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How to Move Abroad – Step 3: Applying for Visas

In this issue...
⇨ How to select the right visa
⇨ How to apply for a visa
⇨ How to avoid scams when applying for a visa

Besides a valid passport, visas are probably the second most important piece of documentation to have when traveling.

Visa requirements vary from country to country and depend upon your nationality. For those traveling on an American passport, visa and passport requirements and travel information for each country can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website here.

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How to choose a visa when traveling abroad

Many countries offer several different kinds of visa options, but depending upon the intent of your travels, not all may be available to you. It is important to consider all options and decide which apply to you and which are the best choice for the intention of your visit. To find out your visa options, visiting a country’s secure government website is usually the best bet. For example, visas for Vietnam can be found at https://vietnamvisa.govt.vn/ .

Overstaying your visa can come with significant penalties, so it’s best to research all options thoroughly and follow the guidelines associated with each visa pertaining to your activities in country.  Some visas allow only one-time entry, while others offer multi-entry options. This means that if you choose a one-time only entry, once you have departed that country, your visa is no longer valid.

Many people who travel between the same area frequently (several times a year) should opt for a multi-entry visa if possible.  If the intent of your visit changes whilst in country, it’s important to make sure you are not violating your visa. This, for example, could be finding work in a country where previously you did not need a visa, or maybe you were only on a short-term tourist visa but intend to stay longer.

How to apply for a visa

For certain nationalities and countries, some visas (specifically tourist visas) are easily available upon arrival, others will require applications either in advance or pre-approved prior to arrival. Applications completed in advance (or pre-arrival applications which require documents to be approved, printed, and prepared in advanced) should be organized through authorized websites and personnel only.

Third parties may be trusted, as some countries work with them to complete the visa process, but thorough investigation is recommended. For example, in order for me to study abroad in India, I was required to use Perry International in order to obtain my student visa ahead of time. While living in Cambodia, I used VSF Global to obtain my UK visa before starting graduate school in London.

For those who like to be overly prepared for everything (me), I understand your eagerness to apply and obtain your visa ahead of time. However, if your particular situation allows for a visa-upon-arrival – even though there are online services offering to issue your visa in advance – it is better to go through the formal method of applying upon arrival. Online companies offering these kinds of advanced visas are difficult to verify, and sometimes you never end up receiving your visa – ever.

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How to avoid visa scams

Many websites exist to scam customers into applying for a visa with them online and expecting to receive it in the mail, or upon arrival, only to be thoroughly disappointed.  I have known cases where people have submitted an application online through a third party, expecting to receive a printable visa back by email, only to never receive it and never hear back from them again.

On the same note, extreme caution should be exercised when sending passports through the mail for visas, as this is required in some cases. Paying for express packaging, tracking, insurance, and other security services are definitely worth the piece of mind. 

Special consideration should be taken with regards to the processing time of the visa, mailing the visa/passport back to the recipient, and the intended departure date. Sometimes visa applications can be rejected and must be resubmitted several times before they are successful. This was the case when I studied abroad in India: I sent my passport via express mail to the visa agency; it was rejected two different times due to the wording of the intention of my visit.  On the third try, it was finally approved and I received it only seven days before my departure.  My very first submission was three months prior.

More often than not, visas are quite easy to obtain, albeit not always cheap. As long as research is done in advance and the correct application process is followed, you are unlikely to experience any issues. But, it’s always best to expect the unexpected, especially if there’s a time constraint involved.

How to Move Abroad - Step 4: Preparing Proper Documentation

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