Visa Guide Now

Worldwide Travel Visa Guide Now

All that you need to know about the worldwide travel visa guide. Discover visa types, application steps and useful tips.

What is a visa?

A visa is essentially a travel permit that allows foreigners to legally enter another sovereign nation, and remain there for tourism, business, work, study, or other approved reasons. It specifies the duration and conditions of the approved stay in the issuing country. Visas are stamped or glued into passports and become invalid once the permitted period of stay expires.

Most countries require foreign nationals to obtain appropriate visas before arrival as a means of regulating and monitoring inbound visitors. Visa requirements are an integral part of border security and immigration control.

Refer to visa guide of countries around the world:

⛩️ Asia 🏰 Europe 🐘 Africa
🏝️ North America 🦜 South America 🦘 Oceania

What does a visa look like?

A visa is typically a rectangular-shaped sticker affixed to a page in your passport. It contains important details such as:

  • Your full name
  • Passport number
  • Photograph
  • Nationality
  • Issuing country
  • Visa type
  • Validity period
  • Duration and several entries permitted
US visa format
US visa format

Instead of stickers, some countries issue visas as printed documents that must be carried along with the passport when traveling to that destination.

A brief history of travel visa

The use of visa and passport for international travel can be traced back hundreds of years:

Period Event Description
42 BC0 First travel documents The Hebrew Bible references the Persian King Artaxerxes I issuing travel permission to Judea for Nehemiah. This represents the first record of passport and visa.
1386 – 1442 The first passport During the reign of King Henry V, the English government reportedly began issuing documents to help citizens prove identity and nationality when traveling abroad – considered the earliest passport.
1643 – 1715 The “Passe Port” Under King Louis XIV’s rule, France started issuing travel documents referred to as a “passe port”, likely the origins of the word “passport”.
1914 Visa introduced At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, visa was introduced as necessary travel documents along with passport.
1915 British visa required The United Kingdom passed the Aliens Restriction Act requiring foreigners to obtain visa for entry into the country.
1918 Obligatory passport After World War I ended in 1918, passport and visa became mandatory travel documents required by most countries around the world.
1922 – 1938 Nansen passport The Nansen passport facilitated stateless refugees to legally cross borders and return home after losing citizenship due to World War I.
1944 International Civil Aviation Organization The Chicago Convention called for globally standardized passport and visa requirements for air travel.
1945 Visa In the aftermath of World War II, stringent visa and passport controls were instituted across the globe to monitor mass migration flows.
1995 Schengen Area The Schengen Agreement established Europe’s borderless travel zone with unified visa policies.
Today Digitalization Many countries now offer electronic visa (e-Visa) online, accelerating the visa process.

Currently, passport and entry visa are essential travel documents required universally by most countries.

Visa types

The two main categories are:

  • Immigrant visa: For foreign citizens relocating permanently to the issuing country. Allows the holder to apply for permanent resident status.
  • Non-immigrant visa: For temporary stays in the issuing country. This includes tourist, business, student, and other visitor visas.

Visas are issued by governments for various purposes. The main categories include:

  • Tourist visa: Allow foreign citizens to enter the country for recreational tourism, sightseeing, and experiencing culture and local attractions. Does not permit employment.
  • Business visa: For short-term business trips like meetings, conferences, trade shows, and negotiations. Some business visas may permit limited revenue-generating activities.
  • Transit visa: Permit foreigners in transit to pass through the country’s borders to reach their final destination in a third country. Issued for very short durations of stay.
  • Student visa: Allow foreign students to pursue academic degrees or educational programs at accredited schools, colleges, and universities in the country. Typically issued for the duration of the study.
  • Work visa: Issued to foreign nationals who have secured full-time or contractual employment in the destination country with a resident employer. Usually granted for longer periods.
  • Religious visa: Allows clergy, missionaries, religious workers and lay members to visit for faith-based reasons like preaching, pilgrimages, religious study, etc.
  • Journalist visa: Are Issued to professional journalists and media personnel traveling to report on events and stories happening in that country.
  • Medical visa: Enable ill foreigners to travel for medical treatment at hospitals, clinics, and healthcare institutions in the destination country.
  • Family visa: Permit foreign family members of citizens or residents to immigrate and join them living in the country.
  • Investor visa: Designed for entrepreneurs, business owners, and investors aiming to start enterprises or channel investment capital into the country’s economy.
  • Digital nomad visa: A relatively new category tailored specifically for location-independent digital workers who want to temporarily live in and experience the issuing country while continuing remote work.
  • Temporary residence visa: Allow foreigners to live in the country for an extended but limited period, often for purposes like family reunification, specialized work contracts, study terms longer than student visa, etc.
  • Permanent residence visa: Issued to those aiming to immigrate and settle in the country permanently. Allows holders to acquire most rights of citizens except political rights like voting.
  • Electronic travel authorizations: Some countries issue electronic authorizations similar to visa but apply online. Allows visa-exempt foreign nationals to enter for short visits. Examples include the United States ESTA, Canadian eTA, and Australian ETA.

