Travel documentation can be confusing even for seasoned travellers. Each country you visit has different requirements for foreign visitors, such as entry and exit fees, passport validity when a passport expires within a few months, and whether or not you need a visa to accompany your passport. Both passports and visas have a lot in common when it comes to being able to enter another country, but there are a few key differences and functions you should be aware of before you visit your nearest passport agency.
All About Passports
US passports are a powerful form of identification that can get you access to 184 different countries without needing to apply for a visa. You’ll always need a passport for re-entry into the US, so it’s the most vital documentation to carry when travelling.
In addition to being necessary for travel overseas, passports are also useful domestically as a form of reliable ID—especially as security standards change, which has already made some driver’s licenses and state-issued ID’s obsolete as identification for domestic flights. Applying for passports is a standard process regardless of which state you live in, so you can always make your passport application straightforward by preparing this documentation ahead of time:
- Government-issued application (form DS-11 for new passports)
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of ID
- A color passport photo
- Payment for your passport
Renewing a passport is an even easier process that requires only your old passport, a new passport photo, and form DS-82 in addition to processing fees. Both new passport applications and passport renewals can be expedited if you need to travel quickly, which will usually get your new passport completed within 2-3 weeks. In the case that you need a passport within days, however, a passport issuing agency like ours can service you even faster.
All About Visas
Visas work within passports as permission to perform a specific task within another country, whether that’s business, pleasure, or medically related. While you can travel many places with a passport alone, longer visits often require the approval of a visa. The most important step in applying for a visa is doing your research to find the appropriate embassy to apply to and following the instructions given. The government already has a great resource where you can search for the country you are travelling to in order to find visa requirements and other important information (such as required immunizations and current safety hazards).
Generally speaking, the process of applying for a visa remotely in another country can take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Because every country has different processes (sometimes you’ll be expected to come with a visa, while in other countries you can visit in person to apply for a visa when you arrive), we can’t stress enough that you need to plan accordingly and make time to have a visa processed.
If a travel emergency occurs and you need to get a visa quickly, you can visit visa agencies that will greatly expedite the process for a fee. In some cases, you can even get a visa processed and ready to go within 24 hours.
Countries that Require Visas as of 2019
According to the Henly & Partners Passport Index, there are 42 destinations that require a visa:
- Cote d’lvoire
- North Korea
- South Sudan
Australia is a slight exception in that it requires either a visa or an ETA, an Electronic Travel Authority that can be completed online. Although Brazil has historically required US travellers to obtain a visa, this has no longer been the case since June 17, 2019.
Visa and Passport Expiration
Foreign countries have different rules surrounding expiration for both passports and visas. In the case of passports, you’ll have to pay special attention when the document is within one year of expiration. Some countries will not allow you in if your passport is less than 6 months away from expiration, some countries have the same rule that applies to less than 3 months, and still others will accept your passport as long as it is valid upon entry.
If your passport expires but contains a visa that is still valid, you don’t need to apply for a new visa when you get a new passport. As long as you carry both your valid passport and your old passport with the valid visa, you’ll be able to travel as normal.
In the case that your visa is about to expire, you may still be able to travel and remain even after your visa expires. This is because a visa’s expiration date is different from the approved amount of time a traveller may remain in a country for. For this reason, when you arrive at the entry gate, the duration of your stay may be approved even if it goes beyond your visa’s expiration date.
When you apply for a visa, you will likely have to set an appointment for an interview in order to get your visa approved. The questions typically asked in these interviews simply clarify your intent to travel, so details will be requested accordingly. Depending on the type of visa you apply for, you should be prepared to answer questions about:
- Your university and the duration of your courses if you are a student
- Your current job and related company details if you are travelling for business
- Your spouse, regardless of whether or not you are travelling with them
- Your children, especially if they are employed in the country you are visiting
- Your place of temporary residence for the duration of your stay
Before You Travel
Getting all of your paperwork together for a visa and a passport can be both stressful and time-consuming. At The Passport Agency, we can ensure that your application details for a passport are accurate and get your paperwork approved in the timeframe you’ll need it in, with same-day services available for patrons who visit the office before 10am. Check out the application process now or request a passport agency appointment to get started on your way to international travel.