When planning a trip, there’s nothing I hate more than finding out I need to get a visa, especially when I can’t obtain the visa at the border. For many, applying for a visa for their destination country can be a daunting process, especially if they don’t have much experience doing so. You question whether you filled out the application correction, if you sent in all the necessary documents and if your passport will get lost in the mail. Now that I apply for visas on a regular basis, I can tell you that applying for a tourist visa is nothing you can’t handle. Just follow this advice:
There’s no need to worry about sending in the wrong documents if you just sit down and read the instructions carefully. Don’t skim them, but read them a few times and write down exactly what you’ll need to send in. For the most part you’ll need an application, your passport, two passport-sized photos, a money order, a travel itinerary, flight confirmations and a self-addressed and stamped envelope (for sending the passport back to you), although certain visa applications may require added details. Additionally, check to see if you need to apply in person, which is sometimes the case.
In terms of being nervous about losing your passport in the mail, add tracking to the package. Don’t be cheap. Spend the extra $1 to make sure your passport is getting to its destination safely.
Skip The Middleman
Believe me: You do not need the help of a service to do this for you! When you use a service like VisaHQ or CIBT Visas you’re essentially just creating a middle man. They’re just doing for you exactly what you could have done yourself. For example, I am currently applying for a visa for Egypt, which costs $15. The procedure is I will need to mail in a visa application form, my passport, two passport-sized photos, a copy of my travel itinerary, a copy of my round-trip flight tickets and $15 (cash or money order). I send these materials — along with a self-addressed and stamped Certified Mail envelope so they can send the passport back with the visa inside — to the appropriate consulate. When you use a service this is exactly what they’re doing. They’re taking the documents you sent them and then sending them out for you — for a fee of $50+! In this scenario the only thing you’ve done is added a third party to the mailing chain.
You can find the appropriate consulate by Googling something like “egypt consulate in the united states” or “brazil embassy nyc.” Once you find the page, everything you will need to do should be laid out in a clear format. Moreover, the government has this very helpful website for Americans Traveling Abroad who need visa information. The website has a clickable list of countries that will take you to the necessary information page.
Give Yourself Time
Just because the embassy website states visa applications are processed within 10 days doesn’t mean you should send your application out 12 days before your trip. Allow at least a month in case of any issues. That being said, check how long the visa has until it expires. Most visas expire six months after they are approved, which means applying seven months in advance would be pointless.
What’s A Certified Mail Envelope?
This isn’t fancy jargon. A Certified Mail Envelope ensures particularly important pieces of mail arrive at their destination. While you can do this online I recommend going to your local post office so you can talk to someone and know you’re doing everything correctly. At the post office you’ll be given a special Certified Mail Form 3800 to fill out, which also has a receipt for your keeping. You’ll remove the back of the form and place it on your package and pay the required fee. Typically, you’ll pay the price for the weight of the package plus a $2.95 Certified Mail fee. You’ll be given a tracking number for your package so you can go online to make sure it has arrived in its destination.
Passport photos can be obtained at the post office, most photography studios or a drug store that processes photos like CVS or Rite Aid. Passport photos run about $10.99 for two photos (you’ll need both). Also, drug stores often run promotions and give coupons, so check online to see if there are any printable coupons before you go.
Email me at Jessieonajourney (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m happy to help!