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Visa (document)

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Visa (document)

A United States visa. Issued by the Consulate General of the United States of America in Milan, Italy. (2014)
Exit USSR visa of type 1 (for temporary visits outside the Soviet Union). Not to be confused with exit visa of type 2 (green), which was stamped to those who received the permission to exit the USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship.
Exit USSR visa of type 2. For those who received permission to leave the USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship.
Russian empire visa stamp (1917).
Brazilian multiple entry visa in a United States passport, with immigration stamps from Brazil, France, and the United States.

A visa (from the Latin charta visa, meaning "paper which has been seen"),[1] is a conditional authorization granted by a country to a noncitizen to enter and temporarily remain within that country. Visas typically include limits on the duration of the noncitizen's stay, territory within the country they may enter, the dates they may enter, or the number of permitted visits. Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter a country and thus are, in some countries, distinct from actual formal permission for an alien to enter and remain in the country. In each instance, a visa is subject to permission by an immigration official at the time of actual entry and can be revoked at any time.

A visa is commonly a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport or other travel document. The visa, when required, was historically granted by an immigration official on a visitor's arrival at the frontiers of a country, but increasingly today a traveller wishing to enter another country must apply in advance for a visa, sometimes in person at a consular office, by mail or over the internet. The actual visa may still be an endorsement in the passport or may take the form of a document or an electronic record of the authorisation, which the applicant can print before leaving home and produce on entry to the host country. Some countries do not require visas for short visits.

Some countries require that their citizens, as well as foreign travelers, obtain an "exit visa" to be allowed to leave the country.[2]


  • Overview 1
  • History 2
  • Conditions of issue 3
  • Types 4
  • Entry and duration period 5
  • Visa extensions 6
    • Visa run 6.1
  • Visa refusal 7
  • Visa policies 8
  • Visa exemption agreements 9
  • Common visas 10
    • Previous common visa schemes 10.1
  • Exit visas 11
  • Visa restrictions 12
  • See also 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16


A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and to remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on the time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. Some countries do not require a visa in some situations, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements. The possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a visa can be revoked at any time.

A visa application in advance of arrival gives the country a chance to consider the applicant's circumstance, such as financial security, reason for applying, and details of previous visits to the country. A visitor may also be required to undergo and pass security and/or health checks upon arrival at the border.


In Western Europe in the late 19th century and early 20th century, passports and visas were not generally necessary for moving from one country to another. The relatively high speed and large movement of people traveling by train (the closest modern analogy would be commercial supersonic flights) would cause bottlenecks if a regular passport control were used.[3] Passports and visas became usually necessary travel documents only since World War I.

Long before that, in ancient times, passports and visas were usually the same type of travel documents. In the modern world, visas have become separate secondary travel documents, with passports acting as the primary travel documents.

Conditions of issue

Some visas can be granted on arrival or by prior application at the country's embassy or consulate, or through a private visa service specialist who is specialized in the issuance of international travel documents. These agencies are authorized by the foreign authority, embassy, or consulate to represent international travelers who are unable or unwilling to travel to the embassy and apply in person. Private visa and passport services collect an additional fee for verifying customer applications, supporting documents, and submitting them to the appropriate authority. If there is no embassy or consulate in one's home country, then one would have to travel to a third country (or apply by post) and try to get a visa issued there. The need or absence of need of a visa generally depends on the citizenship of the applicant, the intended duration of the stay, and the activities that the applicant may wish to undertake in the country he visits; these may delineate different formal categories of visas, with different issue conditions.

  Countries that issue visas or permits on arrival as a general rule for all arriving visitors
  Countries that issue visas or permits on arrival to a selected group of nationalities (more than 10)

The issuing authority, usually a branch of the country's foreign ministry or department (e.g. U.S. State Department), and typically consular affairs officers, may request appropriate documentation from the applicant. This may include proof that the applicant is able to support himself in the host country (lodging, food), proof that the person hosting the applicant in his or her home really exists and has sufficient room for hosting the applicant, proof that the applicant has obtained health and evacuation insurance, etc. Some countries ask for proof of health status, especially for long-term visas; some countries deny such visas to persons with certain illnesses, such as AIDS. The exact conditions depend on the country and category of visa. Notable examples of countries requiring HIV tests of long-term residents are Russia[4] and Uzbekistan.[5] However, in Uzbekistan, the HIV test requirement is sometimes not strictly enforced.[5] Other countries require a medical test which includes an HIV test even for short term tourism visa. For instance Cuban citizens and international exchange students require such a test approved by a medical authority to enter Chilean territory.

The issuing authority may also require applicants to attest that they have had no criminal convictions, or that they do not partake in certain activities (like prostitution or drug trafficking). Some countries will deny visas if the travelers passports show evidence of citizenship or travel to a country which is considered hostile by that country. For example, some Arabic oriented countries will not issue visas to nationals of Israel and those whose passports bear evidence of visiting Israel.

