Travel Visa Tips: What to Know When Applying for a Visa Abroad

Top Tips for Applying for a Visa Abroad

Planning a trip abroad in the near future? Post-pandemic travel is now in full swing. Here’s what you need to know to request your travel visa.
travel visa tips

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Who needs a visa?

The answer to this question depends entirely on your nationality. Some travellers, such as US, EU, Australian, and Japanese nationals have a high degree of “passport power.” This means that they can enter many countries by just showing their valid national passport at customs – eliminating the need to apply for a traditional travel permit or an e-Visa ahead of time.

Luckily, these days, even if you do require a visa for your next dream vacation, many countries have introduced eVisa or Visa on Arrival (VoA) schemes that make applying for your travel pass easier than ever.

Looking for a quick and easy way to see if your passport can get you into your next destination visa-free? Look no further than this online visa service. Here, you can find out in a matter of seconds whether you need an entry permit for a particular destination and how to apply for one if you do.

What kind of visa do I need?

There are many types of travel visas and choosing the best one for you depends on your nationality, destination country, purpose of travel and even the number of times you wish to visit. You can obtain a visa for the following purposes:

  • Tourism
  • Transit
  • Family visits
  • Seek medical treatment
  • Seek employment
  • Attend a business meeting or conference
  • Study at a university, college, or other education institution
  • Join your spouse
  • Invest or open your own business

Many times, entries for tourism, family visits, medical treatment, and business meetings or conferences are grouped into just one (1) category – the tourist or short-stay visa. Luckily, this is one of the easiest to apply for, as in most cases all the information requested comes from you. This includes your itinerary, dates of stay, proof of financial means, etc. without having to rely on the support of your company, university, or sponsor.

What are the options for a tourist visa?

There are three (3) main ways to apply for a tourist pass:

  • The traditional application through an embassy or consulate.
  • e-Visa, which can be requested online and then sent to your email.
  • Visa on Arrival (VoA), which is requested and processed directly in that country’s international airport.

The one you apply for depends on both your nationality and the country you wish to visit.

The traditional application process involves collecting hard copies of all your documents (passport, ID or driver’s license, completed application, itinerary and proof of financial means, etc) and presenting them in-person at the embassy or consulate. A drawback to this option is that you have to leave all your copies at the embassy while they’re being processed – a few days or even a few weeks, depending on the country.

The e-Visa has grown enormously in popularity over the last few years – and with good reason. With this document travellers only need an internet connection, some basic personal and travel information, a debit/credit card for the online payment, and a valid email address. Once your identity has been verified and, provided your application doesn’t raise any red flags in the country’s security databases, you’re good to go. Your approved document will be sent to you by email and is ready to be printed and presented in customs.

The major advantage of an eVisa is that you hold the approved document for when you travel. Although a country’s immigration officials always have the final say regarding entry, if you visit holding an approved electronic visa and a valid passport, it is very unlikely that you will encounter any unwanted bumps along the way.

The VoA, on the other hand, must be requested in the airport, in some cases purchased with the local currency. Some countries may require you to print and fill in a form before your travel and to provide a colour, passport-size photo, while others will ask that you complete the entire application once at the airport.

While still much easier than presenting your application in person, make sure to do your VoA research before takeoff: have your documents printed and in order, and double-check that your point of entry actually offers the VoA (some land borders do not).

So, what’s the first step?

Before you book your flights, reserve your hotel, and fill your itinerary with visits to the must-see locations, the first thing you should do is check your passport. While this may seem like a trivial detail at first, you might be surprised to learn that most countries require a minimum validity for entry and a minimum number of blank pages.

While the exact numbers may vary depending on your passport and the country you plan on visiting, the general rule of thumb is to have a minimum of six (6) months validity upon entry and two (2) blank pages.

If you find that your travel document has no more blank pages or needs to be renewed, no need to panic. Most countries can process new passports in just a few weeks and some, like the United States, offer the option of purchasing a passport with extra pages so that you have more room to collect your travel stamps.

What documents do I need to apply for a visa?

As mentioned earlier, your passport is your number one document when applying for a visa abroad. In some cases, you may have to present it in person at the embassy or consulate, and leave it there while your travel pass is processed. In others, you simply need to upload the picture page as part of an e-Visa application or just fill in the number, issue/expiration dates and country of issue on the online form.

Another important document is the actual visa application form. How you fill this out depends on the visa options offered by the country. While some may require that you print, sign, and present your application at an embassy, others can be completed entirely online.

