By Jim Ferri
Many Americans and Canadians are shocked to find that some countries popular with travelers require a visa for both U.S. and Canadian citizens. It’s well worth your while to do your homework long before you travel so you’re not surprised at the border.
For example, many travelers from the U.S. and Canada are surprised they’re required to get visas to travel to Australia. They’re also required for American and Canadian travelers heading off to Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, Russia, and Vietnam.
Do Your Homework
Some visa applications are electronic and can be done online with a government, although at times there can be problems. When applying online for a visa to visit Kenya, for example, there were no instructions directing me to return to the site to collect the visa. I wasted days waiting for it to be emailed to me.
In some countries, you can apply for visas on arrival, usually for a fee. Other countries, however, require you to send your application and passport directly to their embassy when you apply for visas. Check what’s needed well in advance since some processes can be lengthy.
Visa Service Companies Can Simplify the Process
I’ve found that many times it’s well worth using a visa or passport service to help with the application(s). They will hand-carry your passport to the embassy and safely return it to you at the time you require. Processing can also be expedited, if necessary.
There are several good visa service companies that can be very helpful. One well-known one is Visa HQ, which pioneered online passport and visa services. It’s a registered third-party service provider with the U.S. Department of State and foreign consular entities, and specializes in expediting passport and visa applications.
Headquartered on Embassy Row in Washington, DC, Visa HQ also has offices in New York, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver, as well as several other countries.
One of the significant benefits the company offers is its ability to allow you to apply for multiple visas on one universal electronic form. That’s quite a time saver since other companies I’ve dealt with required I complete different forms for each country. That’s been a hassle when I’m traveling, as I often do, to several countries on the same trip.
You can quickly check to see if you need a visa and find what’s required to obtain it, by using the visa app in the column to the right.
Lastly, one important thing to remember is that even if a country doesn’t require you to apply for a visa, you may need one if you plan to remain in the country for an extended period, usually more than 90 days. Always check before you leave.