Travel Visa Tips

Travel Visa tips
Travel Visa tips

Is getting a travel visa a daunting prospect? Have you heard stories about visa applications that turn you off the idea of visiting a country that has a visa obligation? Or at least, dreading the process?

Would it be nice to know that it may not be as complicated as you’ve heard, or that finding the right information is easy, just so long as someone heads you in the right direction?

There’s been good changes in recent years with more and more countries moving to online applications for visa processing or rather, electronic authorities to travel. The electronic authority to travel has either replaced previous requirements of applying offline (by post or in person) or in some instances been introduced where previously a visa application was not required.  

These online applications have a few names but are all similar. An an ESTA or an ESTA travel visa. Or, in full is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization by the United States of America (ESTA). In other countries, otherwise known an ETA – Electronic Travel Authority.

The essence of the online authority to travel form is that you provide your personal details in advance of arriving, and you receive permission for travel, or authority to travel before you live home, and replacing the need to post or apply in person for a visa. 

There’s lot of pieces of advice that can save you time, and worry. Check out easy tips below. Although the information is geared to Australian passport holders, you will still find some helpful general tips.   However, if you are seeking advise on a working holiday visa, although some of the tips below are helpful the requirements are very different and you need to seek advice from the country you’re visiting.

All the tips and guidance below is on the basis of applying for a tourist visa,  or holiday visa information. If you’re travelling for business purposes application requirements can vary.

GETTING HELP
First up, if you don’t even want to bother with finding out the ‘ins and outs’ then head straight to a visa application service. I like Tex Visas. They are Australian owned and have been assisting travellers to lodge visas since 1980 and they process your application on your behalf.   As they have established contacts at all Consulates, at the Embassies and High Commissions in Canberra you are in good hands.

It’s especially worthwhile if you are applying for multiple visas for one trip. They will connect your application from one country to the next and take the angst out of the back and forth of posting or visiting various locations for processing your visa.  

If you want the peace of mind that your application is correctly submitted they will make the checks before delivering your visa for processing. VISIT Tex Visas website

GENERAL GOVERNMENT ADVICE
There’s no harm in checking out our Australian government advice when you are seeking information on visas for entry to other countries. The Smart Traveller website reminds us that a visa does not guarantee entry to a foreign country. Visit Smart Traveller


BEFORE YOU GET STARTED
Before getting started on any visa application, make yourself aware of the information you need to have ready. Most travel visa applications will require as a minimum

  • Your passport with at least six months validity from your date of return
  • A passport photo (or sometimes 2 photos)
  • Maybe a second form of identification
  • A flight itinerary
  • Consider your length of stay and purpose of visit and seek the visa that applies to your situation.
  • Some visa applications may require details or copies of previous visas if you’ve visited the country previously

Visa websites by each country vary a lot. Some are have a lot of information and some don’t.  If you’re unsure that’s when it’s easy to use a Visa service, or otherwise contact the Consulate or Embassy for advice.  That said, some embassies can be hard to reach and don’t always answer their phone.

YOU DON’T LIVE IN THE COUNTRY OF YOUR PASSPORT
If you’re an Australian passport holder but reside in another country, take the time to find out if you can apply for the visa you require in the country you reside in.

SPECIALS WARNINGS

Visa Scams or Paying Too Much
There are many non-government websites offering the service of providing an Electronic Travel Authority. They are known to charge the cost of the eTA plus a service fee.  Some call it a scam, others see it as a fee for service. The point is, if you are not sure about the site you are using then check. Find government websites that link you to official sites, or seek the advice of official visa processing services.

Damaged Passports
A damaged passport can deem your application invalid.  Any form of damage, even if slight can risk that you won’t have a successful application. It could be water damage, writing on document pages, pages ripped – anything.  Aside from having your visa application rejected you can also risk not gaining entry at your destination. Look after your passport and if it gets damaged arrange a replacement.

Incomplete applications
Take your time and recheck your application before you send it off. An error can deem your application invalid and you’d have to reapply, probably along with the cost again to resubmit it.

TIPS FOR BEING PREPARED

  • Read all the information on the official websites. Take your time, and set aside quiet time for the process.
  • Don’t discard your old passports. Keep them as a reference to your travel history and also previous visas granted.
  • Keep a travel destination of countries visited and entry dates; will be useful for any visa applications that ask you about your travel history; Russia is one of them that asks.
  • Take care to provide the passport photos as per the dimensions required for the application. TIPS FOR APPLYING IN PERSON

Check the hours of operation of each centre or consulate for a visa application in person. Usually hours of operation are less than a full day. For example, for China you can visit The Chinese Visa Application Service Centre between 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday.

