- Visa (document)
This article is about the international travel document. For other uses, see Visa (disambiguation).
A visa (from the Latin charta visa, lit. "paper that has been seen") is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter the territory for which it was issued, subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry. The authorization may be a document, but more commonly it is a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport. Some countries do not require a visa in some situations, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements. The country issuing the visa typically attaches various conditions of stay, such as the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, period of stay, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc.
A visa does not generally give a non-citizen any rights, including a right to enter a country or to remain there. The possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a visa can be revoked at any time. The visa process merely enables the host country to verify the identity of the visa applicant before, rather than coincident with, the entry of the applicant. Special permits may also be required, such as a residency permit or work permit. A visitor may also be required to undergo and pass security and/or health checks upon arrival at the border.
Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter (or exit) a country, and are thus, for some countries, distinct from actual formal permission for an alien to enter and remain in the country.
Some countries require that their citizens, and sometimes foreign travelers, obtain an exit visa in order to be allowed to leave the country.
Visas were not generally necessary before the Great War (1914–18), but have since become standard, even while the initial fears of spying ceased with the end of the war.
Conditions of issue
Some visas can be granted on arrival or by prior application at the country's embassy or consulate, or through a private visa service specialized in the issuance of international travel documents. These agencies are authorized by the foreign authority, embassy, or consulate to represent international travelers who are unable or unwilling to travel to the embassy and apply in person. Private visa and passport services collect an additional fee for verifying customer applications, supporting documents, and submitting them to the appropriate authority. If there is no embassy or consulate in one's home country, then one would have to travel to a third country (or apply by post) and try to get a visa issued there. The need or absence of need of a visa generally depends on the citizenship of the applicant, the intended duration of the stay, and the activities that the applicant may wish to undertake in the country he visits; these may delineate different formal categories of visas, with different issue conditions.
Some countries have reciprocal visa regimes: if Country A requires citizens of Country B to have a visa to travel there, then Country B may apply reciprocity and require a visa from citizens of Country A. Likewise, if A allows B's citizens to enter without a visa, B may allow A's citizens to enter without a visa.
Examples of such reciprocal visa regimes are between:
- Algeria and Canada
- most CIS member states and African countries
- Brazil and Canada/CIS member states
- Armenia and most non-CIS member states
- Australia And New Zealand do not require Visa's and can stay in one anothers country indefinitely so long as they have a valid passport of either country (i.e. must be a citizen). They can also work in each others country with no visa required.
A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are typically also reciprocal, so if country A charges country B's citizens 50 USD for a visa, country B will often also charge the same amount for country A's visitors. The fee charged may also be at the discretion of each embassy. A similar reciprocity often applies to the duration of the visa (the period in which one is permitted to request entry of the country) and the amount of entries one can attempt with the visa. Expedited processing of the visa application for some countries will generally incur additional charges.
This reciprocal fee has gained prominence in recent years with resentment by some countries of the United States charging nationals of various countries a visa processing fee ($140 for tourist visas, non-refundable, even if a visa is not issued). A number of countries, including Brazil, Chile and Turkey have reciprocated. Brazil requires an advance visa before entry into the country, and that a US citizen be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival—matching U.S. requirements for Brazilians and other foreigners. Ukraine, by contrast, abolished its reciprocal visa and fee requirements in 2006, resulting in a substantial increase in both business and tourist travel to Ukraine; thus the benefits of having no reciprocity outweighed the "benefits" of political posturing.
