Visa (document)
Overview

A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter 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
Passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

. Some countries do not require a visa in some situations, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements.
Encyclopedia

A visa is a document showing that a person is authorized to enter 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
Passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

. 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 does not generally give a non-citizen any rights, including a right to enter a country or to remain there. 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. The visa process merely enables the host country to verify the identity of the visa applicant before, rather than coincident with, the entry of the applicant. Special permits may also be required, such as a residency permit or work permit
Work permit
Work permit is a generic term for a legal authorization which allows a person to take employment.It is most often used in reference to instances where a person is given permission to work in a country where one does not hold citizenship, but is also used in reference to minors, who in some...

. 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
Alien (law)
In law, an alien is a person in a country who is not a citizen of that country.-Categorization:Types of "alien" persons are:*An alien who is legally permitted to remain in a country which is foreign to him or her. On specified terms, this kind of alien may be called a legal alien of that country...

 to enter and remain in the country.

Some countries require that their citizens, and sometimes foreign travelers, obtain an exit visa in order to be allowed to leave the country.

History

Visas were not generally necessary before the Great War (1914–18), but have since become standard, even while the initial fears of spying 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 have reciprocal
Reciprocity (international relations)
In international relations and treaties, the principle of reciprocity states that favours, benefits, or penalties that are granted by one state to the citizens or legal entities of another, should be returned in kind....

 visa regimes: if Country A requires citizens of Country B to have a visa to travel there, then Country B may apply reciprocity and require a visa from citizens of Country A. Likewise, if A allows B's citizens to enter without a visa, B may allow A's citizens to enter without a visa.

Examples of such reciprocal visa regimes are between:
  • Algeria
    Algeria
    Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

     and Canada
    Canada
    Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

  • most CIS
    Commonwealth of Independent States
    The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

     member states and Africa
    Africa
    Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

    n countries
  • Brazil
    Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

     and Canada/CIS member states
  • Armenia
    Armenia
    Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

     and most non-CIS member states
  • Australia And New Zealand do not require visas and can stay in one another's country indefinitely so long as they have a valid passport of either country (i.e. must be a citizen). They can also work in each others country with no visa required.


A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are typically also reciprocal, so if country A charges country B's citizens 50 USD 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.

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
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

, Chile
Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 and Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 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. Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, by contrast, abolished its reciprocal visa and fee requirements in 2006, resulting in a substantial increase in both business and tourist travel to Ukraine; thus the benefits of having no reciprocity outweighed the "benefits" of political posturing.

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
AIDS
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus...

. The exact conditions depend on the country and category of visa. Notable examples of countries requiring HIV tests of long-term residents are the USA (but not anymore, as President Obama lifted the AIDS ban on Jan 4, 2010), Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Uzbekistan. However, in Uzbekistan, the HIV test requirement is sometimes not strictly enforced. Other countries require a medical test which includes HIV test even for short term tourism visa. For instance Cuban citizens are required such test approved by a medical authority in order 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
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

 convictions, or that they do not partake in certain activities (like prostitution
Prostitution
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. The person who receives payment for sexual services is called a prostitute and the person who receives such services is known by a multitude of terms, including a "john". Prostitution is one of...

 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.

Types of visa

Each country has a multitude of categories of visas and with various names. The most common types and names of visas include:
  • transit visa, usually valid for 5 days or less, for passing through the country to a third destination.
    • airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through immigration clearance.
  • tourist visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed. Some countries do not issue tourist visas. Saudi Arabia
    Saudi Arabia
    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

     introduced tourist visas only in 2004 although it did (and still does) issue pilgrimage
    Pilgrimage
    A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

     visas for Hajj
    Hajj
    The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

     pilgrims.
  • business visa, for engaging in commerce in the country. These visas generally preclude permanent employment
    Permanent Employment
    Permanent employees or regular employees work for a single employer and are paid directly by that employer. In addition to their wages, they often receive benefits like subsidized health care, paid vacations, holidays, sick time, or contributions to a retirement plan. Permanent employees are often...

    , for which a work visa would be required.
  • 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
    H-1B visa
    The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101. It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations...

     and L-1 visa
    L-1 visa
    An L-1 visa is a visa document used to enter the United States for the purpose of work in L-1 status. It is a non-immigrant visa, and is valid for a short amount of time, generally three years. L-1 visas are available to employees of an international company with offices in both the United States...

    s.
  • on-arrival visa, 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.
  • spousal visa or partner visa, granted to the spouse, civil partner or de facto partner of a resident or citizen of a given country, in order to enable the couple to settle in that country.
  • student visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country. Students studying in Algeria, however, are issued tourist visas.
  • working holiday visa
    Working holiday visa
    A working holiday visa is a travel permit which allows travellers to undertake employment in the country issuing the visa for the purpose of supplementing their travel funds....