Visa-free travel

Some nationalities enjoy visa-free access to certain countries:

No visa required

  • Citizens of select countries like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia can enter over 170+ other countries without needing a visa.
  • Duration of allowed visa-free stay differs by country – often 30-90 days on average.
  • Applies to tourism, business, transit, and other short-term reasons.

Travel conditions

  • No visa does not mean no entry requirements – you still need a valid passport.
  • Electronic Travel Authorizations may be needed like ESTA for US or ETA for Canada.
  • Other rules may apply like not working, studying or overstaying the allowed period.


  • Saves time and cost of applying for visas.
  • Makes spontaneous travel, and multi-country trips simpler.
  • Promotes tourism and foreign investment.
  • Improves diplomatic and economic relations.
  • Facilitates trade partnerships and globalization.
  • Visa exemptions make travel faster and easier when available. But always confirm your eligibility beforehand.

Ways to get a visa

Here are some gerneral visa guides:

Visa application at an embassy

Applying in person at an embassy or consulate is the most common approach.

Step#1. Finding the right embassy

  • An embassy represents the government of a country, while consulates are smaller offices that handle certain services like visas.
  • Search online to find the embassy or consulate nearest you that processes visa applications for your destination.
  • Larger cities often have embassies, while consulates may be located in smaller towns.

Step#2. Scheduling an appointment

  • Check the embassy website for instructions on booking a visa appointment.
  • Appointments tend to fill up weeks or months in advance, so schedule your interview early.
  • Many embassies now allow you to book appointment slots online.

Step#3. Gathering documents

  • Check the embassy website for the list of required documents like passport, passport photos, flight bookings, bank statements, etc.
  • Any documents not in the local language may need certified translations.
  • Birth, marriage, or other civil document certificates often require an apostille seal certification.

Step#4. Attending the interview

  • Come prepared to answer questions about your trip plans and purpose of travel.
  • Dress professionally and be completely truthful – any lies could lead to a rejection.
  • The interview is done to assess if you are likely to abide by the terms of a tourist visa.

Step#5. Paying the visa fee

  • Fees range from $25 to $160 depending on the country. Confirm accepted payment methods.
  • Some embassies want fee payment before the interview, others on the day of.

Remember: Embassies may outsource visa applications to third-party visa agencies who will submit everything to the embassy on your behalf.

Online visa application

Many countries now allow applying for electronic visa (e-Visa) online:

Online visa application
Online visa application

Step#1. Finding the official website

  • Avoid any third-party websites and only use government e-Visa portals.
  • The official website will end in .gov or identify itself as run by the government.

Step#2. Submitting your application

  • Fill out the electronic forms thoroughly and accurately. Double-check all details.
  • Upload scanned copies of your passport, passport photo, and other required documents.
  • Application systems will guide you through the steps and tell you what files to upload.

Step#3. Paying the fee

  • Pay any application fees through secure payment gateways using a credit/debit card, PayPal, etc.
  • Beware of copycat websites that charge unnecessary service fees on top of the official government fee.

Step#4. Receiving your e-Visa

  • If approved, you will get an email with your e-Visa within 1-3 days typically.
  • Download and print multiple copies of the e-Visa document to carry on your trip.

