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Everything You Need to Know About Visa & Immigration

What is a Visa?

A visa is an official document that allows the bearer to legally enter a foreign country. The visa is usually stamped or glued into the bearer’s passport. There are several different types of visas, each of which afford the bearer different rights in the host country.

What Is a Visa Policy?

A country’s visa policy is a rule that states who may or may not enter the country. The policy may allow passport holders of one country to enter visa-free but not the passport holders of another country. Most visa policies are bilateral, meaning that two countries will allow visa-free travel to each other’s citizens, but this is not always the case. For example, Canadian passport holders may travel to Grenada visa-free, but Grenadians must apply for a visa in order to travel to Canada.

Why Do Certain Countries Have Visa Restrictions?

Countries have visa restrictions in order to check and control the flow of visitors in and out of the country and to prevent illegal immigration and other criminal activities. Forcing travelers to apply for a visa allows the authorities to vet potential visitors. For example, individuals may attempt to travel to a country with better economic opportunities in order to work illegally there.

What Does a Visa Look Like?

Traditional visas can either be stamped or glued into your passport. If your visa is glued into your passport, it is usually a small document that includes your name, passport number, place of birth, reason for travel and expiration date. Stamped visas typically have less information on them. They usually only have the destination and date from which the visa is valid and official instructions stating how many days the visa is valid for.

Why Do I Need a Visa to Travel?

Visas are necessary if you’d like to travel to a country that does not have a visa policy in place with your home country.  Many countries have visa policies and agreements that allow their citizens to travel freely between them without the need for a visa.

For example, Canadians and Americans do not need visas in order to travel to each other’s countries, only valid travel documents. However, Canadians do need visas to travel to Bhutan, for example, since no visa agreement exists between the two nations.

Different Types of Visa’s

  • Travel / Tourist Visa
  • Work Visa
  • Business Visa
  • Student Visa
  • Refugee/Asylum Visa
  • Working Holiday Visa
  • Spousal Visa
  • Transit Visa
  • eVisa

Things to Know while Applying for a Visa

How Do I Apply for a Visa?

Using your preferred search engine, find the official government immigration website of the country you intend to visit. Once you’ve found and read all the information, including the visa application requirements, fill out the required travel visa application form.

You may be able to send in the form electronically or you may be required to send it by mail. If your destination requires visa on arrival, then you don’t need to worry about applying for a travel visa beforehand. In this case, once you get to your destination you may be required to fill out a visa form and pay any applicable fees. Double check the requirements with the relevant website or consulate as you may need to bring a passport-sized photo as well.

What are Visa Requirements?

Each country has its own visa application requirements. Make sure to check with your destination country’s appropriate government website to find out. Requirements typically include filling out the visa application form, providing your passport for stamping if required, a photograph, and additional documents such as your flight itinerary, hotel booking or letter of invitation.

Many countries also have inadmissibility guidelines when it comes to issuing visas. Potential visitors may be deemed inadmissible if, for example, they have a criminal history, are a security risk, have a serious health problem, have serious financial problems and more.

If you do not meet the visa requirements for the country, you intend to visit it is highly likely that your visa application will be denied and you will not be allowed entry into the country.

Which Supporting Documents Required for Visitor Visas?

When filing your visa application with the embassy of the country you intend to visit, you will be asked to include supporting documents with the main visa application. The following is a list of commonly requested supporting documents:

  • Letter of invitation.
  • A photocopy of the information page of your passport.
  • One or two photographs of a specific size determined by the visa office.
  • Proof of financial support during the trip.
  • Travel insurance.
  • Airplane tickets.
  • Proof of purpose of travel.
  • Visa application fees.

What Are Visa Processing Times?

Every country processes visa applications at a different rate. Make sure to check the government website of the country you intend to visit to find out how fast they process visa applications.

For example, visa applications from Russia to visit Canada take approximately 8 days to process, while Canadians looking to travel to India are advised to submit visa applications at least 15 days in advance.

What Visa Services Does an Embassy Offer?

Embassies typically offer visa application services, assistance and up-to-date information regarding visa and travel requirements. It’s always a good idea to check the embassy of your destination country to learn about travelling there.

What to Expect During a Visa Interview?

Once you have filed your visa application, you may be requested to submit to a visa interview by the country you intend to visit. Most visa applications are approved or denied without the need for an interview, but the visa officer may request one. The following are common questions you may be asked during a visa interview:

  • Why do you want to travel to X country?
  • Why do you want to visit at this specific time?
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • Are you travelling with someone else?
  • Who will you be visiting?
  • How long will you stay?
  • Where will you stay?
  • Have you booked airline tickets?
  • Do you have health insurance for this trip?
  • If you are currently employed, do you have proper leave from your workplace for the duration of the trip?
  • Will you return to your home country after your visit?

What Are the Fees for Obtaining a Visa?

Each country has different fees for obtaining a visa. Check with your intended destination’s government immigration website to find out the costs. For example, visa application fees for visas to the U.S. start at US$160.

 

What Are Visa Processing Times?

Every country processes visa applications at a different rate. Make sure to check the government website of the country you intend to visit to find out how fast they process visa applications.

For example, visa applications from Russia to visit Canada take approximately 8 days to process, while Canadians looking to travel to India are advised to submit visa applications at least 15 days in advance.

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