    , for individuals traveling between nations offering a working holiday program, allowing young people to undertake temporary work while traveling.
  • diplomatic visa (sometimes official 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 diplomat
    Diplomat
    A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

    ic status but do merit expedited, courteous treatment - an example of this is Australia's
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     Special purpose visa
    Special purpose visa
    A special purpose visa is a visa given by operation of law to certain non-citizens in Australia to whom standard visa and immigration clearance arrangements do not apply....

    .
  • 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
    Cuba
    The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

    , Iran
    Iran
    Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

    , North Korea
    North Korea
    The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

    , Saudi Arabia, the United States (I-visa) and Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe
    Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

    .
  • Marriage visa, granted for a limited period prior to 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
    K-1 visa
    A K-1 visa is a dual intent visa issued to the fiancé or fiancée of a United States citizen to enter the United States. A K-1 visa requires a foreigner to marry his or her U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entry. Once the couple marries, the foreign citizen can adjust status to become a...

    ) to allow her to enter the United States. "A K1 Fiancee Visa is valid for four months from the date of its approval."
  • immigrant visa, granted for those intending to immigrate to the issuing country. They usually are issued for a single journey as the holder will, depending on the country, later be issued a permanent resident identification card which will allow the traveler to enter to the issuing country an unlimited number of times. (for example, the United States Permanent Resident Card
    United States Permanent Resident Card
    United States lawful permanent residency refers to a person's immigration status: the person is authorized to live and work in the United States of America on a permanent basis....

    ).
  • pensioner visa (also known as retiree visa or retirement visa), issued by a limited number of countries (Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

    , Argentina
    Argentina
    Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

    , Thailand
    Thailand
    Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

    , Panama
    Panama
    Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

    , 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.
  • Special Category Visa
    Special Category Visa
    A Special Category Visa is a type of Australian visa granted to most New Zealand citizens on arrival in Australia. New Zealand Citizens may then reside in Australia indefinitely under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.- History :...

    is a type of Australian visa granted to New Zealand citizens
    New Zealand nationality law
    New Zealand citizenship was created on 1 January 1949 by the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948...

     on arrival in Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     to those who have a valid passport, no criminal convictions, no uncured tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

     and no entry refusals into any other country. New Zealand citizens may then reside indefinitely and are permitted to work in Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement
    Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement
    The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement is an informal agreement between Australia and New Zealand to allow for the free movement of citizens of one nation to the other.- Treaty history :...

    .
  • 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 prior to travel. Australia
    Australia
    Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

     and New Zealand
    New Zealand
    New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

     issue some visas electronically (e.g. the Australian Electronic Travel Authority
    Electronic Travel Authority
    Electronic visas are issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to some foreign nationals for entry into Australia. Unlike ordinary visas, when electronic visas are issued, no stamp or other documentation is affixed inside the traveller's passport; instead, the computer-based system...

    ). The United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

     has a similar internet system called Electronic System for Travel Authorization
    Electronic System for Travel Authorization
    The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a United States government requirement for participating travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries arriving by air or sea to complete online the I-94W form in...

    , but this is a security pre-screening only and does not technically qualify as a visa under US immigration law.

Entry and duration period

Visas can also be single-entry which means the visa is canceled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry, or multiple-entry which permits double or multiple entries into the country with the same visa. Countries may also issue re-entry permit
Re-entry permit
Advance parole is an immigration document issued by the United States. It is not a re-entry permit; it is only issued to aliens without permanent residency. Advance Parole is permission for certain aliens, who do not have a valid immigrant visa, to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad...

s 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
Work permit
Work permit is a generic term for a legal authorization which allows a person to take employment.It is most often used in reference to instances where a person is given permission to work in a country where one does not hold citizenship, but is also used in reference to minors, who in some...

.

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
Illegal immigration
Illegal immigration is the migration into a nation in violation of the immigration laws of that jurisdiction. Illegal immigration raises many political, economical and social issues and has become a source of major controversy in developed countries and the more successful developing countries.In...

 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
Deportation
Deportation means the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country. Today it often refers to the expulsion of foreign nationals whereas the expulsion of nationals is called banishment, exile, or penal transportation...

, or even blacklist
Blacklist
A blacklist is a list or register of entities who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition. As a verb, to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize a person from a certain social circle...

ed 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
Alien (law)
In law, an alien is a person in a country who is not a citizen of that country.-Categorization:Types of "alien" persons are:*An alien who is legally permitted to remain in a country which is foreign to him or her. On specified terms, this kind of alien may be called a legal alien of that country...

