Whenever I travel abroad, I always check the tourist visas requirement. This is true even for countries I’ve previously visited, in case visa requirements change. The US Department of State has a handy website where you can search for more information by country.
My Experience getting an Australia Visa
The first visa I ever had to apply for is a tourist visa to Australia. Australia has an Electronic Travel Authority ETA Visa, which is a visa that is electronically linked to your passport. You fill out the online application and remit the application fee, and you usually get an instant decision. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply, as it can sometimes take up to 12 hours or longer for a decision. It was a quick and easy process, and I hope visa application process goes more towards the way of these electronic visas.
My Experience getting a China Visa
The most recent visa I got is a 10-year tourist visa (Type L) for China. The requirements include: passport pictures and a copy of the flight and hotel confirmation (or an “invitation letter”). These requirements are fairly straightforward. In my opinion, the most cumbersome part of the process is the submission of the application. You have to submit the application in person through the Consular Services. Fortunately, you don’t personally have to appear. You can have someone you trust to submit the application on your behalf.
I decided to farm this work out to the expert hands of a visa service. In my case, it was also more economical than taking more time off from work and making the drive. There are some reputable companies that offer visa services, though I ended up working with a local travel agency. A week after dropping off my application, my travel agent called to let me know that my passport is ready for pick-up! I’d go with a visa service if I have to do it all over again, unless there is a consular service location near you.
China’s 72-hour visa-free transit
Fortunately, not everyone needs to get a China visa. For those who plan to stay less than 72 hours in China before transiting to a another destination, China offers a 72 hour visa-free transit visa for selected cities. This includes two popular destinations: Beijing and Shanghai. I originally spent a lot of time looking into this option, though it didn’t end up fitting my needs. If you are looking for more information on the 72-hour visa-free transit, I personally found this guide to be helpful.
Getting a travel visa can either be a simple or a more involved process. For many countries, there is often an added requirement that a passport must be valid for a certain number of months from date of entry. Generally speaking, it’s a good practice to check the entry requirements whenever you travel abroad, and make sure that you apply and get approved for the required visas well ahead of the trip.
Have you visited countries where the visa application process is far more (or less) cumbersome?