International Travel Visa Advice

Before we proceed, a word to the wise: When I was in my early twenties I bought a round the world ticket, starting in Sydney. The first flight was to Vietnam via Singapore. Rather than take responsibility for my trip, I blindly arrived in Saigon, where they asked for my travel visa, which of course I didn’t have. Travel visa?

Turns out you had to buy your visa before landing on Vietnamese soil. In my case, they quickly escorted me back to the plane I arrived with, and flew me back to Singapore.

Here is my advice for people interested in international travel visa requirements:

Buy travel visas prior to arrival. This lesson was driven home with monster truck force. Ever since that fateful day, I have always arrived with my visa in hand. There are several countries where you can buy your visa once you are on their soil, though I prefer to error on the side of caution.

Understand the different types of visas available. I have seen several instances where someone was denied entry into a country for business, but was able to purchase a tourist visa instead. Some countries grant an automatic visa for thirty days, but you have to apply for a visa if you want to stay longer. Learn the ins and outs of each country, and use them to your advantage.

Expect delays. Ah, the world of bureaucracy, where today can just as easily mean next week. There will be extra charges, fees, delays, bribes… plan your visa purchase at least a week in advance to avoid any chance of delaying your trip.

Unsure if you require an international travel visa? I recommend you search your country’s embassy site, as they provide the best information about limitations and requirements of your stay.

Travel Visa – Overview

A visa is an authorization allowing a person entry into a foreign country. There is a vast difference between a passport and a visa.

Passports are documents that allow the holder to leave the country and go overseas for a holiday, event, study or work. However, entry into a particular country is not automatically granted to the holder of a passport; he or she has to apply for a visa to gain entry into that country. But both are in conjunction with the other; no one can leave their country of birth or get into another country without a passport and a visa.

A visa stipulates certain reasons why a person will be visiting or staying in a foreign country for a specified period of time. It is stamped on the passport and is seen as a supplement to the passport, which is the main travel document. Most visas come with time limits; typically the time limit is up to six months, in certain cases it may be extended if prior request is made through proper channels and with substantiated documentation. However, there are very strict requirements and regulations governing visa extensions.

Even in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not much importance was placed on passports and visas and these were not required for movement from one country to another. Large numbers of people travelled by train through the European continent and except for certain sensitive areas where some kind of personal identity of proof needed to be established at a border between two countries, by and large they were not insisted upon.

Post World War I, the scene changed with geographical boundaries and territories markedly different necessitating the need for regulating movement of people and goods. Before that, movement of goods and people only needed a paper with a stamp of approval akin to a passport.

Certain types of visas are stamped on arrival in a foreign country or through a specialized private visa service provider usually appointed by the consulate or embassy of the country, if a person is unable to appear in person. These private service providers usually charge an additional fee to carry out the process of customer and document verification, scrutinizing applications and submitting the papers to the relevant authority. In the absence of a consulate or embassy of the visa issuing country in a person’s home country, then it may be necessary for the person to travel to a third country where a consulate or embassy of that particular country exists to receive a visa approval in person.

However, such cases and far from the norm; almost all countries have consulates and embassies around the world.

The need for a visa is generally contingent upon factors like:

• Citizenship or nationality of the application

• Intended duration of stay

• Purpose or activity applicant wishes to undertake in the country of travel

There are several categories of visas for travel with different requirements and issue conditions.

Getting a Chinese Visa – Six Types of Chinese Travel Visas

Getting a Chinese visa is necessary for any U.S citizen/resident intending to travel to China. The type of Chinese travel visa that you will need depends upon the nature of your trip. It’s important that all travelers bear the correct documentation, including the proper class of visa, in order to enter the country.
 
Six different types of Chinese travel visas are available. Different types of travel to the country require different classes of visas. Anyone getting a Chinese visa must apply for the correct type. The following is a list of those classes which apply to American tourists and what they mean for you and your trip:
 
1) Tourist visa (L-visa): This is the most commonly applied for type of Chinese travel visa. Tourist visas are issued to American citizen/residents who are traveling to the country for the purposes of sightseeing, visiting friends or family or for other personal reasons. Tourists possessing an L-visa cannot conduct business or work while in the country.
 
2) Business visa (F-visa): The F-visa is the second most commonly-issued Chinese travel visa. Any person intending to conduct business in the country must carry a valid F-visa. “Business” refers to conducting “an investigation, a lecture, to do business, [participate in] scientific-technological and culture exchanges, short-term advanced studies or internship.” Stay in China on a business visa is limited to six months or less. The F-visa does not allow a visitor to obtain employment within the country.
 
3) Employment/Work visa (Z-visa): This type of permit allows a foreigner to work in China. The foreigner’s family members would also be issued a Z-visa.
 
4) Student visa (X-visa): Foreigners who want to study in China can obtain an X-visa. This permit must be transferred within thirty days of arrival in China to a Residence Permit. The Residence Permit is issued by the public security bureau in the town where you will be living/studying. Your allowable length of stay in the country will be determined at that time. Usually the Residence Permit is issued for the length of the program of study. Students with an X-visa must supply proof that they are registered as students and proof of the length of the program of study. Sometimes students can study in China with an F-visa. Stipulations apply and must be clarified with the Chinese consulate. Students are only allowed to study up to six months with an F-visa.
 
5) Crew Visa (C-visa): This is a special type of permit issued only to workers such as airline crews, pilots and stewards who enter and exit the country periodically for work purposes. Extended stays are not usually permitted with C-visas other than those required for work.
 
6) J-1/J-2 Visa: This type of visitor’s permit is issued to news crews and correspondents who come to China for short term stays for the purposes of news coverage/reporting. These visas are also issued to dependents of news reporters and crews working in China. Allowable length of stay is usually determined on a case-by-case basis and generally. J-1 and J-2 visas generally cannot be used for long-term stays (more than a few months.)
 
Anyone getting a Chinese visa must fill out the proper application form. Chinese travel visa applications are available at passport processing outlets, online passport agencies and U.S. Post offices. Those who are unsure of what type of visa they require should contact the nearest Chinese consulate office. Citizens getting a Chinese visa- must first hold a valid U.S. passport. 

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