. 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.

Visa extensions

Many countries have a mechanism to allow the holder of a visa to apply to extend a visa. For example, in Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 a visa holder can apply to the Danish Immigration Service
Danish Immigration Service
The Danish Immigration Service is a directorate within the Danish Ministry of Refugees, Immigration and Integration Affairs.The service administrates the Danish Aliens Act , in other words, it handles applications for asylum, family reunification, visas, work permits, etc...

 for a Residence Permit
Permanent residency
Permanent residency refers to a person's visa status: the person is allowed to reside indefinitely within a country of which he or she is not a citizen. A person with such status is known as a permanent resident....

 after they have arrived in the country. In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 applications can be made to the UK Border Agency
UK Border Agency
The UK Border Agency is the border control body of the United Kingdom government and part of the Home Office. It was formed on 1 April 2008 by a merger of the Border and Immigration Agency , UKvisas and the Detection functions of HM Revenue and Customs...

. In certain circumstances, it is not possible for the holder of the visa to do this, either because the country
Country
A country is a region legally identified as a distinct entity in political geography. A country may be an independent sovereign state or one that is occupied by another state, as a non-sovereign or formerly sovereign political division, or a geographic region associated with a previously...

 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.

Visa refusal

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 a criminal record or has criminal charges pending
  • is considered to be a security risk
  • 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 anymore
  • is a citizen of a country with whom the host country has poor or non-existent relations
  • 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
Passport
A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

).

Some countries have reciprocal
Reciprocity (international relations)
In international relations and treaties, the principle of reciprocity states that favours, benefits, or penalties that are granted by one state to the citizens or legal entities of another, should be returned in kind....

 agreements such that a visa is not needed under certain conditions, e.g. when the visit is for tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

 and for a relatively short period. Such reciprocal agreements may stem from common membership in international organizations or a shared heritage:
  • All citizens of EU member countries can travel to and stay in all other EU countries without a visa. See Four Freedoms (European Union)
    Four Freedoms (European Union)
    The European Union's Internal Market seeks to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people – the EU's four freedoms – within the EU's 27 member states.The Internal Market is intended to be conducive to increased competition, increased specialisation, larger...

     and Citizenship of the European Union
    Citizenship of the European Union
    Citizenship of the European Union was introduced by the Maastricht Treaty . European citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship and affords rights such as the right to vote in European elections, the right to free movement and the right to consular protection from other EU states'...

    .
  • The United States Visa Waiver Program
    Visa Waiver Program
    The Visa Waiver Program is a program of the United States Government which allows citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. The program applies to the 50 U.S. states as well as the U.S...

     allows citizens of 36 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
    Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf
    The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf , also known as the Gulf Cooperation Council , is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and constituting the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates...

     citizen can enter and stay as long as required in any other GCC member state.
  • All citizens of ECOWAS member states, 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
    East African Community
    The East African Community is an intergovernmental organisation comprising the five east African countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Pierre Nkurunziza, the President of the Republic of Burundi, is the current Chairman of the East African Community. The EAC was originally...

     member states do not need visas for entry into any of the member states.
  • Some countries in the Commonwealth
    Commonwealth of Nations
    The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

     do not require tourist visas of citizens of other Commonwealth countries.
  • Some countries in the Association of South East Asia Nations do not require tourist visas of citizens of some Association of South East Asia Nations countries.(Except Myanmar, where its citizens are required to have a visa to enter 7 of the countries that are members of ASEAN.) - though some members (e.g. Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand) allow citizens of other countries to enter their country for tourism without a visa.
  • CIS
    Commonwealth of Independent States
    The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

     member states (except Turkmenistan
    Turkmenistan
    Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

    ) mutually allow their citizens to enter visa-free, at least for short stays. There is an exception between Tajikistan
    Tajikistan
    Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

     and Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan
    Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

    .
  • Nepal
    Nepal
    Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

     and India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

     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
    Bhutan
    Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

     and are only required to obtain passes at at the border checkpoints.

Other countries may unilaterally grant visa-free entry to nationals of certain countries in order to facilitate tourism.

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 2 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


Visa-free travel between countries also occurs in all cases where passports are not needed for such travel.
(For examples of passport-free travel, see International travel without passports.)

As of August 2010, the Henley Visa Restriction Index ranks the United Kingdom Passport as the passport with the most Visa Exemptions by other nations totalling 166, allowing holders of a British Passport to take part in the most visa-free travel globally.