The issuing authority, usually a branch of the country's foreign ministry or department (e.g. U.S. State Department), and typically consular affairs officers, may request appropriate documentation from the applicant. This may include proof that the applicant is able to support himself in the host country (lodging, food), proof that the person hosting the applicant in his or her home really exists and has sufficient room for hosting the applicant, proof that the applicant has obtained health and evacuation insurance, etc. Some countries ask for proof of health status, especially for long-term visas; some countries deny such visas to persons with certain illnesses, such as AIDS. The exact conditions depend on the country and category of visa. Notable examples of countries requiring HIV tests of long-term residents are the USA (but not anymore, as President Obama lifted the AIDS ban on Jan 4, 2010), Russia and Uzbekistan. However, in Uzbekistan, the HIV test requirement is sometimes not strictly enforced. Other countries require a medical test which includes HIV test even for short term tourism visa. For instance Cuban citizens are required such test approved by a medical authority in order to enter Chilean territory.
Developed countries frequently demand strong evidence of intent to return to the home country, if the visa is for a temporary stay, and especially if the applicant is from a developing country, due to immigration concerns.
The issuing authority may also require applicants to attest that they have had no criminal convictions, or that they do not partake in certain activities (like prostitution or drug trafficking). Some countries will deny visas if the travelers passports show evidence of citizenship or travel to a country which is not recognized by that country. For example, some Muslim countries will not issue visas to nationals of Israel or those whose passports bear evidence of visiting Israel.
Types of visa
Each country has a multitude of categories of visas and with various names. The most common types and names of visas include:
- transit visa, usually valid for 5 days or less, for passing through the country to a third destination.
- airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through immigration clearance.
- tourist visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed. Some countries do not issue tourist visas. Saudi Arabia introduced tourist visas only in 2004 although it did (and still does) issue pilgrimage visas for Hajj pilgrims.
- business visa, for engaging in commerce in the country. These visas generally preclude permanent employment, for which a work visa would be required.
- temporary worker visa, for approved employment in the host country. These are generally more difficult to obtain but valid for longer periods of time than a business visa. Examples of these are the United States' H-1B and L-1 visas.
- on-arrival visa, granted at a port of entry. This is distinct from not requiring a visa at all, as the visitor must still obtain the visa before they can even try to pass through immigration.
- spousal visa or partner visa, granted to the spouse, civil partner or de facto partner of a resident or citizen of a given country, in order to enable the couple to settle in that country.
- student visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country. Students studying in Algeria, however, are issued tourist visas.
- working holiday visa, for individuals traveling between nations offering a working holiday program, allowing young people to undertake temporary work while traveling.
- diplomatic visa (sometimes official visa), is normally only available to bearers of diplomatic passports.
- courtesy visa issued to representatives of foreign governments or international organizations who do not qualify for diplomatic status but do merit expedited, courteous treatment - an example of this is Australia's Special purpose visa.
- journalist visa, which some countries require of people in that occupation when traveling for their respective news organizations. Countries which insist on this include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United States (I-visa) and Zimbabwe.
- Marriage visa, granted for a limited period prior to intended marriage or civil partnership based on a proven relationship with a citizen of the destination country. For example, a German woman who wishes to marry an American man would obtain a Fiancee Visa (also known as a K-1 visa) to allow her to enter the United States. "A K1 Fiancee Visa is valid for four months from the date of its approval."
- immigrant visa, granted for those intending to immigrate to the issuing country. They usually are issued for a single journey as the holder will, depending on the country, later be issued a permanent resident identification card which will allow the traveler to enter to the issuing country an unlimited number of times. (for example, the United States Permanent Resident Card).
- pensioner visa (also known as retiree visa or retirement visa), issued by a limited number of countries (Australia, Argentina, Thailand, Panama, etc.), to those who can demonstrate a foreign source of income and who do not intend to work in the issuing country. Age limits apply in some cases.
- Special Category Visa is a type of Australian visa granted to New Zealand citizens on arrival in Australia to those who have a valid passport, no criminal convictions, no uncured tuberculosis and no entry refusals into any other country. New Zealand citizens may then reside indefinitely and are permitted to work in Australia under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.
