Visa service – How to apply for a travel visa
Visa service is available to US citizens at the embassies and consulates of the country or countries they plan to visit. While there may be some variables that are specific to a particular country, there are many visa requirements that are common to most countries. Getting to know them will make the visa application process much smoother.
Travel visa basics
It is important to understand that a travel visa stamped in your passport is not a guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the country of destination. A visa is simply permission to travel to a port of entry. It is at this port of entry that an agent will review your documents and decide whether or not you will enter the country.
Travel visas are issued depending on your purpose of travel. The most common types are tourist and business visas. Other visas commonly offered include transit visa, work visa, study visa, crew visa and residence visa.
Visas are not a requirement for every foreign country. In fact, there are many destinations that US citizens can visit without the need to obtain a visa.
Travel visa processing
Visa processing is an important service provided by the consular section of an embassy or consulate general of a country. It is important to follow the requirements exactly so as to avoid delays in the process or even rejection of your application.
The first decision you need to make when applying for a visa concerns the type of visa you will need. You may then be able to apply for a visa with a specific validity period. This is especially true for business visas. For example, Russia allows you to choose between a business visa valid for 1 to 3 months and one valid for 3 to 12 months. You then need to select the number of entries you want your visa to allow. Options include single sign-on, double sign-on, or multiple sign-on. Not every country offers this option, but many do.
Most visa applications are brief, requiring only basic personal and travel information. Application forms can usually be downloaded in PDF format from the embassy or consulate website. However, more and more countries are replacing the printed form with an electronic application that is submitted immediately after completion. In fact, some countries such as Brazil no longer accept paper applications.
Processing time varies by visa type and destination. Most consulates process applications for tourist and business visas within two weeks to a few days. Expedited visa service, when available, can be done as quickly as same day or next day. Work, study and residence visas usually take considerably longer to process.
Some consular offices still accept applications sent by post, but this is changing. More and more states require applications to be delivered in person. If you are unable to submit your application in person, consulates allow you to authorize a third party to do this for you. This person can be a friend, relative or travel agent. When none of these are available, you can contract with a private visa expediter.
Visa forwarding service
There are three advantages to using a visa courier. First, you don’t have to go to the consulate general yourself. Depending on where you live in relation to the consulate, this can save you a lot of time that you can use to prepare for your trip.
Second, the forwarder can review your application and documentation to verify that the information is correct. If necessary, corrections can be made before it is delivered to the consulate. Finally, a visa expediting service can, more often than not, get your application processed faster.
A disadvantage of using a forwarder is that they charge an additional fee on top of what you will pay the consulate to process your visa application. The amount is usually not very large and can be a worthy investment if you consider the advantages listed above.
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