When do you need a travel visa?

A visa is an official document that gives the traveler permission to enter a country for a certain amount of time. A passport is a government document proving your citizenship and identity. If a passport is your school ID, a visa would be your hall pass. The difficult part is, sometimes you need a hall pass while other times you do not. So how do you determine when a visa is needed?

The quick answer? Use this list of countries and visa requirements for US citizens: https://cibtvisas.com/visa-quick-check.

You can also visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages.html and enter the name of the country you are visiting in the search bar. You will then see a page that quickly outlines what will be needed for a US citizen to travel there.

Each country that requires US citizens to have a visa can vary in requirements, ways to obtain the visa, how long it may take, and associated costs. Sometimes you are able to apply online and sometimes an appointment might be required at an embassy or consulate. For some countries, you can even obtain a visa upon arrival, although it is recommended to obtain your visa in advance. The CIBT link above will explain the process for each country and for many you can even begin the application process right from their website.

Documentation such as the following may be required in addition to an application fee:

  • Letter of invitation (business travel)
  • A photocopy of the information page of a valid passport
  • One or two photographs of a specific size determined by the visa office
  • Proof of financial support during the trip
  • Travel Insurance if required by the country
  • Airplane tickets, hotel reservations
  • Proof of purpose of travel

Land vs. Sea

Some countries have different requirements for land/air arrivals than they do for cruise ship passengers arriving at the country via port. Read more about Countries That Require Visas for a Cruise and how some cruise lines assist passengers with necessary visas before their cruise or on board.

Upcoming European Regulations for US Citizens

The Schengen Area of Europe will require US travelers to register within the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) beginning in 2021. But don’t panic! It is not a full visa, the application is short and available online, the cost is only about €7, and it lasts for 3 years. The Schengen area actually already requires citizens from 105 countries to obtain a full visa to travel there, so the process will comparatively be quite simple for US travelers.

The 26 countries of the Schengen area include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

When you book your travel plans and flights with Van Zile Travel, obtaining your visa is a service we provide.


For more travel articles please subscribe to our weekly newsletter, The Van Zile Traveler.

Written by Carol Gabbert, Van Zile Travel

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