When travelling abroad, one of the most important considerations is whether or not you need a visa. These entry permits allow the holder to cross international borders and reach their destination.
Visas have existed for a long time. In the past, they were issued by border officials as a stamp in travellers’ passports. In the modern era, it is more common for countries to ask would-be-visitors to apply in advance of the trip at an embassy or consulate.
Even more recently, the digital age has opened up the possibility of applying for a visa online and receiving the authorization to travel via email.
See further information about visas worldwide.
Who needs a visa?
Whether or not you need a visa depends on several factors:
- The visa policy of the destination country
- Your nationality
- The length of time you plan to stay
- The purpose of your trip
Each country around the world has its own visa policy. Therefore, the rules vary depending on the destination.
Certain nationalities may need a visa to enter some countries, but not others. You should check the visa policy of your destination to find out if you need an entry permit.
Most foreign nationals will need at least one sort of visa or permit to stay long-term in another country, especially if they plan to live and work there. If you are an ex-pat in Indonesia, you will likely be familiar with this process.
Types of visa for entering other countries
Most sovereign states and territories have a range of different types of visas that authorize foreign nationals to stay for different lengths of time and perform different activities during their stay.
Countries may have separate visas for the following purposes:
- Medical treatment
In some cases, two or more of these activities may be permitted with a short-stay visa.
For those looking to stay abroad in the long-term, most countries issue long-stay visas. Depending on the destination in question, foreign nationals may also need to apply for a residence visa/permit and a work visa/permit, depending on their intentions.
When thinking about different types of visa, it is also worth considering the way they are obtained.
Many countries now offer online services for applying for a visa or travel authorization. Some states and territories have the option of applying for a visa on arrival. In most cases, only certain types of short-stay visas can be obtained by these methods.
We have the internet to thank for making visa applications simple in the 21st century. Over the last decade, more and more countries around the world have launched their own digital platforms for foreign travelers to get a visa.
An electronic visa, or eVisa, has exactly the same authority as a traditional visa stamp issued by embassies and border authorities. The only difference is that it is obtained online.
Far more convenient than going to an embassy or consulate in person, you can fill out an eVisa application at home on your own computer or device. The systems are generally streamlined and quick to complete.
However, eVisas for many countries are only available to travelers of certain nationalities. Whether you can get one may depend on the country that issued your passport.
Visas on arrival
Depending on your destination, it may be possible to get a visa on arrival. Some countries have facilities to apply for a visa at certain entry points. These are usually major international airports, seaports, and land border crossings.
The drawback of visas on arrival is that it means you have to spend a lot of extra time queuing up to apply, filling out the form, and receiving the visa, and then standing in line again to clear immigration as usual.
There is also the risk that if anything goes wrong with the application, there is no time to fix the problem; you will simply be denied entry and sent home. This is why it is advisable to apply online in advance if possible.
Visas on arrival usually allow short visits for things like tourism and business, although this varies from country to country. They are often only available to certain nationalities, so it is a good idea to check whether this option is available to you before setting off.
Almost all countries have the option to apply for a visa at an overseas diplomatic mission (embassy or consulate). Indeed, this is the only way for travelers of certain nationalities to get a visa for some destinations.
Embassies typically issue all types of visas and are usually the only place foreigners can obtain long-term visas, residence visas, and work visas outside the country itself.
If you want to find the nearest embassy belonging to your destination country, your best bet is the capital city of the country you are currently in. Embassies are almost always found in foreign capitals. However, if this means making a big journey, it is worth checking if there any consulates closer to you.
Consulates are often hosted in other major cities. Although they do not provide the same range of services as the main embassy, many process visa applications. At the very least, they may be able to provide some assistance.
Can I travel anywhere visa-free?
Again, this depends on the destination and the passport. Many countries have a visa exemption policy for certain travellers. In most cases, this covers short-term visits for tourism and possibly business, as well as transit through the country.
For example, US citizens can visit Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa.
However, in some cases, it may be necessary to register with an online travel authorization system to get a visa waiver to avoid having to go through a full visa application. This is the case with visa-exempt travellers going to the United States, who must apply for an ESTA.
So, do you need a visa to travel internationally? The answer depends entirely on your destination, your passport, and your travel plans.