WHEN SHOULD YOU APPLY?
As a guide, a good time is around 60-70 days prior to departure. If applying for multiple visas allow more time as your passport will have to be submitted for each application.

For some visa applications you can only apply within a certain time frame before you travel. For example, Cambodia you can only apply when it’s within 90 days of your arrival, and not before.

APPLYING VIA POST
Only post using registered post service, that requires recipient to sign for delivery or use a courier service. Also check what you need to send with your application to have your application and passport returned to you. In most cases you need to send a pre paid envelope and it should always have a tracking service, such as Express Post envelope.

WHEN A VISA MAY NOT BE REQUIRED
For some countries that require you get a tourist visa there may be exceptions and you can avoid the process. 

For example, visiting Russia on a cruise ship with a short stay, you won’t be required to get a visa.  Or, if you are a tourist in transit in China, that is travelling through to another destination,  there are certain ports of entry where you  can apply for the 72 hour transit visa exemption and you don’t have to go through the visa application prior to leaving home. 

RUNNING OUT OF TIME
You’ve booked a last minute trip, just to realise that you may be rushed to get a visa in time. Most visa application offer a ‘rush’ or ‘express’ service. It’s just a case of paying the fee premium to apply for an express service on your travel visa application. However, check requirements. For a China visa, the rush service is only available in person. 

PAYING FOR VISAS
Check in advance the cost of the visa application, payment options and how when you need to pay.  Every visa application is different. For China, if applying by post they don’t accept cash, money order or check and it must be a credit card. It’s not a secure payment method as they require you include their payment authorisation form with your credit card details advised in writing when you post your application. This can be when a visa service is handy as it offers more secure payment methods if you can’t apply in person.  

 

VISA INFORMATION BY DESTINATION

VISA FOR ASIA

CHINA
Applying for a travel visa to China is via the Chinese Visa Application Service Centers located in some major cities in Australia. Their website is definitely one of the easier visa sites to navigate. For an ordinary tourist visa you can’t apply to their Embassy or Consultate, it must be the Visa Application Center.

Visa processing centers are located in Canberra (for ACT, NT, & SA), Sydney (for NSW), Melbourne (for VIC & TAS), Adelaide, Brisbane (for QLD) and Perth (WA). You can visit in person or apply via post.

When you apply – you need to send your application or visit the centre that matches the state of your residence.

Visit the China Visa Processing Centre website – CLICK HERE   Visit Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China – CLICK HERE
 

VIETNAM
Take care to only process your application via official channels with The Vietnamese government websites – either the Consulate General  of Vietnam, or the Vietnam Embassy, in Canberra websites. Don’t be taken for a ride by unofficial sites appearing official.  If you google Vietnam visas you may find many sites offering visas before you travel.

On their website it states:
“There has been a cluster of complaints from both Australian and foreign visitors that the online visa applications via unauthorized and/or untrustworthy websites cause a lot of inconvenience. Sometimes they cannot board on the plane or be denied entry and pay a fine because of fake visas.

For reasons as such, travelers and businesses to Viet Nam are strongly recommended to apply for the visas before departure.”

Otherwise, use a registered Visa Application Service such as Tex Visas.

Visit Consulate General of Vietnam website – CLICK HERE
Visit Vietnam Embassy, Australia website – CLICK HERE


SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka have made it easy!  You avoid the need for an offline visa application if travelling for less than 30 days.  In short, a straightforward online application for an Authority to Travel. Don’t be turned off by their website that is basic and not very professional in appearance.
Visit this site: http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa/visainfo/center.jsp?locale=en_US

INDIA
The Indian Visa for Australian citizens can be applied for as an ETA, or you can opt for the traditional visa application process, where you send away your passport.

There’s an official government website for the ETA. There is no reason to take the path of the traditional offline visa for a short term tourist visa, unless you do not like online forms or uploading photos online. The offline visa application is more expensive but it will avoid the online application steps required for the ETA.
The site has been known to be fickle; crash part way through an application, or payment not processing easily, or overall not very user friendly.  This could be a reason to use a visa service or apply for the traditional offline visa if you are not inclined to trouble yourself with the online application.  
A good place to start is to download their sample form so you can see in advance the information you need to provide. This has been a recent improvement so at least you can see the steps involved.

Visit India Visa Online government website.

CAMBODIA
You can opt for a Visa on Arrival, or otherwise arrange it before you travel. A visa on arrival is straightforward however you need to have a passport sized photo and payment is in USD. Before you travel, check the payment due and note any additional processing fee that may apply. Forms are issued on flights or otherwise available at the airport.

Or, if you before apply in advance via the ROYAL EMBASSY OF CAMBODIA.

