Being a UK citizen I have always been fortunate when travelling and although this may change thanks to Brexit and the powers that be, up until now, especially within the European Union I have freedom of movement for most of my adult life. This means that unlike my American friends who have to consider whether they require a Schengen visa to travel to certain parts of Europe, I can plan a weekend away with easy and with very little time to spare. Of course there are still countries that require me to apply for a visa, including most of Asia and America, and this is where planning is vital. Fail on the timing and your whole trip then becomes invalid because you are unable to travel and you travel insurance company is not going to apply any compensation for your own stupidity – simple!
At the present time of writing, I am required to gain a visa if I want to travel to a total of 128 different countries around the world which, in my opinion, is still quite a significant amount and while for some countries this simply means handing over a small sum on entry to the country and gaining a stamp as long as you promise not to outstay your welcome, with other countries such as Australia you also need to be able to prove that you can pay your way once immigration let you through the doors.
When Do You Need to Apply for a Visa?
Different countries have different rules regarding their Visa application process but for all Brits currently reading this, I have found that for many countries today we can simply go online and apply very easily. Not only are many visa application websites now written in a way we can all understand, without a hint of jargon in sight, they are far more user friendly, often setting out clear timescales and provide links to all the relevant visa material you need.
Other countries are also getting smart with the online process, with very few now requiring you to spend months applying in writing and then going directly to the local embassy to gain the formal papers required. Take the ESTA America website for example – you can now apply online and receive all of your visa paperwork the same day for just a small cost. The best part of course, it is completely hassle free.
What Other Things Do I Need To Consider Before Applying?
Once you have decided which country you wish to travel to, my advice is to jump straight online and look at what the entry requirements are. Also, bear in mind that if you are country hopping, more than one visa or certain restrictions may further apply to your application.
Honestly, before even booking a flight to the other side of the world, I strongly advise that you seek the answers to the following questions:
#1 How long does the visa application take?
There is no point in planning a trip if your visa will not be processed in time. Sometimes a spontaneous trip sounds wonderful but if you require extra paperwork in order to enter a country you need to consider the timescales for this.
#2 How long does my passport have to be valid for in order to be accepted?
For example, at present I can travel around Europe up to and including the day my passport expires, even though the advisement to have at least three months remaining, this of course may change next year once Britain leaves the EU whereas if I want to travel to India I need to have six months remaining on my passport at the time of arrival into the country).
#3 How long am I allow to stay in the country for?
For example, in Australia you are allowed to stay in the country for a maximum of 3 months at a time. However, over the 12 month period that the visa is valid for, you can leave the country and then re-enter for a further 3 months.
#4 Do you need to have proof of onward travel after your stated period in a special country?
Many countries will ask for proof of a return ticket or a flight book to another country before allowing access. The idea is for people to leave the country before the visa period runs out.
#5 Do you need to provide proof of savings in order to sustain your trip? How does the country ask for that proof?
#6 Do you have available pages in your current passport to allow for the stamps required?
#7 Are you required to get any vaccinations or provide a medical certificate in order to gain entry into the country?
Proof of Yellow Fever, Polio and Malaria inoculations will be required when travelling to certain countries.
Finally, you also need to be honest with yourself and look at the country’s entry requirements. Is there any rule or regulation that could prevent you from gaining a visa and permission to enter? If there is, then it is probably best not to book that flight, regardless of how much you may wish to visit that particular country.
Applying for a visa is daunting. It doesn’t matter how often you travel or whether or not you have filled in 100 visa applications in the past. The only one that counts is the one you are applying for and therefore getting it right first time is so important.
If you are unsure about anything, gain advice; use the FAQ’s on government websites in order to gain the correct insights into the application process, never assume it will be the same as before, and if you are still uncertain, pick the phone up and speak to a Visa advisor, perhaps even book an appointment at your nearest consulate. It may take longer but at least you know you have completed your visa application correctly.
Are you a frequent traveller? Perhaps you have some further top tips to add. Maybe you have an interesting visa story you would like to share with others, if so we would love to hear about them.
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