The world is your oyster, and your passport an oyster knife. That is, until it isn’t. For many countries, a passport may be sufficient for entry. For others, though, a visa is required. If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of traveler, you’ll have to forgo your free spirit ways if you want to leave the airport during your layover in those countries. Getting a visa must be planned well in advance for many countries. Layover Guide guides you through the process of getting a travel visa.
A passport is issued by the holder’s country and serves as a sort of international identification. It also confirms country of citizenship and allows re-entry into that country following international travel. A visa, on the other hand, is issued by a foreign country’s government, is placed in your passport and allows entry into that country. The visa will specify how long you are allowed to stay in the country. It may be good for only one trip or for many entries into the country.
When do I need to get a visa?
Your country of citizenship determines whether you need a visa for a particular destination. Check with your country to see what your entry requirement is into your layover country – what is acceptable is all dependent on your citizenship and your layover country. Some, for example, require visas even for very short visits, while others don’t. In addition, at certain countries you can pay for the visa when you arrive, but many destinations need to be planned ahead of arrival. A transit visa may also be available for those going through a country’s border control but leaving the country within a short period of time.
Some countries require an application be filed well in advance, while others may issue visas to visitors already within its borders. Since an interview and/or medical examination are necessary in some countries before determining visa-worthiness, advance planning is critical.
For U.S. citizens, to see if the country you’re traveling to requires a visa, either click on the country in question on the map or type in the country’s name in the box here, where you can also find travel advisories and warnings. Once you reach the country’s page, scroll down to the third tab, “Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements.” Here, you can also find any messages from the embassy, currency restrictions, vaccination requirements, contact information for embassies and consulates, country-specific safety and security concerns, local laws and all sorts of helpful information. You can also call the U.S. consulate or embassy for your layover destination to ask about visa requirements in advance, or visit their Web site. You may find the application online, as well. On rare occasions, certain countries require those of particular nationalities to obtain a transit visa even if they’re not going to leave the airport.
For a quick reference, check our widget (right hand side of the website) for to see if you’d need to apply for a visa.
Do I need a passport to get a visa?
A passport is required to obtain a visa (otherwise, it has no place to go!). A country may require that you have your passport for as many as six months before issuing a visa, and other requirements may also apply. There is a fee for a visa, and you may be required to submit a self-addressed, stamped envelope for its delivery to you. Some countries require applications be hand-delivered to their consulate or embassy.
Do I really need to get a visa for a country that requires one?
Yes. Getting a visa must be planned well in advance for many countries. The punishment can be harsh for those not carrying a visa in some countries where they’re required: You could even be deported and your passport confiscated.
Enjoying your layover can be effortless if planned well in advance. Start the visa process early, and shuck that oyster!