- Electronic visa. The visa is stored in a computer and is electronically tied to the passport number; no label, sticker or stamp is placed in the passport prior to travel. Australia and New Zealand issue some visas electronically (e.g. the Australian Electronic Travel Authority). The United States has a similar internet system called Electronic System for Travel Authorization, but this is a security pre-screening only and does not technically qualify as a visa under US immigration law.
Entry and duration period
Visas can also be single-entry which means the visa is canceled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry, or multiple-entry which permits double or multiple entries into the country with the same visa. Countries may also issue re-entry permits that allow temporarily leaving the country without invalidating the visa. Even a business visa will normally not allow the holder to work in the host country without an additional work permit.
Once issued, a visa will typically have to be used within a certain period of time.
With some countries, the validity of a visa is not the same as the authorized period of stay. The visa validity then indicates the time period when entry is permitted into the country. For example, if a visa has been issued to begin January 1 and to expire March 30, and the typical authorized period of stay in a country is 90 days, then the 90-day authorized stay starts on the day the passenger enters the country (entrance has to be between January 1 and March 30). Thus, the latest day the traveler could conceivably stay in the issuing country is July 1 (if the traveler entered on March 30). This interpretation of visas is common in Americas.
With other countries, a person may not stay beyond the period of validity of their visa. The visa may also limit the total number of days the visitor may spend in the covered territory within the period of validity. This interpretation of visas is common in Europe.
Once in the country, the validity period of a visa or authorized stay can often be extended for a fee at the discretion of immigration authorities. Overstaying a period of authorized stay given by the immigration officers is considered illegal immigration even if the visa validity period isn't over (i.e. for multiple entry visas) and a form of being "out of status" and the offender may be fined, prosecuted, deported, or even blacklisted from entering the country again.
Entering a country without a valid visa or visa exemption may result in detention and removal (deportation or exclusion) from the country. Undertaking activities that are not authorized by the status of entry (for example, working while possessing a non-worker tourist status) can result in the individual being deemed deportable—commonly referred to as an illegal alien. Such violation is not a violation of a visa, despite the common misuse of the phrase, but a violation of status hence the term "out of status."
Even having a visa does not guarantee entry to the host country. The border crossing authorities make the final determination to allow entry, and may even cancel a visa at the border if the alien cannot demonstrate to their satisfaction that they will abide by the status their visa grants them.
Some countries which do not require visas for short stays may require a long stay visa for those who intend to apply for a residence permit. For example, EU does not require a visa for many industrialized countries for stays under 90 days, but its members require a long stay visa for longer stays.
Many countries have a mechanism to allow the holder of a visa to apply to extend a visa. For example, in Denmark a visa holder can apply to the Danish Immigration Service for a Residence Permit after they have arrived in the country. In the United Kingdom applications can be made to the UK Border Agency. In certain circumstances, it is not possible for the holder of the visa to do this, either because the country does not have a mechanism to prolong visas or, most likely, because the holder of the visa is using a short stay visa to live in a country. In such cases, the holder often engages in what is known as a visa run: leaving the country for a short period just before the allowed length of stay runs out to "restart the clock". However, immigration officers can also deny re-entry under these circumstances, especially if done more than once as such acts may signify that the foreigner wishes to permanently reside or work in that country. Also, some countries may have limits as to how long one can spend in the country without a visa, further creating a barrier to visa runs.
A visa may be denied for a number of reasons, some of which being that the applicant:
- has committed fraud or misrepresentation in his or her application
- has a criminal record or has criminal charges pending
- is considered to be a security risk
- cannot prove to have strong ties to their current country of residence
- intends to reside or work permanently in the country she/he will visit if not applying for an immigrant or work visa respectively
- does not have a legitimate reason for the journey
- has no visible means of sustenance
- does not have travel arrangements (i.e. transport and lodging) in the destination country
- does not have a health/travel insurance valid for the destination and the duration of stay
- does not have a good moral character
- is applying on excessively short notice
- had their previous visa application(s) rejected and cannot prove that the reasons for the previous denials no longer exist or are not applicable anymore
- is a citizen of a country with whom the host country has poor or non-existent relations
- has a communicable disease, such as tuberculosis
- has previous visa/immigration violations
- has a passport that expires too soon
- didn't use a previously issued visa at all without a valid reason (e.g. a trip cancellation due to a family emergency)
- fails to demonstrate intent to return (for non-immigrants)
Visa exemption agreements
Possession of a valid visa is a condition for entry into many countries, however various exemption schemes do exist. In some cases visa-free entry may be granted to holders of diplomatic passports even as visas are required by normal passport holders (see: Passport).