Visa on arrival

Some countries allow visitors to get a visa upon arrival:

Step#1. Checking eligibility

  • Consult government tourism websites to see if your nationality is eligible for a visa on arrival.
  • Make sure the airport or land border crossing you plan to enter offers visa-on-arrival service.

Step#2. Having documents available

  • Have digital copies of any forms required to submit on arrival.
  • Carry passport-size photos and payment for the visa fee.

Step#3. Applying at immigration

  • Look for visa on-arrival counters after you disembark and head to immigration control.
  • Submit the application form, documents, photos, and visa fee payment in cash.
  • Receive the stamped visa in your passport if approved.

Step#4. Waiting for approval

  • It can take anywhere from 1-3 hours to 1-3 days to get approval decision.
  • Rejected applicants are put on the next flight home at their own expense.

Visas on arrival are risky without pre-approval, but convenient for some nationalities.

Common reasons for visa denial

Here are some reasons why for Visa was denied:

Passport validity issues

  • Your passport’s expiration date is too soon. Most countries require at least 6 months of validity beyond the travel dates.
  • Your passport has too few blank pages left. Most countries require at least 2-4 blank pages for stamps and visas.

Incomplete or inaccurate application

  • Failing to submit all required documents that support your visa application.
  • Providing incorrect or inconsistent details on the application forms.
  • Not answering interview questions clearly and transparently.

Applicant risk factors

  • Having any past criminal convictions that make you inadmissible. Some countries prohibit entry for drunk driving offenses.
  • Lacking certain vaccinations required for entry such as yellow fever, malaria, etc.
  • Not having adequate travel medical insurance coverage for the duration of your trip.
  • Violating the terms of previous visas like overstaying or working illegally.

Government policy changes

  • Some countries can abruptly change their visa rules or suspend visa issuance entirely. This causes applications to get denied through no fault of the applicant. Monitoring travel advisories is essential.

Visa duration and validity

Visas allow entry and stay for set periods and conditions:

  • Short-stay tourist visa: Allow stays of 5-90 days typically. Permit limited activities like tourism, visiting family, or short business meetings. Do not permit employment.
  • Long-stay temporary residence visa: Allow stays of 180 days to 5 years based on the purpose. These are for studying, working, starting a business, or a family reunion.
  • Single-entry visa: Permit entering the country only once for a short stay. Cannot re-enter on the same visa.
  • Multiple-entry visa: Allow unlimited entries for short stays during the entire validity period. Easier for frequent travelers.
  • Double or triple-entry visa: Allow a set number of entries, like two or three entries, during the validity period.

What is the difference between a passport and a visa?

Passports and visas are different international travel documents:


  • An official government-issued ID that certifies your identity and citizenship.
  • Required for international travel as proof of your nationality.
  • Issued by your home country and valid for 5-10 years usually.
  • Allows both entry into foreign countries and exit out of your own country.


  • A conditional permit issued by your destination country allows entry and temporary stay.
  • Needed to travel to foreign countries in addition to a passport.
  • Issued for specific periods ranging from weeks to years.
  • Specifies the conditions and duration of your allowed visit.

Key differences

  • A passport is for ID and a visa is for foreign entry permission.
  • Passports have longer validity, and visas are shorter.
  • Passports are issued domestically, and visas are by destination countries.
  • Visas specify the purpose, duration, and conditions of visits.

Both documents are mandatory for authorized international travel.

What is the difference between a visa and a residence permit?

Visas facilitate short-term stays, while residence permits are for long-term:

Tourist or work visa

  • Allow stays of days up to 1-5 years for tourism, business, study, medical, etc.
  • Do not permit permanent residence or employment without a work permit.
  • Requires applying at a consulate and having an ongoing residence elsewhere.

Temporary residence permit

  • Foreign nationals stay long-term for work, business, or family.
  • Permit staying for multiple continuous years with unrestricted rights to live and work.
  • Can transition into permanent residence and eventual citizenship in some cases.

