The world of international travel is complex. Heightened global tensions combined with a multitude of visa options can make international travel both confusing to understand and difficult to manage. The very act of gaining a visa is an accomplishment in itself, considering the difficulty in navigating the convoluted system of visa applications and processing. There are dozens of things that can potentially go sideways with travel and visas. It is of paramount importance that you understand both the system by which visas are obtained as well as the risks. In this article we will tackle the process of visa-based travel, what can potentially go wrong, how to prepare, workarounds to issues such as needing a confirmed flight itinerary for visa approval, and what happens if you travel without a visa or with an incorrect visa.
Travel Without a Visa
Traveling without a visa is entirely possible. Many nations do not require visas for entry and just as many have visa-on-arrival programs that allow visitors to travel freely and obtain a visa with relative ease once they reach their destination. While travel without a visa sounds risky, comprehensive research and planning will allow the traveler relative ease in moving about the world without a visa. While certainly a visa-free journey to a myriad of beautiful destinations is possible, the constant global political tensions always make this a dicey decision for the traveler.
Diplomacy and Visa Trouble
The global political climate is always something that needs serious consideration when travelling without a visa. Because we never know where or when a conflict will erupt, travelling without a visa is risky business. World leaders can alter their national requirements for travel on a moment’s notice in response to global conflict. For a visa-less traveler, this poses serious concerns. Because of this, it is critically important to know which countries currently require a travel visa and which do not, since none of us can predict the diplomatic environment of a region at any given time.
It is an unfortunate reality that political instability can impact non-politcial travel but such is the world we live in. Many countries will deny entry to travelers based solely on the regions they’ve visited in the past. Many middle eastern nations such as Yemen, Algeria, Kuwait, and several others will deny entry to individuals who have even visited the nation of Israel. While there are ways to work around such restrictions, often times the risk is not worth the reward. The research and planning you do prior to a trip should reveal any such tense situations. However, given the propensity for political conflict to emerge at any juncture, it is always advisable to have a verifiable travel visa for safety reasons.
Common Travel Visa Problems
Many travelers are simply unfamiliar with the visa process and this can result in problems with both visa obtainment and travel. Because a good amount of nations allow travel without a visa, a majority of travelers are not well versed in the common problems of visa travel. This is particularly true of U.S. citizens, as many nations allow American visitors without visas.
Visa problems range from simple to complex. For example, some nations differ between travel for business versus pleasure and others do not. Thailand and South Africa require different visas depending on the nature of the visit. By contrast, visas valid in the Schengen region of Europe base their stipulations on time spent in the area, limiting travel time to 90 days in a 180 day period. Some European countries even require a flight itinerary for Schengen visa approval.
This snag that could prove costly — requiring proof of flight itinerary for visa approval is a hurdle for some travellers. Since there is no guarantee that your visa application will be approved, you’ll need to pay for a flight that allows cancellations, which is generally much more costly than seat sale pricing you can usually find. Thankfully there are companies that do offer flight visa reservation services at a fraction of the cost, ensuring you are able to provide proof of flight itinerary for visa approval without actually having to commit to booking the flight.
Other common problems include the average processing time for receiving visa approval, which can fluctuate based on when and where you apply. Many times visa-related problems are of the most rudimentary nature, like sending in the wrong amount of money or failing to sign the documents appropriately.
The only proven way to circumvent potential problems is through thorough research and planning. For U.S. citizens, international travel is generally straightforward however knowing the rules and regulations of the countries you plan to visit can greatly facilitate smooth travel, and knowing if you need a flight reservation for visa approval is paramount.
If you are planning to apply for a visa in order to travel internationally, it is wise to know beforehand what types of issues can result in visa denial. Instead of wasting your time and money while waiting for the clerical process to play out, educate yourself beforehand on the likelihood that your visa will be approved.
Visas can be denied for all kinds of reasons, some just and others questionable. Criminal records and previous violations of domestic immigrant policies are surefire ways to have your visa application denied. Overt fraud and even unintentional errors in the paperwork which may be perceived as attempted fraud can also result in denial. Before you apply for your visa, be sure you understand the possible pitfalls of visa obtainment relative to your own personal situation.
Traveling with the Wrong Visa
Another common issue that can present itself as a result of visa-based travel is finding out that you have the wrong visa. While many instances of this are correctable even in foreign locations through your own national consulate, there are some nations to be wary of in such cases. Certain nations, like China for instance, have strict punishments in place for travelers found in violation of their visa laws. Even in scenarios where the mistake in visa type is a result of human error, computer error, or just a clerical oversight, the penalties for carrying a wrong visa type or expired visa can be steep.
Obviously, such repercussions vary by nation. However, when visiting regions with established strictness in governance, it cannot be emphasized enough to be clear on the visa requirements and how your visa fits into their system of admittance.
Avoiding Travel Visa Issues
There are a number of proactive steps you can take to ensure your visa travel goes off flawlessly. Always be crystal clear on the type of your visa and the expiration period. Simply overstaying your visa validity date can have severe consequences. Have a clear and recent picture. Most nations are quite specific on photo requirements so be sure to take a visa photo that is you, without any fashion accessories that could obstruct the “you-ness” of the image like sunglasses, hats, or extravagant jewelry. Also, ensure that if it is required that you secure a confirmed flight itinerary for visa approval. Most importantly, remember that just because you have a visa does not mean you will be granted unencumbered access. Ultimately it is those manning the entry point who will decide whether your admittance is permitted. A visa allows for entry but does not promise it.
In sum, navigating the visa process is difficult and time-consuming however few things are more important when it comes to international travel. Safety and security should always be your top concern and understanding the visa process and the possible consequences is chiefly important before setting out on your journey. Visas by definition are obstacles to last-minute travel and are designed to prevent it. To put a positive spin on it, visas strongly encourage planning. Be diligent and comprehensive because obtaining a visa is only half the battle. You need to know exactly how travel by nation can influence it and vice versa.