Many countries frequently demand strong evidence of intent to return to the home country, if the visa is for a temporary stay, due to potential unwanted illegal immigration.


Entry tourist visa to the People's Republic of China.
Transit visa, issued by Chiune Sugihara to Susan Bluman.

Each country has a multitude of categories of visas and with various names. The most common types and names of visas include:

By purpose:

  • Transit visa, for passing through the country to a destination outside that country. Validity of transit visas are usually limited by short terms such as several hours to 10 days depending on the size of the country and/or the circumstances of a particular transit itinerary.
    • Airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through passport control.
    • Crew member, steward or driver visa, issued to persons employed or trained on aircraft, vessels, trains, trucks, buses and any other means of international transportation, or ships fishing in international waters.
  • Short-stay or visitor visa, for short visits to the host country. Many countries differentiate between different reasons for these visits, such as:
    • Private visa, for private visits by invitation of residents of the country.
    • Tourist visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed.
    • Visa for medical reasons, for undertaking diagnostics or a course of treatment in the host country's hospitals.
    • Business visa, for engaging in commerce in the country. These visas generally preclude permanent employment, for which a work visa would be required.
    • Working holiday visa, for individuals traveling between nations offering a working holiday program, allowing young people to undertake temporary work while traveling.
    • Athletic or artistic visa, issued to athletes and performing artists (and their supporting staff) performing at competitions, concerts, shows and other events.
      • Cultural exchange visa, usually issued to athletes and performing artists participating in a cultural exchange program.
    • Refugee visa, issued to persons fleeing the dangers of persecution, a war or a natural disaster.
  • Long-stay visa, valid for longer but still finite stays:
    • Student visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country.
    • Temporary worker visa, for approved employment in the host country. These are generally more difficult to obtain but valid for longer periods of time than a business visa. Examples of these are the United States' H-1B and L-1 visas. Depending on a particular country, the status of temporary worker may or may not evolve into the status of permanent resident or to naturalization.
      • Journalist visa, which some countries require of people in that occupation when traveling for their respective news organizations. Countries which insist on this include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the United States (I-visa) and Zimbabwe.
    • Residence visa, granted to people obtaining long-term residence in the host country. In some countries, long-term residence is a necessary step to obtain the status of a permanent resident.
    • Asylum visa, issued to people who have suffered or reasonably fear persecution in their own country due to their political activities or opinion, or features, or association with a social group; or were exiled from their own country.
  • Immigrant visa, granted for those intending to immigrate to the issuing country (obtain the status of a permanent resident with a prospect of possible naturalization in the future):
    • Spousal visa or partner visa, granted to the spouse, civil partner or de facto partner of a resident or citizen of a given country to enable the couple to settle in that country.
    • Marriage visa, granted for a limited period before intended marriage or civil partnership based on a proven relationship with a citizen of the destination country. For example, a German woman who wishes to marry an American man would obtain a Fiancee Visa (also known as a K-1 visa) to allow her to enter the United States. A K1 Fiancee Visa is valid for four months from the date of its approval.[6]
    • Pensioner visa (also known as retiree visa or retirement visa), issued by a limited number of countries (Australia, Argentina, Thailand, Panama, etc.), to those who can demonstrate a foreign source of income and who do not intend to work in the issuing country. Age limits apply in some cases.
  • Official visa is granted to officials doing job for their governments or otherwise representing their countries in the host country, such as the personnel of diplomatic missions.
    • Diplomatic visa is normally only available to bearers of diplomatic passports.
    • Courtesy visa issued to representatives of foreign governments or international organizations who do not qualify for diplomatic status but do merit expedited, courteous treatment - an example of this is Australia's Special purpose visa.

By method of issuance: Normally a visa is applied for and picked up at an embassy or other diplomatic mission.