Other important information could include a travel itinerary that outlines your date and place of entry, accommodation (including hotel contact information, in some cases), and date of departure.

Additionally, you should be able to provide proof of sufficient funds. Basically, this is reassurance that you do not intend on staying in the country indefinitely and that you can support yourself during your stay.

Also be prepared to include a recent, colour photo with a white background. If uploading this to an e-visa platform, make sure that the file is JPEG. This type of photo is often offered in post offices and other mailing centres such as UPS or DHL. Try to resist the urge to smile when having your photo taken, as many countries prefer a neutral expression.

Finally, if you’re applying for a travel document online, you’ll need a debit or credit card to complete the payment. You’ll also need a valid email address where you can receive your approved travel pass.


Image credit: yousef alfuhigi

Will I have to give an interview?

If nationals from your country are required to request their visas in person from an embassy, there’s a chance you’ll have to conduct an interview either in person or over the phone. The main reason is to judge whether or not you’re likely to overstay your visit visa. Help convince them with these tips:

  • Demonstrate ties to your home country (show that your reasons for returning are stronger than your reasons to overstay your visa).
  • Be prepared to speak in a language that’s not your first – interviews are often conducted in English.
  • Be concise, as interviews may be as short as 2-3 minutes.

What can I list as the purpose of travel?

If, like most travellers, you intend to stay for a short period to explore and see the main sites, then it’s perfectly acceptable to list tourism as your reason for travel.

How can I show proof of sufficient funds or support?

Every embassy or customs agent wants you to convince them that you have enough money to support yourself. This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Proof of employment (or COE – Certificate of Employment) with the company stamp that states your position, years of service, and monthly salary.
  • Most recent payslips (often for the past 3 months).
  • Copies of personal credit cards, bank certificates, or bank statements from the last 3 months.

Do I need to purchase and submit travel insurance?

While some countries list this as a direct requirement for entry, others are more lenient and will not mention this during the application process. Nevertheless, even if it’s not required for a specific trip, making sure you’re covered is always a good idea as a foreign hospital visit could be stressful enough without the added pressure of unforeseen hospital bills.

If you’re looking into insurance options, take a look at what our fellow writers have to say on how to pick the right travel insurance.

traveller with luggages

Image credit: Tommaso Pecchioli

Important things to keep in mind

Hopefully, the above sections have given you an idea of what to expect when applying for a visa for your next adventure abroad. For more helpful information, check out some additional tips below.

Think ahead

While applications may require flight and accommodation information, this doesn’t mean you should wait until your flights are booked and your trip is planned to start thinking about your visa. Visit the country’s webpage well in advance to have an idea of how long the process will take and what you’ll need to prepare.

Mind the details

Application forms usually list precise instructions and minding them could mark the difference between approval and rejection. While some, like writing in block letters and only in blue or black ink, may seem trivial, you should take note of their instructions.

Print your documents beforehand

Whether you’re applying for a VoA or hold an approved e-Visa, it’s always a good idea to carry hard copies of your most important documents. This could include your printed eVisa if applicable, proof of hotel reservation or other accommodation, travel insurance policy, proof of financial means, and return flight information.

Don’t forget your layovers

It’s always a good idea to check out the transit visa requirements for any country you may be passing through en route to your final destination.

Don’t overstay your welcome

While this may seem like an obvious one, don’t underestimate the importance of sticking to your approved travel dates. Being caught with an expired visa could lead to hefty fines or even jail time. In most cases, it will definitely impact your ability to request another visa should you ever wish to visit the country in the future.

If there’s any chance you think you’ll want to extend your stay, then make sure you look into the requirements well beforehand. The country’s embassy website is a good source of information for this.

If you like the idea of slow travel and are interested in sticking around and making some money while you’re at it, it’s well worth looking into working holiday visas. For information on specific countries that offer this scheme, check the links below:

Japan: How to Get a Japan Working Holiday Visa: The Complete Guide
Taiwan: How to Get a Taiwanese Working Holiday Visa: The Complete Guide
Korea: How to Get a Korean Working Holiday Visa

Happy travels!

About Author

Tom Carpenter
Tom Carpenter

Tom Carpenter is a seasoned traveller who has spent more than 10 years seeing the world, from the Mongolian steppe, to the fjords of Norway, to the Australian outback. When Tom's not travelling or planning his next trip, he loves to assist others with organizing their own journeys, whether that's recommending the best sights to see, saving money on transport, or cutting back on paperwork. Tom is currently based in Marseille, France.


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