. It is important to remember that the application procedure for visa travel, which physically lives inside your passport in the form of stamps and stickers, is not a ‘cookie cutter’ process to be re-used when traveling to different countries.  Citizens from the United States need to apply for each travel visa individually, and the application for each of the visas will differ dramatically.


Obtaining The Foreign Travel Visas


Due to the fact that gaining travel visas is a special procedure based on the country, we cannot offer a specific set of steps applicable for all destinations and scenarios.  This being said, we can offer you a plan for a broad situation, while sharing some useful resources to assist you in obtaining legal admittance into your chosen destination country.  Below are some top tips and general steps to follow when gaining foreign travel visas.


Determine All You Need To Travel To Your Destination


The United States State Department is the most beneficial place to begin.  From this department, you will be able to identify whether you require a visa and can obtain information regarding travel guidelines or restrictions, such as required immunizations to the length of time you can remain in a country according to visa details.  This can run from fourteen days in Bahrain or potentially eight months in the Bahamas.


 Gain Your Passport Details Right Away


If renewal of the passport is approaching, it is a good time to make it happen.  If you are planning to apply for a U.S. passport for the first time or need to review the application, we have a useful guideline available to help with this procedure.  For example, if you are planning on traveling to China, you will require at least one blank page in your passport with six months of validity on the passport remaining.


Contact Or Review The Website Of Your Chosen Destination Consulate Or Embassy


By contacting the chosen destination’s consulate or embassy, visiting their official offices, or perusing their official websites, you can gain information on the category of visa you require.  Of course, you may discover various options; for example, traveling to China will have several options including:


  • Foreigners intending to visit China for vacation, exchanges, study tours, and other non-business activities.
  • Foreigners intending to visit China as a tourist.
  • Foreigners intending to visit China as part of commercial and trade actions.


There are various other hosts of visas with more specific scenarios, and it is recommended that you read through all of these before making application for your travel visa.


Completing The Application


In the majority of cases, you should be able to print the application document from the official embassy’s website.  You may be required to photocopy and include additional documentation, such as a copy of your passport identification page.


Take A Picture


When applying for a travel visa, it is recommended that you opt for 2″ x 2″ passport size photos, and then reuse them for visa applications suggest the visa experts at  The prints can be used for visa applications if they remain recent and meet the visa specifications.


Pay The Cost


The fee for a travel visa is not cheap, but they need to be paid to submit a travel visa application.  For example, China charges a fee of $140 for a single U.S. individual’s travel visa including a set four-day turnaround.  For an additional $20, the applicant can expedite the turnaround period to two days. Cash is not accepted as a payment, and only credit cards, money orders or checks can be used.


 Deliver The Completed Application


Believe it or not, delivering the application may be the most challenging part of applying for a travel visa.  In the majority of cases, you will be asked to mail your official passport as part of the application; therefore, you need to ensure you will not require your passport during this period.  You should also place tracking on the document postage to ensure the item reaches its destination safely. For example, China travel visas applications require you or your assigned visa agent to walk the application to the consulate or embassy and receive it manually.  In other cases, it is possible to use a self-addressed stamped envelope and send the items to the country’s consulate.


Sharing The Travel Details


You may be required to share your itinerary with foreign countries upon application for visas.  This could be as simple as listing the reason for the trip, along with your accommodation, and potentially proof of your returning airfare.


Nia McKenna

Nia is an Associate Editor at The Fairytale Traveler and self diagnosed travel junkie. Having traveled to 5 of the 7 continents, her love of good food and culture is a force to be reckoned with. When she isn't off adventuring with her husband, which she writes about on her blog CircaWanderlust, she can be found with a good cup of tea cuddling her pups and taking pictures of her food. She loves black and white movies and could listen to Elvis on repeat.

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