  • On-arrival visa (also known as Visa On Arrival, VOA), granted at a port of entry. This is distinct from not requiring a visa at all, as the visitor must still obtain the visa before they can even try to pass through immigration.
    • Almost all countries will consider issuing a visa (or another document to the same effect) on arrival to a visitor arriving in unforeseen exceptional circumstances, for example:
      • Under provisions of article 35 of the Schengen Visa Code, a visa may be issued at border in situations such as diversion of a flight causing an air passenger in transit to pass through two or more airports instead of one. In 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, causing significant disruption of air travel throughout Europe, and the EU responded by announcing that it would issue visas at land borders to stranded travelers.
      • Under section 212(d)(4) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, visa waivers can be issued to travelers arriving at USA ports of entry in emergency situations or under other conditions.
      • Certain international airports in Russia have consuls on-duty, who have the power to issue visas on the spot.
    • Some countries issue visas on arrival to special categories of travelers, such as seafarers or air crew.
    • Some countries issue them to regular visitors; however, there often are restrictions, for example:
      • Belarus issues visas on arrival in Minsk international airport only to nationals of countries where there is no consular representation of Belarus.
      • Thailand only issues visas on arrival at certain border checkpoints. The most notable crossing where visas on arrival are not issued is the Padang Besar checkpoint for passenger trains between Malaysia and Thailand.
      • Russia issues visas on arrival for short visits to its Western exclave, Kaliningrad oblast.
  • Electronic visa. The visa is stored in a computer and is electronically tied to the passport number; no label, sticker or stamp is placed in the passport before travel. The application is done over internet.
    • Australia pioneered electronic visa issuance with the Electronic Travel Authority for tourists, and is also issuing the eVisitor for European tourists and businessmen. Recent changes in immigration law mean that almost all visas (including those for permanent residency) are issued electronically by default unless a label is required (for example to board an airplane).
    • New Zealand is now also issuing some visas electronically.
    • The United States has a similar internet system called Electronic System for Travel Authorization, but this is a security pre-screening only and does not technically qualify as a visa under US immigration law.
    • Turkey is issuing electronic visas as of April 2013 (certain African countries are eligible only if using Turkish Airlines) through the Republic of Turkey Electronic Visa Application System.[7][8]
    • Cambodia is issuing electronic visas to most of the visitors through the eVisa system.[9]
    • São Tomé and Príncipe is issuing electronic visas to all passengers through the eVisaST system.[10]
    • Rwanda is issuing electronic visas.[11]
    • Myanmar is issuing electronic visas.[12]
    • Sri Lanka is issuing electronic visas through the Electronic Travel Authorization system to certain eligible countries.[13]
    • Armenia is issuing electronic visas to certain eligible countries.[14]
    • Singapore is issuing electronic visas to certain eligible countries.[15]
    • Bahrain issues electronic visas to certain eligible countries.[16][17][18]

This list is not exhaustive. Some countries may have more detailed classifications of some of these categories reflecting the nuances of their respective geographies, social conditions, economies, international treaties, etc. Others, on the contrary, may combine some types into broader categories.

Entry and duration period

Single-entry visitor visa to Canada

Visas can also be single-entry which means the visa is canceled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry, or multiple-entry which permits double or multiple entries into the country with the same visa. Countries may also issue re-entry permits that allow temporarily leaving the country without invalidating the visa. Even a business visa will normally not allow the holder to work in the host country without an additional work permit.

Once issued, a visa will typically have to be used within a certain period of time.

With some countries, the validity of a visa is not the same as the authorized period of stay. The visa validity then indicates the time period when entry is permitted into the country. For example, if a visa has been issued to begin January 1 and to expire March 30, and the typical authorized period of stay in a country is 90 days, then the 90-day authorized stay starts on the day the passenger enters the country (entrance has to be between January 1 and March 30). Thus, the latest day the traveler could conceivably stay in the issuing country is July 1 (if the traveler entered on March 30). This interpretation of visas is common in Americas.

With other countries, a person may not stay beyond the period of validity of their visa, which is usually set within the period of validity of their passport. The visa may also limit the total number of days the visitor may spend in the covered territory within the period of validity. This interpretation of visas is common in Europe.

Once in the country, the validity period of a visa or authorized stay can often be extended for a fee at the discretion of immigration authorities. Overstaying a period of authorized stay given by the immigration officers is considered illegal immigration even if the visa validity period isn't over (i.e., for multiple entry visas) and a form of being "out of status" and the offender may be fined, prosecuted, deported, or even blacklisted from entering the country again.

Entering a country without a valid visa or visa exemption may result in detention and removal (deportation or exclusion) from the country. Undertaking activities that are not authorized by the status of entry (for example, working while possessing a non-worker tourist status) can result in the individual being deemed deportable—commonly referred to as an illegal alien. Such violation is not a violation of a visa, despite the common misuse of the phrase, but a violation of status hence the term "out of status."

Even having a visa does not guarantee entry to the host country. The border crossing authorities make the final determination to allow entry, and may even cancel a visa at the border if the alien cannot demonstrate to their satisfaction that they will abide by the status their visa grants them.

Some countries which do not require visas for short stays may require a long stay visa for those who intend to apply for a residence permit. For example, EU does not require a visa for many countries for stays under 90 days, but its members require a long stay visa for longer stays.

Visa extensions

Visa Run example

Many countries have a mechanism to allow the holder of a visa to apply to extend a visa. In Denmark, a visa holder can apply to the Danish Immigration Service for a Residence Permit after they have arrived in the country. In the United Kingdom, applications can be made to UK Visas and Immigration.

In certain circumstances, it is not possible for the holder of the visa to do this, either because the country does not have a mechanism to prolong visas or, most likely, because the holder of the visa is using a short stay visa to live in a country.

