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Glossary of Visa Types and Terms

“Travel visas suck,” – said basically everyone, ever.

Travel visas are something that touches and complicates the lives of many travellers. For P&P, Eric’s experience trying to get a Tier 4 Student Visa to the United Kingdom was a few months of paperwork, worry, questions, and doubt. While this was a student visa, and it all worked out in the end, it’s always frustrating to continue to hear “visa horror stories” from Mostly Amélie that are an absolute nightmare.

“The best information is often the personal experiences of others and word of mouth advice. It’s good, but it shouldn’t be this way.” – A Travel Insider

Official government or embassy websites are a great place to find the right information you need, the documents you’ll be required to have to apply, and the timelines you can expect. However, finding these sites, and trusting the information provided, is always another question. Even the most experienced of travellers can fall victim to look-alike websites that mimic government visa application portals.

This simply adds to a culture of uneasiness around visas – they are messy, and no one, not even a travel agent, wants to touch them. This is where we come in.  Although visa requirements change all the time for different citizenships (and their passports) travelling to different countries, there are some fairly standard terms that come up consistently with regards to finding and applying for visas. We’ve outlined common terms below to help the common traveller understand the world of travel visas.

Visa-Free Travel

You are good to go! This means that with the passport you’re travelling on you do not need a visa, or are not required to pay a fee when entering the country for travel. However – this does not mean you can stay in a country forever.

For example, a Canadian travelling to France doesn’t need a visa to enter this part of Europe (Schengen Area) – they would just have their passport stamped on arrival. Canadians, however, can only spend 90 days total in Schengen countries of Europe in every 180 day period. So, although the Canadian traveller can “walk in” visa-free, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to be mindful of how long they can stay overall.

You should know how long you can stay in the country, as well the passport requirements. Some countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months after your initial date of departure to enter the country.

eVisa

An eVisa (or e-Visa, or evisa) is the easiest visa that travellers can get. Travellers can obtain their visas electronically before they arrive into their destination by sharing their personal and passport information, and making a payment. Many countries are moving to this format as it’s cheaper and faster to administer and process. Recently, Australia, Turkey, and Vietnam have begun to process eVisas.

The eVisa is granted by the Foreign Government and is delivered to the traveller usually in an email. We recommend printing out your e-Visa email before travelling. The traveller then presents an email, scannable bar-code (Turkey), or is already registered with the country they are travelling to (Sri Lanka). Simple as that! If you want to learn more about eVisas, we recommend this post which includes a list of official government websites so you can apply for your eVisa easily.

Visa on Arrival (VOA)

This means that your citizenship requires a formal visa to be allowed to enter and travel the country. On arrival means that you can simply get this type of visa when you arrive at the airport or land border crossing, as opposed to before you leave for your trip. Visas on Arrival tend to be a full page sticker in your passport.

While they are pretty to look at, you might want to be mindful of your passport’s valuable real estate (pages) and get an e-Visa, if one is available. e-Visas could save you a whole page, since the border guard simply stamps your passport. One tip we have for travellers: Make sure you have enough cash on hand. Currency Exchange in airports can cost a pretty penny.

Embassy Visa

Think of these as the “Classic Visa”. This kind of visa requires the traveller to get their visa from the destination country’s consulate in their home country before they leave. Usually accompanied by an application that requires physical paperwork, a physical photograph, and a headache, this is the kind of visa that takes the most time and effort. Remember, budget plenty of time to get this visa, as they can take anywhere from a few days to a month to process in some cases.

Reciprocity Fee

A fee that you pay to enter a country upon arrival. Different citizenships pay different amounts based on the relationships/agreements that your country and the country you are visiting have with one another. The best place to get up-to-date fee information is through your Embassy to the country you are travelling.

While reciprocity fees allow you entry, they do not guarantee a prolonged stay – so you must still do a little research to see how long you can stay in a country before you would require a formal visa for travel. Typically, but not always, the length of stay covered by fees alone is up to 30 days. Be sure to check if you need to pay the reciprocity fee in advance. Some airlines do not allow you to board the plane without proof of payment.

Loose Leaf Visa

A loose leaf visa is simply that: a loose sheet of paper which provides Customs Officials with information. They are seen as advantageous because it can be applied for and paid for beforehand and they don’t take up a page in your passport. Vietnam issues a loose leaf visa that they take back from you when you leave the country. Be sure not to lose it while travelling, however!

Transit Visa

If a traveller is heading for a final destination country by air, they may have a layover (or stopover) in another country on the way. Sometimes, citizens of certain countries are required to get a visa even if they are just landing into a country and never leaving the airport. If you are flying internationally, be sure to check if you need a transit visa. Airlines can prevent you from boarding the airplane if you do not have an appropriate visa and the appropriate ticket to continue on with your journey!

There you have it. A not-so-quick glossary of the visa terms you might come across. Now that you know a little bit more about the terminology most commonly used, we hope you can travel more confidently.

As always, Happy Waddlin’!
– L & E

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Author

Eric is a Canadian & Hungarian content writer with over 45 countries under his belt. From volunteering in Australia to studying his Master's degree abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, his travel experiences have taken him across the globe. Next to writing on Penguin and Pia, he has been quoted by the BBC, the Travel Channel, USA Today, and Mashable and contributed to companies in the travel space such as Matador, AirHelp, GoOverseas, and Spot.

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