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Exit USSR visa of the type 1 (for temporary visits outside the Soviet Union). Not to be confused with exit visa of type 2 (green), which was stamped to those who received the permission to exit USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship
Exit USSR visa of the type 2. For those who received permission to leave the USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship
Russian empire visa stamp (1917)
Brazilian multiple entry visa in aUS passport, with immigration stamps from Brazil, France, and the United States.
A visa (from the Latin charta visa, lit. “paper that has been seen”) is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter or leave 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 (or passport-replacing document). 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 generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and to remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on the time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. 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. A visa application in advance of arrival gives the country a chance to consider the applicant’s circumstance, such as financial security, reason for applying, and details of previous visits to the country. 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, as well as foreign travelers, obtain an “exit visa” to be allowed to leave the country.
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Visas were not generally necessary before World War I (1914–1918), but have since become standard, even while the initial fears ofspying 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 apply the principle of reciprocity in their visa policy. A country’s visa policy is called reciprocal if it imposes visa requirement against citizens of all the countries which impose visa requirements against its own citizens. The opposite is never true: no country lifts visa requirements against citizens of all the countries which lift visa requirements against its own citizens.
Some examples of countries who apply reciprocity in their visa policy are:
A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are often also reciprocal, so if country A charges country B’s citizens US$50 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.
Entry visa to the West African country ofGhana
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.
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 Russia and Uzbekistan. However, in Uzbekistan, the HIV test requirement is sometimes not strictly enforced. Other countries require a medical test which includes an HIV test even for short term tourism visa. For instance Cuban citizens and international exchange students require such a test approved by a medical authority 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.
A multiple-entry tourist visa to India with immigration stamps
Entry tourist visa to China
Each country has a multitude of categories of visas and with various names. The most common types and names of visas include:
- Transit visa, for passing through the country to a destination outside that country. Validity of transit visas are usually limited by short terms such as several hours to 10 days depending on the size of the country and/or the circumstances of a particular transit itinerary.
- Airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through passport control.
- Short-stay visa, for short visits to the host country. Many countries differentiate between different reasons for these visits, such as:
- Private visa, for private visits by invitation of residents of the country.
- Tourist visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed.
- Visa for medical reasons, for undertaking diagnostics or a course of treatment in the host country’s hospitals.
- Business visa, for engaging in commerce in the country. These visas generally preclude permanent employment, for which a work visa would be required.
- Working holiday visa, for individuals traveling between nations offering a working holiday program, allowing young people to undertake temporary work while traveling.
- Long-stay visa, valid for longer but still finite stays:
- Student visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country.
- 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. Depending on a particular country, the status of temporary worker may or may not evolve into the status of permanent resident or to naturalization.
- 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) andZimbabwe.
- Residence visa, granted to people obtaining long-term residence in the host country. In some countries, long-term residence is a necessary step to obtain the status of a permanent resident.
- Immigrant visa, granted for those intending to immigrate to the issuing country (obtain the status of a permanent resident with a prospect of possible naturalization in the future):
- Spousal visa or partner visa, granted to the spouse, civil partner or de facto partner of a resident or citizen of a given country to enable the couple to settle in that country.
- Marriage visa, granted for a limited period before 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.”
- 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.
- Official visa is granted to officials doing job for their governments or otherwise representing their countries in the host country, such as the personnel of diplomatic missions.
- Diplomatic 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.
By method of issuance:
- On-arrival visa (also known as Visa On Arrival, VOA), 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.
- 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 before travel. Australiapioneered electronic visa issuance with the Electronic Travel Authority for tourists. Recent changes in immigration law mean that almost all visas (including those for permanent residency) are issued electronically by default unless a label is required (for example to board an airplane). New Zealand is now also issuing some visas electronically. TheUnited 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.
This list is not exhaustive. Some countries may have more detailed classifications of some of these categories reflecting the nuances of their respective geographies, social conditions, economies, international treaties, etc. Others, on the contrary, may combine some types into broader categories.
Entry and duration period
Single-entry visitor visa to Canada
Visas can also be single-entry which means the visa is canceled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry, or multiple-entrywhich 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 obtained a criminal record (e.g. in the past 5 years [US]) or has criminal charges pending
- is considered to be a threat to national security
- 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 any more
- is a citizen of a country to which the destination country is hostile
- has previously visited, or intends to visit, a country to which the destination country is hostile
- 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 European Union 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 37 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 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), 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.
- Citizens of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations do not require tourist visas to visit another member state, excluding Burma, where its citizens are required to have a visa to enter seven of the ten ASEAN member states: the exceptions to this are Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. ASEAN citizens are entitled to use the Burmese visa on arrival facility.
- Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states mutually allow their citizens to enter visa-free, at least for short stays. There are exceptions between Tajikistan andUzbekistan, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- 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, whilst Bhutan nationals are authorised to enter India without a visa, but with a valid passport.
Other countries may unilaterally grant visa-free entry to nationals of certain countries to facilitate tourism, promote business, or even to merely cut expenses on maintaining consular posts abroad.
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 two 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
To promote “safe” tourism and save on consular staff worldwide, some countries rely on other country’s (or countries’) judgments in issuance of visas. For example, Mexico allows citizens of all countries to enter without Mexican visas if they possess a valid visa of the USA (on which an entry has already been granted to the USA). Costa Rica accepts valid visas of Schengen/EU countries, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the USA (if valid for at least 3 months on date of arrival). The ultimate example of such judgment is Andorra, which, being inacc