Words: Neda Dorudi
The Forensic Traveller series: How To Get Your Visa Application Right
Passport requirements and visas are undeniably a complex area of travel that even the most experienced wanderers find hard to get right. Let’s take a look at the world of visas and passport necessities, without which we won’t be taking off.
A feature that is frequently not thought about when travel arrangements are made is checking the passport validity. Even countries that don’t require a visa insist your passport has at least six months validity which should cover you for the duration of your stay. Without this you will for sure be refused entry but most likely you will first be refused boarding, as airlines can be fined if they breach visa requirements by allowing passengers to travel without the correct entry visa.
Most countries now also require at least one blank visa page. Some countries can get quite strict and refuse entry if you unknowingly forget to comply. Visas are a condition by which you, the visitor must agree to avoid refusal of entry, so please get it right before you spend all that money
on your trip. However, all may not be lost as quite a few airlines do now have provisions in place where they will allow a refund on a non-refundable air ticket when a visa application has not been successful; proof of this would be required.
Countries that currently have electronic visas in place are US, where the ESTA has been in operation since 2007. After 9/11, security for travellers under the VWP (visa waiver programme) was greatly stepped up, which now means all passengers under the visa waiver programme must have an approved travel authorisation for the U.S. The ESTA has a validity of two years, please be sure you only use bona fide links as there are a few bogus ones flying around.
If you have an ESTA already but your passport has expired you will need to apply for another ESTA once you renew your passport. Click here for details.
Australia is a another country where visas can be obtained electronically by your travel agent or online. The majority of travellers other than Australian and nationals of New Zealand will require a visa. Sometimes an electronic visa is referred to the Australian High Commission for further investigation about the applicant. This could happen if your place of birth happens to be a country out of favour or seen as un-cooperative by countries you are applying for a visa. Usually there is nothing to worry about – once they discover that it’s just where you were born, and you don’t even live in the country of your birth; don’t panic.
Contact your Travel agent or ETA Visa website: http://etavisa-australia.org
Turkey is another country that has introduced the requirement for an electronic visa. It is advisable to check for any exemptions on their website. Click here for details. The introduction of this electronic visa for Turkey has been in place now for over a year, before a visa on arrival was possible.
The countries with a difficult application process – who are they and why are they so difficult? Russia is one and India the other, so let’s have a look at how to avoid getting trapped in a delay bubble!
Both Russian and Indian visa applications can be arduous. Letters of invitations, forms completed correctly, right amount of photographs, the list goes on. The best way to avoid difficulties and delays is to do a check list and ensure you have everything required to process the visas, literally
all the dots in the right boxes and the T’s crossed in the right places!
Quite often applications for these two countries will be rejected if details are not 100 per cent correct. Always allow at least two weeks, possibly even three for these destinations. Most embassies offer express service at a cost, subject to correct submission of application.
Tourist visas are a much simpler process, as it is fixed for the duration of your holiday or visit. Arrival and departure dates are set, whereas
business visas can be more complex requiring more documents, and there are types of entries such as a single entry, or multiple entry. Usually depending on the country they will issue a last entry date, for example, you must enter the country by a given date, and you may be
given a stay of one month, three months at one time, meaning you cannot exceed this duration each time you enter the country.
There are still quite a few countries that permit visas on arrival, such as United Arab Emirates where a 30 day visa on arrival can be obtained providing all requirements for this are met.
For EU nationals there are not too many countries you will need a visa for, but always follow the path that leads you to checking what you need, as embassies are constantly changing entry requirements.
As with everything, the Internet is our very own path to solving the mysteries of visas – who needs what etc., so check out the links as your first port of call. If you have any questions, feel free to email us, attention, Dr. Travel.
–>More from The Forensic Traveller: The 10 Most Common Travel Phobias
–>Featured image by J Aaron Farr, Flickr creative commons