Some countries have reciprocal agreements such that a visa is not needed under certain conditions, e.g. when the visit is for tourism and for a relatively short period. Such reciprocal agreements may stem from common membership in international organizations or a shared heritage:
- All citizens of EU member countries can travel to and stay in all other EU countries without a visa. See Four Freedoms (European Union) and Citizenship of the European Union.
- The United States Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 36 countries to travel to the USA without a visa. This scheme is not reciprocal as the US does not allow visa-free entry to citizens of some countries which allow US citizens visa-free entry - though some countries not in the US visa waiver program require US citizens to pay a charge equivalent to paying the US visa fee to enter their country.
- Any Gulf Cooperation Council citizen can enter and stay as long as required in any other GCC member state.
- All citizens of ECOWAS member states, excluding those defined by law as undesirable aliens, may enter and stay without a visa in any member state for a maximum period of 90 days. The only requirement is a valid travel document and international vaccination certificates.
- Nationals of the East African Community member states do not need visas for entry into any of the member states.
- Some countries in the Commonwealth do not require tourist visas of citizens of other Commonwealth countries.
- Some countries in the Association of South East Asia Nations do not require tourist visas of citizens of some Association of South East Asia Nations countries.(Except Myanmar, where its citizens are required visa to about 7 out of 10 countries.) - though some members (e.g. Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand) allow citizens of other countries to enter their country for tourism without a visa.
- CIS member states (except Turkmenistan) mutually allow their citizens to enter visa-free, at least for short stays. There is an exception between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
- Nepal and India allow their citizens to enter, live and work in each other's countries due to the Indo-Nepal friendship treaty of 1951. Also Indians do not require a visa or passport to travel to Bhutan and are only required to obtain passes at at the border checkpoints.
Other countries may unilaterally grant visa-free entry to nationals of certain countries in order to facilitate tourism.
Some of the considerations for a country to grant visa-free entry to another country include (but are not limited to):
- being a low security risk for the country potentially granting visa-free entry
- diplomatic relationship between 2 countries
- economic conditions in the alien's home country as compared to the host country
- having a low risk of overstaying or violating visa terms in the country potentially granting visa-free entry
Visa-free travel between countries also occurs in all cases where passports are not needed for such travel. (For examples of passport-free travel, see International travel without passports.)
As of August 2010, the Henley Visa Restriction Index ranks the United Kingdom Passport as the passport with the most Visa Exemptions by other nations totalling 166, allowing holders of a British Passport to take part in the most visa-free travel globally.
Normally visas are valid for entry only into the country which issued the visa. Countries that are members of regional organizations or party to regional agreements may however issue visas valid for entry into some or all of the member states of the organization or agreement:
- the Schengen Visa may be the best-known example of a common visa. This visa has it origins in the 1985 Schengen Agreement among European states which allows for a common policy on the temporary entry of persons (including visas). The visa allows a tourist or visitor access to the area covered by the agreement (known as the “Schengen Area” or “Schengenland”, currently consisting of 25 countries). Those who require a visa to enter the Schengen area, are simply required to get only the common Schengen Visa from the Embassy/Consulate of any of the Schengen countries. After this, they may visit any or all of the Schengen countries as tourists or for business without hindrance. They are not required to get separate visas for all the Schengen countries they wish to visit. If an alien is visiting multiple countries in the Schengen zone, he typically applies in the embassy/consulate of his main destination country (i.e. where he plans to stay the longest).