Common visas

Normally visas are valid for entry only into the country which issued the visa. Countries that are members of regional organization
Regional organization
Regional Organisations are in a sense, international organizations , as they incorporate international membership and encompass geopolitical entities that operationally transcend a single nation state...

s or party to regional agreements may however issue visas valid for entry into some or all of the member states of the organization or agreement:
  • the Schengen
    Schengen Agreement
    The Schengen Agreement is a treaty signed on 14 June 1985 near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg, between five of the ten member states of the European Economic Community. It was supplemented by the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement 5 years later...

     Visa
    may be the best-known example of a common visa. This visa has it origins in the 1985 Schengen Agreement among European states which allows for a common policy on the temporary entry of persons (including visas). The visa allows a tourist or visitor access to the area covered by the agreement (known as the “Schengen Area
    Schengen Area
    The Schengen Area comprises the territories of twenty-five European countries that have implemented the Schengen Agreement signed in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, in 1985...

    ” or “Schengenland”, currently consisting of 25 countries). Those who require a visa to enter the Schengen area, are simply required to get only the common Schengen Visa from the Embassy/Consulate of any of the Schengen countries. After this, they may visit any or all of the Schengen countries as tourists or for business without hindrance. They are not required to get separate visas for all the Schengen countries they wish to visit. If an alien is visiting multiple countries in the Schengen zone, he typically applies in the embassy/consulate of his main destination country (i.e. where he plans to stay the longest).

  • the Central American Single Visa (Visa Única Centroamericana) was implemented by the CA-4 agreement
    Central America-4 Border Control Agreement
    The Central America-4 Border Control Agreement was a treaty signed in June 2006 between the Central American nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, establishing the free movement across borders between the four signatory states of its citizens without any restrictions or checks...

     between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It is required for citizens of all other countries, eliminating the need for separate entry visas for each of the countries. Persons entering the region on Type "B" visas can enter the area through any Port of Entry. Persons entering on Type "C" visas (issued through prior consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) must enter through a Port of Entry in the country that issued the visa. Once a person has been admitted, they may travel onto any of the other countries and are allowed to stay through the date authorized at the original Port of Entry.

  • An East African Single Tourist Visa is under consideration by the relevant sectoral authorities under the East African Community
    East African Community
    The East African Community is an intergovernmental organisation comprising the five east African countries Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. Pierre Nkurunziza, the President of the Republic of Burundi, is the current Chairman of the East African Community. The EAC was originally...

     (EAC) integration program. If approved the visa will be valid for all three partner states in the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). Under the proposal for the visa, any new East African single visa can be issued by any partner state's embassy. The visa proposal followed an appeal by the tourist boards of the partner states for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination and the EAC Secretariat wants it approved before November's World Travel Fair (or World Travel Market
    World Travel Market
    World Travel Market is a UK event aimed at the global travel industry. Almost 46,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and representatives of the international media, converge on ExCeL London each year in November to attend WTM. This year World Travel Market is scheduled...

    ) in London. When approved by the East African council of ministers, tourists could apply for one country's entry visa which would then be applicable in all regional member states as a single entry requirement initiative.

  • The SADC UNIVISA (or Univisa) has been in development since Southern African Development Community
    Southern African Development Community
    The Southern African Development Community is an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana. Its goal is to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among 15 southern African states...

     (SADA) members signed a Protocol on the Development of Tourism in 1998. The Protocol outlined the Univisa as an objective so as to enable the international and regional entry and travel of visitors to occur as smoothly as possible. It was expected to become operational by the end of 2002. Its introduction was delayed and a new implementation date, the end of 2006, was announced. However, the SADC now aims to have the univisa system in place by 2008, before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The univisa was originally intended to only be available, initially, to visitors from selected “source markets” such as Australia, the Benelux countries, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the USA. It is now expected that when the Univisa is implemented, that it will apply to non SADC international (long-haul) tourists travelling to and within the region and that it will encourage multi - destination travel within the region. It is also anticipated that the univisa will unlock the tourism potential of trans frontier parks by lowering the boundaries between neighboring countries in the parks. The visa is expected to be valid for all the countries with trans frontier parks (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and some other SADC countries (Angola and Swaziland).

Previous common visa schemes

These schemes no longer operate.
  • the CARICOM Visa was introduced in late 2006 and allowed visitors to travel between 10 CARICOM member states (Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados
    Barbados
    Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

    , Dominica
    Dominica
    Dominica , officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of . The Commonwealth...

