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Navigating the Visa Process: At times, getting a visa may not seem very important.
Some countries make it easy for tourists. An article in the Washington Post, however, showed what can happen if things go wrong. A US citizen born in Pakistan arrived in India having departed Nepal. She was arrested and jailed for failure to have her passport/visa. Her case is still pending. (Apparently, she left her passport by mistake at her Nepalese hotel. Since many foreign hotels hold guests’ passport, this can happen if you forget at checkout. If you put your passport in the hotel safe, leave yourself a note or checklist you remember it.)
I had a strange time in India with my own visa. On arrival and departure, I had a problem as my visa was stamped with a special endorsement. It stated that I needed to register within 14 days as a foreign national. Since I was joining a tour for 16 -17 days, I was baffled. I was able to work it out after being stopped at the airport. The only thing I could figure out was the way I answered the visa application. It asked if the traveler were police, military or ever worked for the government. Living in Washington, DC, almost everyone at one time has worked for the government. Shortly after graduating years ago, I worked at two government agencies which may have placed me in a category for government “agents”.
So do check visa requirements as soon as you book. Then read all the fine print! If you are combining business with leisure, the visa requirements will likely vary.
Navigating the Visa Process:
Be careful using Internet links for obtaining visas. Some are not recognized by their stated destination(s).
Review your proposed itinerary carefully. Note how many times you will cross national borders. In the Middle East, I made this mistake. I was concerned about the length of my visa not coming and going. After a short trip from Jordan to Dubai, I found I needed a new visa. Fortunately, I could obtain one at the airport. This easily happens on river cruises. in areas such as the Mekong Delta, the ship moves back and forth through adjacent countries. In South American land packages, it is the same. The road in Patagonia winds back and forth between Chile and Argentina.
Note that some countries grant visas to match your exact travel dates. Others are for a set number of days from the application date. In the latter case, it would be very easy to overstay your visa. So do compute enough days to include your departure!
Navigating the Visa Process:
Before making application for a visa, read the details very carefully! This is especially true if you apply in person. I have found the following variations. First, one country expressly stated that rudeness was a basis for rejecting a visa application. You may want to avoid Monday mornings! Second, another country needed my exact tour itinerary and flight schedule. Third, another country only used a designated courier for visa delivery. If you weren’t picking it up, you needed to have the right account and envelope with you.
A number of cities have international consulates or honorary consuls. For $100-$200 or so, there are vendors who walk through the visa process for you. However, you will still need to follow certain formalities. First is having a photo taken. (Be aware that each country varies in regulations. Some say no glasses. Others require hair behind the ears. The background may also be required to meet a certain specification.) The current process is to submit your existing passport. The visa is added to an existing page. This is different than the prior way. In the past, a visa was stapled in the passport. If submissions are by mail or courier, make sure there is a tracking system.