- the Central American Single Visa (Visa Única Centroamericana) was implemented by the CA-4 agreement between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It is required for citizens of all other countries, eliminating the need for separate entry visas for each of the countries. Persons entering the region on Type "B" visas can enter the area through any Port of Entry. Persons entering on Type "C" visas (issued through prior consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) must enter through a Port of Entry in the country that issued the visa. Once a person has been admitted, they may travel onto any of the other countries and are allowed to stay through the date authorized at the original Port of Entry.
- An East African Single Tourist Visa is under consideration by the relevant sectoral authorities under the East African Community (EAC) integration program. If approved the visa will be valid for all three partner states in the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). Under the proposal for the visa, any new East African single visa can be issued by any partner state's embassy. The visa proposal followed an appeal by the tourist boards of the partner states for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination and the EAC Secretariat wants it approved before November's World Travel Fair (or World Travel Market) in London. When approved by the East African council of ministers, tourists could apply for one country's entry visa which would then be applicable in all regional member states as a single entry requirement initiative.
- The SADC UNIVISA (or Univisa) has been in development since Southern African Development Community (SADA) members signed a Protocol on the Development of Tourism in 1998. The Protocol outlined the Univisa as an objective so as to enable the international and regional entry and travel of visitors to occur as smoothly as possible. It was expected to become operational by the end of 2002. Its introduction was delayed and a new implementation date, the end of 2006, was announced. However, the SADC now aims to have the univisa system in place by 2008, before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The univisa was originally intended to only be available, initially, to visitors from selected “source markets” such as Australia, the Benelux countries, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the USA. It is now expected that when the Univisa is implemented, that it will apply to non SADC international (long-haul) tourists travelling to and within the region and that it will encourage multi - destination travel within the region. It is also anticipated that the univisa will unlock the tourism potential of trans frontier parks by lowering the boundaries between neighboring countries in the parks. The visa is expected to be valid for all the countries with trans frontier parks (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and some other SADC countries (Angola and Swaziland).
Previous common visa schemes
These schemes no longer operate.
- the CARICOM Visa was introduced in late 2006 and allowed visitors to travel between 10 CARICOM member states (Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago). These 10 member countries had agreed to form a "Single Domestic Space" in which travelers would only have their passport stamped and have to submit completed, standardized entry and departure forms at the first port and country of entry. The CARICOM Visa was applicable to the nationals of all countries except CARICOM member states (other than Haiti) and associate member states, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the overseas countries, territories or departments of these countries. The CARICOM Visa could be obtained from the Embassies/Consulates of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago and in countries which have no CARICOM representatives, the applications forms could be obtained from the Embassies/Consulates of the United Kingdom. The common visa was only intended for the duration of the 2007 Cricket World Cup and was discontinued on May 15, 2007. However, discussions are ongoing into instituting a revised CARICOM visa on a permanent basis in the future.
Some countries have a requirement that an individual obtain an exit visa (i.e. permit) to leave the country. This happens mostly in countries where there is political, economic or social turmoil that results in a rise in emigration. Sometimes this requirement also applies to foreign nationals.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have an exit visa requirement, particularly for foreign workers. Hence at the end of a foreign worker's employment period, the worker must secure clearance from his/her employer stating that the worker has satisfactorily fulfilled the terms of his/her employment contract or that the worker's services are no longer needed. The exit visa can also be withheld if there are pending court charges that need to be settled or penalties that have to be meted out.
During the fascist rule in Italy, an exit visa was required from 1922 to 1943. Nazi Germany required exit visas from 1933 to 1945.
The Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies required exit visas both for emigrants and for those who wanted to leave the USSR for some time. Uzbekistan is the last remaining former USSR country that still requires an exit visa (a visa is valid for a two year period). There has been explicit UN criticism of this practice, which can be a means of controlling political dissidents ("exit visa can be easily used to stop human rights defenders from leaving the country"). The last remaining ex-allied regime, Cuba, still requires an exit visa or "white card" to all citizens intending to travel abroad.