Visa run

Some foreign visitors sometimes engage in what is known as a "visa run": leaving the country for a short period just before the allowed length of stay runs out to "restart the clock". However, immigration officers might also deny re-entry under these circumstances, especially if done more than once as such acts may signify that the foreigner wishes to permanently reside and might also work in that country. Some countries may have limits as to how long one can spend in the country without a visa, as well as how much time they may have to stay out before "restarting the clock," further creating a barrier to visa runs. For example, Schengen countries impose a maximum limit for visitors of 90 days in a 180-day window. In other countries, on the other hand, a "visa run" is tolerated, such as the daily commuting between the Malaysian border town of Johor Bahru and Singapore.

Despite the name, a "visa run" activity is usually done with a passport that can be used for an entry without a visa.

Visa refusal

In general, an applicant may be refused a visa if he or she does not meet the requirements for admission or entry under that country's immigration laws. More specifically, a visa may be denied or refused when the applicant:

  • has committed fraud, deception or misrepresentation in his or her current application as well as in a previous application
  • has obtained a criminal record, has been arrested, or has criminal charges pending
  • is considered to be a threat to national security
  • does not have a good moral character
  • has previous visa/immigration violations (even if the violations didn't happen in the country the applicant is seeking a visa for)
  • had their previous visa application(s) or application for immigration benefits refused and cannot prove that the reasons for the previous refusals no longer exist or are not applicable any more (even if the refusals didn't previously happen in the country the applicant is seeking a visa for)
  • cannot prove to have strong ties to their current country of nationality and/or residence (for those who are applying for temporary or non-immigrant visas)
  • intends to reside or work permanently in the country she/he will visit if not applying for an immigrant or work visa respectively
  • fails to demonstrate intent to return (for non-immigrants)
  • fails to provide sufficient evidence/documents to prove eligibility for the visa sought after
  • does not have a legitimate reason for the journey
  • has no visible means of sustenance
  • does not have travel arrangements (i.e. transport and lodging) in the destination country
  • does not have a health/travel insurance valid for the destination and the duration of stay
  • is applying on excessively short notice without an exceptionally justifiable reason
  • is a citizen of a country to which the destination country is hostile
  • has previously visited, or intends to visit, a country to which the destination country is hostile
  • has a communicable disease, such as tuberculosis
  • has a passport that expires too soon
  • didn't use a previously issued visa at all without a valid reason (e.g., a trip cancellation due to a family emergency)

Even if a traveller does not need a visa, the aforementioned criteria can also be used by border police to refuse the traveller entry into the country in question.

Visa policies

The main reasons states impose visa restrictions on foreign nationals are to curb illegal immigration, security concerns, and reciprocity for visa restrictions imposed on their own nationals. Typically, nations impose visa restrictions on citizens of poorer countries, along with politically unstable and undemocratic ones, as it is likelier that people from these countries will seek to illegally immigrate. Visa restrictions may also be imposed when nationals of another country are perceived as likelier to be terrorists or criminals, or by autocratic regimes that perceive foreign influence to be a threat to their rule.[19][20] According to Professor Eric Neumayer of the London School of Economics:

"The poorer, the less democratic and the more exposed to armed political conflict the target country is, the more likely that visa restrictions are in place against its passport holders. The same is true for countries whose nationals have been major perpetrators of terrorist acts in the past".[19]

Some countries apply the principle of reciprocity in their visa policy. A country's visa policy is called reciprocal if it imposes visa requirement against citizens of all the countries which impose visa requirements against its own citizens. The opposite is rarely true: a country rarely lifts visa requirements against citizens of all the countries which also lift visa requirements against its own citizens, unless a prior bilateral agreement has been made.

A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are often also reciprocal, so if country A charges country B's citizens US$50 for a visa, country B will often also charge the same amount for country A's visitors. The fee charged may also be at the discretion of each embassy. A similar reciprocity often applies to the duration of the visa (the period in which one is permitted to request entry of the country) and the amount of entries one can attempt with the visa. Other restrictions, such as requiring fingerprints and photographs, may also be reciprocated. Expedited processing of the visa application for some countries will generally incur additional charges.

Government authorities usually impose administrative entry restrictions on foreign citizens in three ways - countries whose nationals may enter without a visa, countries whose nationals may obtain a visa on arrival and countries whose nationals require a visa in advance. Nationals who require a visa in advance are usually advised to obtain them at a diplomatic mission of their destination country. Several countries allow nationals of countries that require a visa to obtain them online.

The following table lists visa policies of all countries by the number of foreign nationalities that may enter that country for tourism without a visa or by obtaining a visa on arrival with normal passport. It also notes countries that issue electronic visas to certain nationalities. Symbol "+" indicates a country that limits the visa-free regime negatively by only listing nationals who require a visa, thus the number represents the number of UN member states reduced by the number of nationals who require a visa and "+" stands for all possible non-UN member state nationals that might also not require a visa. "N/A" indicates countries that have contradictory information on its official websites and/or information supplied by the Government to IATA. Some countries that allow visa on arrival do so only at a limited number of entry points. Some countries such as the European Union member states have a qualitatively different visa regime between each other as it also includes freedom of movement.

