Travel Visas: Requirements, Types, and Process

by Catherine Carey | March 1, 2023
map with an aeroplane, camera and magnifying glass

Are you going to travel internationally? Then you will need to get a visa.

In the simplest way, a visa is the document that allows one to enter the country as a foreign citizen that is travelling to a destination. It does not matter the purpose of the trip, you could be going there to visit a family member, as a tourist, as a diplomat, as a student or as a professional.

Nowadays, there are multitude countries that allow the process of applying for the visa online. This makes the whole process much easier and quicker. Nevertheless, some countries still make of the consulates and embassies the place where some visas must be applied for.

You should find out about a country's entry laws before travelling, given that each country has specific immigration and visa requirements, which may vary depending on the nationality of the applicant, visa types and country circumstances can change.

What travel documents do you need? How do you get a visa? In the following lines, we give you all the necessary information to get your travel visa, be successful during your visa application, what to do if there is a visa denial and overall how to manage the travel visa process. 

What is a travel visa needed for? 

The travel visa is the document that will legally allow you to enter a foreign country for a specific period of time. With this required document, the government is able to check and take into account the people that enter and leave its country.

On a general note, there are 2 types of visas: the short-stay visas and long-stay visas. Short-stay visas are typically requested for tourist, business and/or transit purposes, and they allow you to stay in a country for up to 90 days. The long-stay visas are for those who wish to reside, work or study in a different country and are planning to stay for longer than 90 days.

camera, binoculars, phone and hat on top of a map

What are the 6 most common types of visas?

There are a lot of visas and subtypes of visas. Nevertheless, the four main types are the travel/tourist visa, the business visa, the student visa and the work visa.

Their names are pretty straightforward:

  • The  tourist visa is used for leisure travel. It allows the bearer to enter a foreign country with touristic and leisure purposes only and stay for a predetermined amount of time. These visas do not entitle the holder to work or engage in any business activities in the host country.
  • The work visa is the one for professional or commercial purposes. These are required for individuals who want to take on employment or engage in business activities. There are several types of work visas that depend on the type of the work and length of stay, but typically are sponsored by an employer.
  • The business visa is for those who want to enter the host country and engage in business activities without joining that country’s labour market. The visitor typically must show that they are not receiving income from the country.
  • The student visa is for educational purposes. With this visa, the bearer can enrol at a postsecondary educational institution in the host country.
  • The Transit visa is for those who are stopping by a different country than the one that is their destination. This is not a full travel visa, it is a short-term visa, meaning that you are only transiting in a country till you can depart and reach your final destination. They are usually valid for only 24 hours or a few days.
  • The Multi-entry visa is for those who want to enter and leave a specific country destination during its validity without applying for another visa or travel authorisation. Usually, each time you visit a country is limited by a certain number of days and some countries can even limit the number of times you enter their territories. 

What documents are needed for a visa?

We shall not forget that every country has its policies, types of visas and requirements for obtaining a visa. You can count on to check what are the documents needed for all your trips.

Generally speaking, you will need a valid passport with at least 6 months of validity after your trip, a completed visa application form and a passport-seized photo. Other documents that could be required are proof of financial means, letter of invitation, providing your passport stamped, flight itinerary and hotel reservation.

backpacker seeing the sea and mountains

Is obtaining a travel visa difficult?

The travel visa process can be arduous and time-consuming. There are specific countries (like North Korea, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Bhutan) that make the whole bureaucratic process much harder. They may require additional documentation, personal interviews or directly ban some nationalities from entering the country.

With preparation, the visa application process can be easier. Additionally, with Visagov the whole process becomes easier and faster. You just need to send us some documents and we take it from there. You won't have to deal with governments or setbacks.

How and where can I obtain a travel visa? 

The travel visa can be obtained in person or online. In person would make you physically go to the embassy or consulate of the country you are going to visit. You can check how the process starts by looking up on their website all the information about the embassy requirements, consular services, the visa application process, required documents, estimated time for the process and fees to pay.

If you choose to do it in person you should start the process months before the travel dates.

Specific countries have application centers that may offer additional services, such as expedited processing or visa consultations.

On the other hand, some countries allow you to apply for the visa online. You will only need to send the documents and then receive the eVisa in your email. This process tends to be quicker, so you don’t need to start it much sooner than 15-20 days prior to the trip.

Reasons for visa denial

A visa denial can happen for multiple reasons. However, there are some common mistakes that you can avoid and make the process smoother:

  • Mistakes with personal data: names, birth dates, addresses, contact numbers, and passport numbers are just some of the mistakes that people commit while filling in the form. You should always double-check.
  • Incomplete or inaccurate information: Not stating your complete travel itinerary, dates of entry and exit from the country, accommodation details, the address of the place where you are staying, and a phone to contact you while you are in the country can hugely impact obtaining the visa.
  • Incorrect documentation: The mistake is usually submitting a photocopy when the original document is required, not providing all required documentation or sending an incorrect photograph (wrong size, blurry, inappropriate clothing, or wrong background).
  • Not applying for the right visa.
  • Criminal record and not stating it.
  • Record of overstaying during previous visas.
  • Insufficient funds for your stay.

Can a travel visa be declined? 

Of course it can be! A travel visa can be declined. The reason is usually stated by the embassy or consulate or your trusted travel agency. In some cases, you can appeal the decision or send any missing additional documentation.

If this is not an opportunity given to you, then you will have to restart the whole process again from zero which means you will have to pay again all or partial fees.

different stamps on visas and passports

How does a travel visa differ from a passport?

These are two separate documents that differ legally and serve different purposes. The main difference is that the passport is issued to a country’s citizen for international travel and identification, it verifies one’s citizenship. With the citizenship you can then reenter without problems to your home country.

Visas, and specifically travel visas, are an endorsement placed within a passport that gives the permission to enter for holidays or stay longer in another country for a specified time period.

Additionally, a passport is required in most cases when you enter a foreign country while visas won’t be required when there is a visa facilitation agreement between two countries. Also, a passport is usually valid for 5 to 10 years while visas are up to some months.

Which is more useful, a visa or a passport? 

Both are legally important documents for any traveller. The passport is the first step for the visa: you must have it in order to apply for a travel visa, which will be required to enter some countries.