Obtaining a visa for the country or countries you wish to travel to is an important aspect of travel, and it’s not always an easy process. Every country has its own visa regulations for visitors, and these can change without much notice.

Generally speaking, if you are from a developing or politically unstable country you are more likely to need a visa than if your country of birth is a wealthy Western nation, but again, there are exceptions on both sides.

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time without a valid visa can have you banned from visiting that country again, so knowing if you do require a visa and getting your application processed on time is a critical aspect when planning your trip.

Below is a quick guide to vistor visas to some of the world’s most popular destinations:

US travel visas

The US uses the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This allows citizens of certain counties to visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa. Since January 2009 all visitors to the US applying via the VWP need to obtain authorisation from ESTA. Attaining authorization from ESTA is free.

For counties not covered by the VWP a US visa is needed. For an independent traveller, the most common visa applied for is the US tourist visa (B-2). This visa will not lead to permanent residency.

The applicant needs to prove they have a good reason to return home (e.g. family, a house, a job) and they need to prove they have funds to support themselves while they are in the US. B-2 visas are usually granted for a period of one to ten years, during which the visa holder can visit the US multiple times, each time for a maximum of six months. Working in the US is not permitted to holders of a B-2 visa.

Canada travel visas

Residents of certain countries require a visa to visit Canada. Much like the US, citizens of some countries are allowed in without a visa, but for Canada there is no ESTA requirement.

There are a few options to choose from. First, if you want to spend less than 48 hours in Canada, apply for a Transit Visa. For longer stays, a Tourist Visa will let you visit Canada for up to six months and doesn’t allow employment, but there is the possibility of extending it. And there’s also a multiple-entry visa, which allows you to go in and out of Canada more than once.

UK travel visas

Much like Canada and the US, residents of some counties do not need a visa to visit the UK. But if you do, a UK Visit Visa allows the visa holder re-entry to the UK and lasts for two years. During the two years each visit must be six months or less. Requirements include proving you can support yourself without having to resort to public funds and showing that you intend to leave the UK once your visit is over.

Australia travel visas

If you want to work as well as visit Australia, consider looking at a Working Holiday Visa. But if you just want to travel through, there are two main visa options.

  • 1) ETA Visitor visa (subclass 976)
  • 2) Tourist Visa (subclass 676)

The ETA Visitor Visa is a short-term visa which allows travel in Australia for up to three months. To qualify for this visa, the applicant must have a passport from an ETA-eligible country. A Tourist Visa can be granted for three, six or twelve months.

Apart from knowing the visa stipulation for the country you intend to visit, also be aware that visa applications can take over a year to process and any problems with your application can cause serious delays and ruin a holiday or expedition. Consider using a reputable and accredited company to help you obtain your travel visa.

Your thoughts on "Travel visas for top destinations"

  • Matt. Good on you. This is valuable information and if accurate and maintained should be highly regarded web site, by fellow travelers. I say this because I have been lead astray by well meaning people offering advice formally and informally. All of which equates to fear, uncertainty and often wasted use of the most valued tool when traveling - MONEY. In my experience check and check again, before deciding which is the best visa for you, particularly if you plan to remain in a specific country for a period of time. If you are committed to set destinations at set times and your itinerary is planned and paid for, then by all means just apply through your agent and embassy well in advance of leaving your home country.

    on March 24, 2010 at 12:41 am Reply
  • Thanks for all the information, I am not an expert traveler and finding this website already helped with some interesting ideas. You guys are great!

    on April 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm Reply
  • Thank you for the useful info. Do you know if there are any age restrictions for non-working visas, especially Canada? As there are age restrictions on some working visas, i wondered if this applied for non-working visas also.

    on August 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm Reply
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