Country Total
(excl. electronic visas)
Visa-free Visa on arrival Electronic visas Notes
Afghanistan[21] 0
Albania[22] 78 78
Algeria[23] 10 10
Angola[24] 2 1 1
Antigua and Barbuda[25] 99 99
Argentina[26] 78 78 0 3
Armenia[27] 136 49 87
Australia[28] 1 1 0 36+9+27
Azerbaijan[29] 13 11 2
Bahamas[30] 120 120
Bahrain[31] 69 5 64
Bangladesh[32] 174+ 25 All-20 Limited VOA locations.
Barbados[33] 106 106
Belarus[34] 17 17
Belize[35] 97 97
Benin[36] 18 18
Bhutan[37] 3 3
Bolivia[38] 174+ 50 124+
Bosnia and Herzegovina[39] 78 78
Botswana[40] 96 96
Brazil[41] 74 74
Brunei[42] 57 51 6
Burkina Faso[43] 61 16 45
Burundi[44] 194+ 4 190+ Limited VOA locations.
Cambodia[45] 184+ 8 All-10
Cameroon[46] 5 5
Canada[47] 51 51
Cape Verde[48] 194+ 19 All
Central African Republic[49] 13 13
Chad[50] 13 11 2
Chile[51] 89 87 2
China[52] 9 9
Colombia[53] 95 95
Comoros[54] 194+ 0 All
Republic of the Congo[55] 12 0 12
Democratic Republic of the Congo[56] 6 3 3
Costa Rica[57] 89 89
Côte d'Ivoire[58] 20 20
Cuba[59] 19 19
Djibouti[60] 194+ 0 All
Dominica[61] 192+ All-2
Dominican Republic[62] 76 8 68
Ecuador[63] 185+ All-9
Egypt[64] N/A N/A N/A
El Salvador[65] 86 86
Equatorial Guinea[66] 1 1
Eritrea[67] 3 2 1
Ethiopia[68] 39 2 37 Limited VOA locations.
Fiji[69] 106 106
Gabon[70] 1 1
Gambia[71] 129 125 4
[72] 94 94
Ghana[73] 24 18 6
Grenada[74] 115 109 6
Guatemala[75] 84 84
Guinea[76] 21 21
Guinea-Bissau[77] 194+ 14 180+
Guyana[78] 47 47
Haiti[79] 191+ All-2
Honduras[80] 84 84
Hong Kong[81] 148 148
India[82][83] 3 3 0 113
Indonesia[84] 90 90 (75) Limited locations.
Iran[85] 177 0 177
Iraq[86] 3 1 2
Ireland[87] 89 58 +31 EU/EEA/CH citizens.
Israel[88] 95 95
Jamaica[89] 115
Japan[90] 67 67
Jordan[91] 134+ 12 122+ Limited VOA locations.
Kazakhstan[92] 35 35
Kenya[93] 43 43 0 All-16
Kiribati[94] 68 68
North Korea[95] 2 2
South Korea[96] 113 113
Kuwait[97] 58 5 53
Kyrgyzstan[98] 81 61 20
Laos[99] 175+ 11 All-30
Lebanon[100] 87 9 78
Lesotho[101] 49 49
Liberia[102] 16 16
Libya[103] 3 3
Macedonia[104] 84 84
Madagascar[105] 194+ 0 All
Malawi[106] 165 34 131
Malaysia[107] 164 162 2
Maldives[108] 194+ 0 All
Mali[109] 20 20
Marshall Islands[110] 87 3 84
Mauritania[111] 194+ 194+
Mauritius[112] 177 111 66
Mexico[113] 65 65
Micronesia[114] 194+ 194+
Moldova[115] 67 67
Mongolia[116] 21 21
Montenegro[117] 79 79
Morocco[118] 66 66
Mozambique[119] 194+ 8 All Limited VOA locations.
Myanmar[120] 3 3 102
Namibia[121] 52 52
Nauru[122] 16 0 16
Nepal[123] 184+ 1 183+ Limited VOA locations.
New Zealand[124] 60 60
Nicaragua[125] 167 94 73
Niger[126] 19 19
Nigeria[127] 20 19 1
Oman[128] 70 5 65
Pakistan[129] 7 7
Palau[130] 192+ 0 192+
Panama[131] 118 118
Papua New Guinea[132] 70 0 70
Paraguay[133] 62 57 5
Peru[134] 96 96
Philippines[135] 157 157
Qatar[136] 43 5 38 Limited VOA locations.
Russia[137] 38 38
Rwanda[138] 17 4 13 194+
Saint Kitts and Nevis[139] 101 101
Saint Lucia[140] 147 93 54
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[141] 186+ 0 All-8
Samoa[142] 194+ All
São Tomé and Príncipe[143] 45 45 0 149+
Saudi Arabia[144] 5 5
Schengen area[145][146] 83 51 32 EU/EEA/CH citizens.
Senegal[147] 126 39 87
Serbia[148] 71 71
Seychelles[149] 194+ 1 All
Sierra Leone[150] 15 15
Singapore[151] 161+ 161+
Solomon Islands[152] 78 0 78
Somalia[153] 194+ 0 194+
South Africa[154] 76 76
South Sudan[155] 4 0 4
Sri Lanka[156] 3 3 0 191+
Sudan[157] 7 2 5
Suriname[158] 57 20 37
Swaziland[159] 95 95
Syria[160] 0
Tajikistan[161] 88 9 79
Tanzania[162] 170+ 6 All-24
Thailand[163] 75 56 19
Timor-Leste[164] 194+ 30 All Limited VOA locations.
Togo[165] 194+ 14 164+
Tonga[166] 64 0 64
Trinidad and Tobago[167] 104 102 2
Tunisia[168] 90 90 +11 for organized groups.
Turkey[169] 119 78 41 40+54
Turkmenistan[170] 0
Tuvalu[171] 194+ 0 All
Uganda[172] 194+ 33 161+
Ukraine[173] 68 63 5
United Arab Emirates[174] 52 40 12
United Kingdom[175] 88 57 4 +31 EU/EEA/CH citizens.
United States[176] 4 4 0 38
Uruguay[177] 73 73
Uzbekistan[178] 9 9
Vanuatu[179] 100 100
Venezuela[180] 71 71
Vietnam[181] 23 23
Yemen[182] 12 0 12
Zambia[183] 133 41 92
Zimbabwe[184] 100 41 59

