Whether you need a visa prior to departure or actually need one at all, depends on where it is you’re traveling to. In the European Union for example, the U.S. a travel agreement allowing American’s to just show up, no visa needed (of course that is depends on if you plan on staying over 90 days). There are a couple other requirements but they are easy to meet.
Other countries, for example South East Asia, will issue Visa on Arrival to citizens from a predetermined list countries and the length varies on which list your country is on. And, it depends on if you arrive by air or land, so check to be sure.
Then, there are those countries that make it a huge deal to enter, like North Korea for example. Like I said, if you’re traveling to places where you may not be welcome (even though all your friends say your a great person) your country is still on their black list. You can get in, no doubt but the way you’re treated will probably come as a surprise. But, hey if that’s your thing, go for it. Maybe Dennis Rodman will stop by to help if you have any trouble.
To be sure visit the host country embassy/consulate
Do you need one?
Like I indicated earlier it depends on where you are heading. The U.S. has agreements with blocks of countries around the world dictate the requirements. Each signatory to the agreement will specify they agree to allow Americans to either enter without one for a specified period of time or apply for one upon arrival. The latter is called a “Visa on Arrival” and I see them quite a bit in Southeast Asia and the duration is normally 30 days. You can check the State Department website or the embassy/consulate of the country you are about to visit to be sure.
Where can you get it?
If you need a visa the process is quite easy. First you visit the embassy website of the country you intend to visit. Once there, look for a visa link, it should be easy to find. Normally the process is spelled out, but it goes something like this:
- Fill out an online application
- Print the application off
- Have some passport photos taken
- Attach any additional documentation (your passport)
- Mail the whole thing in with an envelope (normally one of those overnight or 2 day air) postage prepaid. When you go to the post office, they normally know how to handle it.
And a few weeks later you’ll have your passport back with the visa attached to or stamped on one of the pages. Now you’re ready to go.
While you’re working the visa issue, take some time and enroll with the U.S. State Department. They have a site called S.T.E.P. (S mart T raveler E nrollment P rogram)
What is STEP?
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Benefits of Enrolling in STEP
Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Hey, when you’re overseas, it’s generally a good idea to let your representative in the prospective host country know you’re there. Obviously they won’t be concerned with you specifically but it helps if there is some issue within the country and you may need to be aware of it.
A point to remember, regardless of where you go is maintain contact with folks back home. Provide them with phone numbers, address for places where you’ll be staying. That way, there is a way to start looking for you if the need arises.
Not that it will, but the world is a crazy place and you should use some common sense.