Some countries, such as Russia or Czech Republic, require that an alien who needs a visa on entry be in possession of a valid visa upon exit. To satisfy this formal requirement, exit visas need sometimes to be issued.
For example, Russia requires an exit visa if a visitor stays well past the expiration date of their visa. They must then extend their visa or apply for an exit visa and are not allowed to leave the country until they show a valid visa or have a permissible excuse for overstaying their visa (e.g. a note from a doctor or a hospital explaining an illness, missed flight, lost or stolen visa). In some cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can issue a Return-Home certificate that is valid for ten days from the embassy of the visitor's native country, thus eliminating the need for an exit visa.
A foreign citizen granted a temporary residence permit in Russia needs a temporary resident visa to do a trip abroad (valid for both exit and return). Colloquially it also called exit visa.
- Electronic Travel Authority (Australia)
- Electronic System for Travel Authorization (US)
- Entry certificate
- Immigration law
- Travel document
- ^ "Online Etymology Dictionary". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=visa.
- ^ B. S. Prakash (2006-05-31). "Only an exit visa". http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/may/31bsp.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
- ^ Travel Report for Algeria
- ^ CIC.gc.ca
- ^ Armeniaemb.org
- ^ Preston, Julia (October 31, 2009). "Obama Lifts a Ban on Entry Into U.S. by H.I.V.-Positive People". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/31/us/politics/31travel.html.
- ^ Travel Report for Russia
- ^ a b Travel Report for Uzbekistan
- ^ U.S. Department of State, K-1 Fiancee Visa
- ^ US Embassy London
- ^ ECOWAS Official Site
- ^ Tanzanian Embassy in France
- ^ Ugandan Visa
- ^ Kenya High Commission Official site
- ^ Single East African visa for tourists coming in November
- ^ East Africa geared for single tourist entry visa program
- ^ a b Southern Africa Tourism News
- ^ a b SADC moves fast to stamp in univisa
- ^ Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) - Queen's University
- ^ Peace Parks Foundation SADC univisa
- ^ SABCnews.com - Single Visa to be launched for Southern Africa
- ^ SADC – Speeches
- ^ SADC media releases
- ^ a b countdown Single visa proposed for southern Africa for 2010
- ^ History.com
- ^ Encarta.msn.com
- ^ "Uzbekistan: Journalist Alo Hojayev is denied exit visa". 2007-05-02. http://enews.ferghana.ru/article.php?id=1956. Retrieved 2010-04-29.
- ^ a b "NGO REPORT On the implementation of the ICCPR". April 2009. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/ngos/BHRRL_Uzbekistan96.pdf. Retrieved 2010-04-29. Freedom of Movement (article 12): "Exit visas and propiska violate not only international law such as the ICCPR, but also the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan"
- ^ DTcuba.com
- ^ Havana.usint.gov
- ^ Act on the status of aliens in Czech Republic, §20
- ^ Visahouse.com
- ^ Russianvisa.org
- ^ Visalink-Russia.com
- United States Department of State, "Report of the Visa Office", Visa Office, Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division
- United States Department of State, Nonimmigrant Visa Statistics
- Visa (document) at the Open Directory Project
- Travel requirements Passport, visa, onward ticket and health requirements of countries. The requirements are updated regularly by the International Air Transport Association but information for all countries may not be completely up-to-date.
- An online collection of different visa pictures from over 40 different countries
- Europe-wide Initiative for the Freedom of Travel for South Eastern Europe
- Tourist Visa Requirement for Asia
- US Senate raises H-1B fees to fund border security.
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1 Non-member of European Union. 2 Open border with Schengen Area. 3 Transcontinental country. 4 Entirely in Southwest Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe. 5 Partially recognized.
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