    , Grenada
    Grenada
    Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

    , Guyana
    Guyana
    Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

    , Jamaica
    Jamaica
    Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

    , St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago). These 10 member countries had agreed to form a "Single Domestic Space" in which travelers would only have their passport stamped and have to submit completed, standardized entry and departure forms at the first port and country of entry. The CARICOM Visa was applicable to the nationals of all countries except CARICOM member states (other than Haiti) and associate member states, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the overseas countries, territories or departments of these countries. The CARICOM Visa could be obtained from the Embassies/Consulates of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago and in countries which have no CARICOM representatives, the applications forms could be obtained from the Embassies/Consulates of the United Kingdom. The common visa was only intended for the duration of the 2007 Cricket World Cup
    2007 Cricket World Cup
    The 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup was the ninth edition of the ICC Cricket World Cup tournament that took place in the West Indies from 13 March to 28 April 2007, using the sport's One Day International format...

     and was discontinued on May 15, 2007. However, discussions are ongoing into instituting a revised CARICOM visa on a permanent basis in the future.

Exit visas

Some countries have a requirement that an individual obtain an exit visa (i.e. permit) to leave the country. This happens mostly in countries where there is political, economic or social turmoil that results in a rise in emigration. Sometimes this requirement also applies to foreign nationals.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have an exit visa requirement, particularly for foreign workers. Hence at the end of a foreign worker's employment period, the worker must secure clearance from his/her employer stating that the worker has satisfactorily fulfilled the terms of his/her employment contract or that the worker's services are no longer needed. The exit visa can also be withheld if there are pending court charges that need to be settled or penalties that have to be meted out.

During the fascist rule in Italy
Italian Fascism
Italian Fascism also known as Fascism with a capital "F" refers to the original fascist ideology in Italy. This ideology is associated with the National Fascist Party which under Benito Mussolini ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943, the Republican Fascist Party which ruled the Italian...

, an exit visa was required from 1922 to 1943. Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

  required exit visas from 1933 to until its collapse in 1945 .

The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and its Eastern European allies required exit visas both for emigrants
Eastern Bloc emigration and defection
Eastern Bloc emigration and defection was a point of controversy during the Cold War. After World War II, emigration restrictions were imposed by countries in the Eastern Bloc, which consisted of the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern and Central Europe...

 and for those who wanted to leave the USSR for some time. Uzbekistan is the last remaining former USSR country that still requires an exit visa (a visa is valid for a two year period). There has been explicit UN criticism of this practice, which can be a means of controlling political dissidents ("exit visa can be easily used to stop human rights defenders from leaving the country"). The last remaining ex-allied regime, Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, still requires an exit visa or "white card" to all citizens intending to travel abroad.

Some countries, such as Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 or Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

, require that an alien who needs a visa on entry be in possession of a valid visa upon exit. To satisfy this formal requirement, exit visas need sometimes to be issued.

For example, Russia requires an exit visa if a visitor stays well past the expiration date of their visa. They must then extend their visa or apply for an exit visa and are not allowed to leave the country until they show a valid visa or have a permissible excuse for overstaying their visa (e.g. a note from a doctor or a hospital explaining an illness, missed flight, lost or stolen visa). In some cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can issue a Return-Home certificate that is valid for ten days from the embassy of the visitor's native country, thus eliminating the need for an exit visa.

A foreign citizen granted a temporary residence permit in Russia needs a temporary resident visa to do a trip abroad (valid for both exit and return). Colloquially it also called exit visa.

See also

  • Electronic Travel Authority
    Electronic Travel Authority
    Electronic visas are issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to some foreign nationals for entry into Australia. Unlike ordinary visas, when electronic visas are issued, no stamp or other documentation is affixed inside the traveller's passport; instead, the computer-based system...

     (Australia)
  • Electronic System for Travel Authorization
    Electronic System for Travel Authorization
    The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a United States government requirement for participating travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries arriving by air or sea to complete online the I-94W form in...

     (US)
  • Entry certificate
    Entry certificate
    An entry certificate, under United Kingdom immigration legislation, is an entry clearance issued to a non-visa national. Certain types of entry to the UK require the person seeking entry to have prior clearance before entering the UK, and because a non-visa national cannot be issued a visa, an...

  • Immigration law
    Immigration law
    Immigration law refers to national government policies which control the phenomenon of immigration to their country.Immigraton law, regarding foreign citizens, is related to nationality law, which governs the legal status of people, in matters such as citizenship...

  • Passport
    Passport
    A passport is a document, issued by a national government, which certifies, for the purpose of international travel, the identity and nationality of its holder. The elements of identity are name, date of birth, sex, and place of birth....

  • Travel document
    Travel document
    A travel document is an identity document issued by a government or international treaty organization to facilitate the movement of individuals or small groups of persons across international boundaries...


Further reading


External links

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