Some Asian countries where Australian passport holders don’t require a visa for tourist visits. A visa for Thailand for Australian citizens isn’t required and the same for Bali; as Australians don’t need a visa for entry to Indonesia. 

EUROPE

Great thing about visiting Europe is that so many countries are visa free for Australians. In years gone by, we applied for the Schengen Visa, but rest easy, the Schengen Visa for Australians no longer applies,  and travel to many European countries is hassle free. However, take heed, for longer trips in the Schengen region of more than 90 days entry requirements apply. You need to apply for the visa through the country that you intend on having the longest stay.

Wondering what’s deemed a country in the Schengen region?  Check out the list on Australia’s Smart Traveller website – applies to 26 European countries.

Tip: Make sure you get a clear entry stamp in your passport when you enter the Schengen area for the first time. Without a stamp, you could be fined or detained. 

But as much as there are many visa free countries in Europes, there are others that require a visa for entry.

RUSSIA
One of the big ones is Russia. You must obtain a Russian tourist visa before you travel.

There’s a great website/blog that will show you the steps. If you live in Sydney, you can drop off and collect your application but an appointment time is required and applied for via their website.  When you arrive, even though you have an appointment time you still need to have a ticket issued for approaching the counter – there’s a ticket issue machine in the waiting room.  Same applies when you pick up your visa. When I arrived for my visa drop off,  I didn’t notice it until after waiting a little while. The embassy is in residential street so you should be able to get parking.

Most importantly, there are a lot of steps with the application form including listing your travel history of the last 10 years. Also, you must have a letter of invitation to support your application. If joining a tour this will be issued by your tour operator.

This was the most time consuming visa I have ever completed, mostly because I didn’t have my travel history prepared and I had to create a record of my travel history. However, as I set aside time when I wouldn’t be distracted it was fine – it was just a process and the form is long.

For the Russian tourist visa, take your time. Apply when you have no distractions and read everything carefully.

Want to join us in Russia? Check out our tour.

TURKEY
The Republic of Turkey has made the visa application straight forward as they have moved to the Electronic Visa Application System. You apply and pay online. Visit the website. It is one of the easier websites to navigate and apply. You can’t stay for longer than 90 days in one visit with this visa.

THE AMERICAS

Visiting the Americas includes north, central and south America and visa requirements are different for each country.

THE U.S.A.
The US visa for Australian citizens is applied for by the official government website for the ESTA
There’s a small fee – you will know you’re on the wrong website when the fee is high. LINK TO ESTA WEBSITE

CANADA
Canada in more recent years introduced their ETA. It’s a straightforward online process. A link to Well Travelled website has an article on the Canadian eTA application process.


PERU
For South America, Peru is a popular destination and you don’t require a visa for entry to Peru. However, keep in mind if you are travelling via Chile, as many flights do, and plan on stopping in Chile for a visit Australian passport holders must pay an entry administration fee. It can be a deterrent to a stop over, as the fee is currently USD117.

BRAZIL
Brazil has recently changed visa requirements. Previously a visa was required and it was a slow process, taking 14-21 days for processing. Things have changed for the better. From 17 June 2019 you no longer need a visa to enter Brazil for tourism or business – a smart move, and for sure will increase tourism.

AFRICA & MIDDLE EAST


EGYPT
Egypt has kept it easy – you can apply your Egyptian tourist visa on arrival to Egypt, and there’s no need to arrange it in advance, unless you prefer. If you are prearranging click for the link to the Entry Visa application form.

For popular safari countries in Africa including South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, Australian passport holders don’t require a visa. However, if you are travelling to other parts of Africa before visiting these countries check other entry requirements such as vaccination requirement for Yellow Fever which will be required for some countries depending on the countries you visited previously in Africa.

ZIMBABWE
Australian passport holders, and passport holders of New Zealand, United Kingdom of Great Britain, and USA are eligible for a visa on arrival. Applicants will be required to pay the visa fees at the port of entry.  The fee is approximately USD30 for a single entry and USD45 for a double entry.


A final word of advice. Visas are ultimately the responsibility of travellers. Take charge and check for yourself all visa requirements for each country you are visiting. Don’t rely on what someone else tells you – contact the embassy or official source for the most recent information as visa requirements can change.  

All information above is provided as a general guide. It should not be considered official advice.

About the author

Justine Waddington

Justine Waddington is the founder and director of Encounter Travel, a company that creates holiday groups exclusively for solo travellers. As a solo traveller with 57 countries under her belt and 12 years of leading travel groups, Justine is in the unique position of being able to offer tips and advice from the perspective of an experienced solo traveller and also that of a travel agent.

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