Visa exemption agreements

Possession of a valid visa is a condition for entry into many countries, and exemption schemes exist. In some cases visa-free entry may be granted to holders of diplomatic passports even as visas are required by normal passport holders (see: Passport).

Some countries have reciprocal agreements such that a visa is not needed under certain conditions, e.g., when the visit is for tourism and for a relatively short period. Such reciprocal agreements may stem from common membership in international organizations or a shared heritage:

  • All citizens of European Union member countries can travel to and stay in all other EU countries without a visa. See Four Freedoms (European Union) and Citizenship of the European Union.
  • The United States Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the USA without a visa (although a pre-trip entry permission, ESTA, is needed).[185]
  • Any Gulf Cooperation Council citizen can enter and stay as long as required in any other GCC member state.
  • All citizens of members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), excluding those defined by law as undesirable aliens, may enter and stay without a visa in any member state for a maximum period of 90 days. The only requirement is a valid travel document and international vaccination certificates.[186]
  • Nationals of the East African Community member states do not need visas for entry into any of the member states.[187][188][189]
  • Some countries in the Commonwealth do not require tourist visas of citizens of other Commonwealth countries.
  • Citizens of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations do not require tourist visas to visit another member state, excluding Burma, where its citizens are required to have a visa to enter seven of the ten ASEAN member states: the exceptions to this are Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. ASEAN citizens are entitled to use the Burmese visa on arrival facility.
  • Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states mutually allow their citizens to enter visa-free, at least for short stays. There are exceptions between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • Nepal and India allow their citizens to enter, live and work in each other's countries due to the Indo-Nepal friendship treaty of 1951. Indians do not require a visa or passport to travel to Bhutan and are only required to obtain passes at the border checkpoints, whilst Bhutan nationals are authorised to enter India without a visa but with a valid passport.

Other countries may unilaterally grant visa-free entry to nationals of certain countries to facilitate tourism, promote business, or even to cut expenses on maintaining consular posts abroad.

Some of the considerations for a country to grant visa-free entry to another country include (but are not limited to):

  • being a low security risk for the country potentially granting visa-free entry
  • diplomatic relationship between two countries
  • conditions in the visitor's home country as compared to the host country
  • having a low risk of overstaying or violating visa terms in the country potentially granting visa-free entry

To have a smaller worldwide diplomatic staff, some countries rely on other country's (or countries') judgments in issuance of visas. For example, Mexico allows citizens of all countries to enter without Mexican visas if they possess a valid visa of the USA (on which an entry has already been granted to the USA). Costa Rica accepts valid visas of Schengen/EU countries, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the USA (if valid for at least 3 months on date of arrival). The ultimate example of such reliance is Andorra which imposes no visa requirements of its own because it is inaccessible without passing through the territory of France or Spain and thus "protected" by the Schengen visa system.

Visa-free travel between countries also occurs in all cases where passports (or passport-replacing documents such as laissez-passer) are not needed for such travel. (For examples of passport-free travel, see International travel without passports.)

As of 2014, the Visa Restrictions Index ranks the Finnish, German, Swedish, British and United States passports as the ones with the most visa exemptions by other nations totaling 174, allowing holders of these passports to take part in the most visa-free travel globally.

