The dreaded travel sentence, “Visa required for travel to this country”. I understand the necessity for visas, but they can be a pain in the you know what. Some are simple, some are not. Having studied and worked in various countries around the world means I’ve faced my fair share of visas, and consequently my fair share of issues with them. But I have lived and learned, and now can provide my best tips for dealing with this modern-day reality of travel, from simple visitor visas to complicated working visas.
1. Check the visa requirements BEFORE booking your trip
We are often eager to book a trip, only to realise, after the fact, that we need a visa to visit the country and we might not get in time, or worse, might not meet all the requirements. It has happened to almost all travellers, including myself. Trust me, it is worth checking the requirements for travel to your desired destination before anything is booked.
I start by checking my government’s travel information website. This usually gives me a good idea of what is required. I then check the destination’s government website to confirm what is required and how to proceed with fulfilling my visa application. Additionally, my boyfriend told me about a service that streamlines the process for you, at a premium though.
2. Get organised
Once I know I need a visa, I make a list of what is required for said visa. It is important to be organised during the application process, as one missed tick of a box or wrong form of payment can mean starting all over again, possibly delaying your trip. Most visa applications these days have checklists of their own.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Even if a checklist is provided, you might still have questions about the requirements, all that legal talk can be confusing. After all, you want to get it right the first time. Sometimes you can call the visa department of the relevant government, but time zones, long distance phone charges, and language barriers do not make this ideal. I suggest calling or emailing the embassy or consulate of the destination’s country in your country. Even better, checking to see if walk-ins are accepted, you might be close enough to visit said embassy or consulate. However, some larger countries that are inundated with visa applications everyday, ahem United Kingdom, don’t make it easy to seek assistance. During times like these, it might help to employ an immigration lawyer, depending on the expense and complication of your application; usually both go hand in hand.
4. Make copies of everything
Even though your visa application is complete, double (triple) checked, and ready to submit, the process is not complete. Ensure you have made copies of everything, from your actual application form, to copies of your police and health checks, even a copy of the payment.
5. Check your visa once it is granted
It happens, despite your best efforts to provide all the correct information, you can receive an incorrect visa. Trust me, I was granted a student visa, only to receive someone else’s visa in my passport, it had my correct name, but everything else was completely wrong. This is when those copies come in handy. If the visa you received does not match the information you provided, there is usually contact information provided to rectify the problem.
Finally, as a rule of thumb, ensure your passport is valid for at least SIX months AFTER your return date of travel. For some countries, this is not required, it might be three months instead, and for other countries, it is recommended, but you can pretty much interpret recommended as required, ahem Mauritius (don’t ask). I know it sucks that your passport is really only valid 4.5 or 9.5 years instead of the full 5 or 10. Just keep track of that expiration date and renew your passport when it approaches its last six months, especially for peace of mind for those last minute vacations.
Note: I do not represent any government agency and therefore I am not an expert about visas. The above is simply based on my experience with various visas.