The word visa originates from Modern Latin “charta visa,” which means verified paper or translated into “paper that has to be seen.” Previously, visas were separate documents that went hand in hand with the passport during international travel, but nowadays, most visas are stamps or stickers attached to your passport.
Here is a brief history of how travel documents began:
|420 BC.||First travel documents||The first mention of traveling documents (passport and a visa) in the Hebrew Bible when Nehemiah, who was under the service of the Persian King Artaxerxes I, asked for a travel passage to Judea (region in Jerusalem).|
|1386-1442||The first passport||The reign of King Henry the V— who is credited with creating the first passport.|
|1643-1715||The “Passe port”||The reign of King Louis XIV of France (the Sun King), who liked to issue personally signed travel documents he called “passe port”— although there is still much debate where the name “passport” originates from.|
|1918 –||Obligatory passport||At the end of the First World War, passports became obligatory documents for international travels and were often accompanied by visas.|
|1922 – 1938||Nansen passport||The League of Nations in Paris established the Nansen passport to combat the loss of nationality that many refugees experienced after WWI.|
|1945 –||Visas||At the end of the Second World War, there was a heavy surge of migration worldwide, requiring stricter border patrol. Both travel documents, visas, and passports were mandatory in most cases for international travel.|
Nowadays, as an identification document, you must have a valid passport issued by your home country when you travel internationally. Travelling visas, issued by your destination country, are considered an essential tool in migration control.
Some of the common visa types by purpose of travel include:
Not everyone requires a visa to travel. Many countries have visa waiver agreements, which means they allow citizens of a select few countries to enter visa-free for short trips. Passport holders of Western countries (such as the U.S., Australia, Canada, and the EU States) can travel to most places without a visa.
The allowed time for visa-free stays is short; it ranges from a few days to a few months. Regardless of your nationality, you should check your visa requirements before traveling.
When you are visiting a country without a visa, you cannot work or sell any goods or services.
Most commonly, you apply for a visa through one of the following ways:
The method of application depends on the specific country and your nationality. You should never travel without checking your visa requirements.
In most cases, you can apply for a visa at the embassy or consulate of the country you want to visit. You will have to:
The consular officers will review your application and decide whether to grant you a visa or not. Depending on the visa type, it could take several days to several months to process your application.
Sometimes, embassies or consulates will outsource visa submissions to private travel agencies. This means the agency collects your documents and sends them to the embassy/consulate, which then makes the decision.
You can also apply for a visa online. Electronic (online) visas are usually issued as printable documents and are not pasted onto your passport. If a country issues electronic visas, then there will be an official application website, where you can:
Make sure that the website you are applying through is the official website, as you may have to provide personal information during the application and even pay a fee.
It can take a few minutes to several days to hear a decision on your visa application.
You can apply for a visa at the airport or other point of entry of the country you are traveling to. This is known as a visa on arrival (VOA). In these cases, there will be visa counters at the point of entry, where you have to apply, pay a fee, and then wait for the decision to be made before you can pass through. Depending on the country, it could take from a few minutes to a few hours.
Not all countries issue visas on arrival.
Even countries that issue VOAs usually limit them only to certain nationalities.
Visas on arrival are usually only available at certain airports or entry points.
These are some of the most common reasons why your visa application may be denied:
Electronic travel authorizations are entry requirements for nationals who do not need a visa for a specific country. They can be easily obtained online for a small fee, and are valid for long periods of time. The following are examples of electronic travel authorizations:
Electronic travel authorizations are not actual visas and their purpose is to simply keep track of who enters and leaves a country. Because of this, it is unlikely that an application will be rejected.
Some countries that are a part of a regional organization issue a common visa for all organization member states. Some of the most well known common visas include:
In addition to joint visa schemes, one visa issued by another country will allow you to travel visa-free to multiple countries. For example, if you have a valid US visa, you can also visit Costa Rica, Mexico, the British Virgin Islands, and several other countries as well.