Common visas

Normally visas are valid for entry only into the country which issued the visa. Countries that are members of regional organizations or party to regional agreements may however issue visas valid for entry into some or all of the member states of the organization or agreement:

  • the Schengen Visa covers most of the European Economic Area, plus several other adjacent countries. The visa allows a tourist, family or business visitor access to the area covered by the agreement (known as the “Schengen Area” or “Schengenland”, currently consisting of 26 countries) for a maximum period of 90 days within a 180-day period (the issuing embassy will determine the actual length of time permitted to the visitor). Those who require a visa to enter the Schengen area, are simply required to get only the common Schengen Visa from the embassy or consulate of any of the Schengen countries. After that, they may visit any or all of the Schengen countries as tourists or for business. They are not required to get separate visas for all the Schengen countries they wish to visit. If an alien is visiting multiple countries in the Schengen zone, he typically applies in the embassy/consulate of his main destination country (i.e., in case of tourism, where he plans to stay the longest, or for multiple purposes where the main purpose of the visit will be carried out). A Schengen visa is typically not valid for long term stays nor for visits to overseas territories of Schengen states.
  • the Central American Single Visa (Visa Única Centroamericana) was implemented by the CA-4 agreement between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It is required for citizens of all other countries, eliminating the need for separate entry visas for each of the countries. Persons entering the region on Type "B" visas can enter the area through any Port of Entry. Persons entering on Type "C" visas (issued through prior consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) must enter through a Port of Entry in the country that issued the visa. Once a person has been admitted, they may travel onto any of the other countries and are allowed to stay through the date authorized at the original Port of Entry.
  • An East African Single Tourist Visa is under consideration by the relevant sectoral authorities under the East African Community (EAC) integration program. If approved the visa will be valid for all three partner states in the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi). Under the proposal for the visa, any new East African single visa can be issued by any partner state's embassy. The visa proposal followed an appeal by the tourist boards of the partner states for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination and the EAC Secretariat wants it approved before November's World Travel Fair (or World Travel Market) in London.[190] When approved by the East African council of ministers, tourists could apply for one country's entry visa which would then be applicable in all regional member states as a single entry requirement initiative.[191] This is considered also by COMESA.
  • The SADC UNIVISA (or Univisa) has been in development since Southern African Development Community (SADA) members signed a Protocol on the Development of Tourism in 1998. The Protocol outlined the Univisa as an objective so as to enable the international and regional entry and travel of visitors to occur as smoothly as possible.[192] It was expected to become operational by the end of 2002.[193] Its introduction was delayed and a new implementation date, the end of 2006, was announced.[194] However, the SADC now aims to have the univisa system in place by 2008, before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.[18][195][196][197][198] The univisa was originally intended to only be available, initially, to visitors from selected “source markets” such as Australia, the Benelux countries, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the USA.[193] It is now expected that when the Univisa is implemented, that it will apply to non SADC international (long-haul) tourists traveling to and within the region and that it will encourage multi - destination travel within the region.[192] It is also anticipated that the univisa will unlock the tourism potential of trans frontier parks by lowering the boundaries between neighboring countries in the parks. The visa is expected to be valid for all the countries with trans frontier parks (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and some other SADC countries (Angola and Swaziland).[18]
  • The ASEAN common visa scheme is considered when the labor union goes into effect in 2016 (being delayed a year); however, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar are opting in earlier. After talk about a CLMV common visa,[199] with Thailand being left out, Thailand has initiated and begun implementation of a trial common visa with Cambodia, but cited security risks as the major hurdle; the trial run has been delayed.[200] Thailand has implemented a single visa scheme with Cambodia beginning December 27, 2012 on a trial basis.[201]
  • A Gulf Cooperation Council single visa has been recommended as a study submitted to the council.[202]
  • The Pacific Alliance, that currently consists of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, offer a common visa for tourism purposes only in order to make it easier for nationals from countries outside of the alliance to travel through these countries by not having to apply for multiple visas.[203]

Previous common visa schemes

These schemes no longer operate.

  • The CARICOM Visa was introduced in late 2006 and allowed visitors to travel between 10 CARICOM member states (Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago). These ten member countries had agreed to form a "Single Domestic Space" in which travelers would only have their passport stamped and have to submit completed, standardized entry and departure forms at the first port and country of entry. The CARICOM Visa was applicable to the nationals of all countries except CARICOM member states (other than Haiti) and associate member states, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the overseas countries, territories or departments of these countries. The CARICOM Visa could be obtained from the Embassies/Consulates of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago and in countries which have no CARICOM representatives, the applications forms could be obtained from the embassies and consulates of the United Kingdom. The common visa was only intended for the duration of the 2007 Cricket World Cup and was discontinued on May 15, 2007. However, discussions are ongoing into instituting a revised CARICOM visa on a permanent basis in the future.
  • A predecessor of Schengen common visa was the Benelux visa. Visas issued by Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg were valid for all the three countries.

