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Insurance Article

How to Get a Visa: A Beginner's Guide to Travel Documents

March 16 2017
A visa stamp

Applying for a visa for the first time? Here’s the info to get you started

Are you all geared up for a trip to a foreign country? Before you begin to pack your bags, ensure that all your travel documents are in order. One of the most important documents you will need on your trip, after your passport, is a visa.

What Is a Visa?

A visa is a document issued by a foreign country, which allows you to travel there. It indicates that you have permission from the government to enter the country legally for a specific purpose. A visa also acts as proof of your citizenship, when you are abroad.

Types of Visas

There are several types of visas issued, depending on your purpose of travel. You can get visas for tourism, study, work, business, or research purposes. Visas also indicate specific dates within which you are allowed to be in that particular country. Based on their mode and the way they are granted, visas are of the following types:

  • Electronic Visa – An online version of your visa available prior to your trip
  • Visa on Arrival – It is a visa that you get at the airport or border when you arrive
  • Pre-approved Visa – The visa for which you apply before travel, which is approved later by the embassy/consulate of the host country.

Besides, there will be times when you would visit a country only once and there will be times when you would want to visit the same country multiple times within a short duration. Therefore, the number of entries (single or multiple) also becomes crucial while applying for a visa. Multiple Entry Visas are usually costly but save you the trouble of applying Single Entry Visas several times.

In this post, we will keep our discussion only to pre-approved visa. Let us look into the documents required and the procedure to procure a pre-approved visa.

Documents Required

To apply for a visa you need to furnish a few or all of the following documents based on the territory you are visiting.

  • Passport and photos – Ensure that your passport has blank leaflet to apply a sticker
  • On-going tickets, itinerary and hotel reservation – To confirm that you won’t overstay
  • Letters of invitation/sponsors – Acts as a guarantee for accommodation during your stay
  • Employment status and proof of funds – To demonstrate your ties to your home country
  • Travel insurance – To stay covered during your stay and mandatory to get a Schengen visa
  • Vaccination requirements – Asked by a few countries. Clarify with your embassy beforehand

Besides these, different embassies/consulates have different requirements and it is advisable to visit their websites to know the list of documents required to apply for a visa. Once all your documents are in order as listed on the embassy/consulate’s website, you can proceed further.

Scheduling an Appointment for Interview

You need to appear at the nearest embassy/consulate to go ahead with the visa application process. Countries like the US are quite strict with their interviews. You need to schedule an appointment with the nearest embassy/consulate before appearing for the interview. However, it is better to check their website if you can get away with appearing, especially if you live far away.

Sending Passport and Other Documents

If you apply for a pre-approved visa, you need to visit the embassy/consulate for stamping the visa. However if the embassy/consulate is not in your city and is far away, you will have to either visit that city or send your documents by post. Once you send the passport and documents to the concerned embassy/consulate, it may take between a few days to several weeks for the visa to be issued.

Visa Services

If you find the procedure too cumbersome, you can avail the services of agencies that specialise in visa applications. They assist you with gathering all the necessary documents and procuring a visa. However, be mindful, as their charges can be quite high. A visa service centre is highly beneficial if you require a visa on an urgent basis.

Is It Possible to Travel Abroad Without a Visa?

Certain countries issue a visa on arrival instead of pre-approved visa as discussed above. Besides, based on your nationality and passport, some territories allow you to visit them without a visa. For example, you can travel to 58 countries without having to procure a visa beforehand and get a visa on arrival with the Indian passport.

Procured Visa. What Next?

Once you have procured your visa, ensure that it is free from factual errors. Check your name, date of birth, passport number, validity dates, number of entries, and other information. Although most countries apart from the Schengen countries have not made travel insurance mandatory to process the visa application, yet it is a smart choice to protect you from any untoward incidents. Therefore, once your visa is procured, opt for a comprehensive travel insurance and enjoy your trip!

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