Key differences

  • Visas are for temporary visitors, residence permits are for immigrants.
  • Visas restrict employment – residence permits don’t.
  • Residence permits have longer validity periods.

What are electronic travel authorizations?

Electronic authorizations allow short visits without a traditional visa:

What they are

  • An online entry pre-approval for visa-exempt nationalities.
  • Faster and cheaper alternative to visas for short leisure and business visits.
  • Examples: U.S ESTA, European ETIAS, Canada eTA.


  • Quick and easy to apply online in under 15 minutes.
  • Valid for multiple entries over 2-5 years typically.
  • Pre-cleared for travel so no approval delays upon arrival.


  • Not a substitute for a visa – only eligible nationalities can use them.
  • Limited validity of under 90 days per visit.
  • No authorization to study, work, or establish residency.

ETAs streamline immigration for frequent, short-term visitors from partner countries.

Joint visa schemes

A joint visa scheme refers to an agreement between two or more countries to allow travelers to visit all participating countries with a single visa. Some regional organizations issue a common visa for their member states.


  • Reduced visa costs and paperwork for travelers
  • Encouraged tourism and economic development
  • Closer ties between participating countries
The Schengen Visa
The Schengen visa


  • The Schengen Visa: Over 30 million Schengen visas are issued per year. The standard Schengen visa allows holders to visit Schengen countries for 90 days within 180 days.  An airport transit visa allows transiting through Schengen airports without entering the Schengen zone.
  • Central American Single Visa: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua allow free movement between these countries for their citizens. These four Central American countries also participate in the Central American Single Visa scheme. This common visa allows tourists to visit any of the four countries with a single visa. It comes in two types – a tourist visa and a business visa. It is valid for a maximum of 90 days.
  • Gulf Cooperation Council Visa: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) connects Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. GCC citizens can travel freely between these Middle Eastern countries. The GCC also aimed to introduce a common Schengen-style GCC tourist visa, but progress stalled due to political differences between member states. Currently, GCC citizens still need separate visas for some member countries.
  • Pacific Alliance Visa: Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru form the Pacific Alliance trade bloc. Citizens of these countries can travel within the bloc without visas. The Pacific Alliance also offers a common visa for tourists from outside the bloc. The Pacific Alliance Visa allows visitors to enter and leave any of the four member countries. It is available as a business or tourist visa and is valid for up to 6 months.
  • The KAZA Univisa: The Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) Univisa commenced in 2016 between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It allows visa-free travel between the two countries for up to 30 days. The Univisa costs $50 and is available at border entry points and airports. There are plans to expand the KAZA Univisa program across the conservation area to create a common visa for Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Botswana, and Namibia.

What is an exit visa?

If you need an exit visa to leave a country, you must meet exit visa requirements before you can depart. This can prolong your stay and prevent you from leaving when planned.

The countries that still enforce exit visa regulations include:

🇧🇾 Belarus

🇮🇶 Iraq

🇰🇼 Kuwait

🇱🇧 Lebanon

🇰🇵 North Korea

🇴🇲 Oman for foreign workers

🇶🇦 Qatar for certain nationalities

🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia for foreign workers

🇹🇲 Turkmenistan

🇷🇺 Russia also requires exit visa for citizens of certain foreign countries it has disputes with, such as Latvia and Ukraine.

Who needs an exit visa?

Exit visa requirements depend on your nationality and profession in countries mandating exit visa:

  • Citizens of most Western countries do not need exit visa: United States, Canada, Germany and France.
  • Citizens of Asian, Middle Eastern and former USSR countries are more likely to require exit visa: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Oman and Singapore.
  • Migrant workers in the Middle East often need employer-sponsored exit visa to leave.

Consequences of exit visa

The consequences of overstaying your exit visa or leaving without one include:

  • Heavy fines, which accumulate daily.
  • Imprisonment ranges from weeks to months.
  • Entry ban into that country in the future.

These consequences severely impact migrant workers in countries with exit visa. Sometimes workers get stuck for months waiting for exit visa approval. Human rights organizations continuously work to abolish exit visa systems globally. But a handful of countries continue the practice without signs of ending it.