Exit visas

During Fascist Italy, an exit visa was required from 1922 to 1943. Nazi Germany required exit visas from 1933 to 1945.[204] The Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies required exit visas both for emigrants and for those who wanted to leave the USSR for some time.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have an exit visa requirement, particularly for foreign workers. This is part of the kafala system, also present in Lebanon, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman. Hence at the end of a foreign worker's employment period, the worker must secure clearance from his/her employer stating that the worker has satisfactorily fulfilled the terms of his/her employment contract or that the worker's services are no longer needed. The exit visa can also be withheld if there are pending court charges that need to be settled or penalties that have to be meted out.

Nepal requires citizens emigrating to the United States on an H1 visa to present an exit permit issued by the labor ministry. This document is called a labor permit and needs to be presented to immigration to leave the country.[205]

Uzbekistan is the last remaining former USSR country that still requires an exit visa, which is valid for a two-year period.[206] There has been explicit UN complaint about this practice.[207][207]

The government of Cuba announced in October 2012 its plans to remove exit visa requirements to be effective January 14, 2013, albeit with some exceptions.[208]

The DPRK (North Korea) requires that its citizens obtain an exit visa stating the traveller's destination country and time to be spent abroad before leaving Pyongyang. Additionally, DPRK authorities also require that their citizens obtain a re-entry visa from a DPRK embassy or mission abroad before being allowed back into the DPRK.

The government of the People's Republic of China requires its citizens to obtain a Two-way Permit issued by the PRC authorities prior to their visit to the Chinese dependencies of Hong Kong or Macau. The Two-way Permit is a de facto exit visa for Hong Kong- or Macau-bound trips for PRC citizens.

Some countries, such as Russia or the Czech Republic,[209] require that an alien who needs a visa on entry be in possession of a valid visa upon exit. To satisfy this formal requirement, exit visas sometimes need to be issued. Russia requires an exit visa if a visitor stays well past the expiration date of their visa. They must then extend their visa or apply for an exit visa and are not allowed to leave the country until they show a valid visa or have a permissible excuse for overstaying their visa (e.g., a note from a doctor or a hospital explaining an illness, missed flight, lost or stolen visa). In some cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can issue a Return-Home certificate that is valid for ten days from the embassy of the visitor's native country, thus eliminating the need for an exit visa.[210][211][212]

A foreign citizen granted a temporary residence permit in Russia needs a temporary resident visa to take a trip abroad (valid for both exit and return). It is also colloquially called an exit visa.

Some countries also implement a departure tax for their citizens. Indonesia previously implemented a departure tax of Rp. 1000000 (around U$100 in 2011) for its citizens exiting the country via air travel; the tax was discontinued in 2011.

Singapore (Enlistment Act (Chapter 93)) requires any male person who is a citizen or permanent resident of Singapore and who is not less than 13 years of age but less than 16 years and 6months of age, not leave or remain outside Singapore (3 months or longer) [213] unless he is in possession of a valid Exit Permit (Section 32(1)), and shall return to Singapore before the expiry of the period for which he was allowed to stay outside Singapore (Section 32(2)). If the child remains overseas for more than 2 years or if the child is already older than 16.5 years and remaining overseas for more than 3 months, a bond in the form of a Banker's Guarantee of S$75,000 or 50% of the combined annual gross income of both parents for the preceding year, whichever is higher, is required.[213] Any child within or outside Singapore who contravenes this law shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 (Section 32(3)). Each parent or guardian within or outside Singapore of the child shall be also be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 (Section 32(4)). Any non-compliance of this Act shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or both.[214] (see also National service in Singapore).

Visa restrictions

Henley & Partners annually compiles a Visa Restrictions Index, which ranks countries according to openness of their visa restrictions and visa requirements. The index is based on the International Air Transport Association database.[215]

Visa Restrictions Index 2015
(partial table)
Rank Country Number of countries and territories which can be entered without a visa (or issue a visa at arrival) by a citizen of the respective country
1  Germany,  United Kingdom 173
2  Finland,  Sweden,  United States 172
3  Denmark,  France,  Italy,  Japan,  South Korea,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Norway 171
4  Belgium,  Canada,  New Zealand,  Portugal,  Spain 170
5  Austria,  Ireland,  Singapore,   Switzerland 169
6  Australia 168
7  Greece,  Malta 167
8  Czech Republic,  Iceland 164
9  Hungary,  Malaysia 163
10  Slovakia 162

See also


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  209. ^ Act on the status of aliens in Czech Republic, §20
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Further reading

  • United States Department of State, "Report of the Visa Office", Visa Office, Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division
  • United States Department of State, Nonimmigrant Visa Statistics

External links

  • Visa (document) at DMOZ
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