Visa (document)

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An entry visa valid in all Schengen treaty countries

A visa (short for the Latin carta visa, lit. "the document has been seen") is a document issued by a country giving a certain individual permission to enter the country for a given period of time and for certain purposes (but see below for caveats). Most countries require possession of a valid visa as a condition of entry for foreigners, though there exist exemption schemes (see passport for examples of such schemes). Visas are typically stamped or attached into the recipient's passport.

Some countries, such as the Soviet Union, required that their citizens obtain an exit visa in order to be allowed to leave the country. Currently, foreign students in Russia are issued only an entry visa on being accepted to University there, and must obtain an exit visa to return home. Citizens of the People's Republic of China, who are residents of the mainland, require exit permits to go to Hong Kong and Macao. Saudi Arabia requires all foreigners, but not citizens, to obtain an exit visa before leaving the kingdom.

Entering a country without a valid visa or visa exemption, or undertaking activities that are not authorized by a visa (for example, working with a non-working visa) results in the individual being an illegal alien, generally subject to deportation back to their home country.


Conditions of issuance

Visas can be granted on arrival, usually only to citizens of countries enjoying good relations with the issuing country, or by prior application at the country's embassy or consulate. 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 issuance conditions.

A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are typically reciprocal, so if country A charges country B's citizens 50 USD 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 and could be hiked to discourage unserious applicants. Expedited processing of the visa application will also generally incur additional charges.

The issuing authority 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 sufferers of certain illnesses, such as AIDS. The exact conditions depend on the country and the category of visas.

The issuing authority may also require applicants to attest that they have had no criminal convictions, or that they do not partake in certain businesses (like prostitution or drug trafficking). Some countries requested information as to the ideological leanings of the applicant; this used to be the case of the United States, which inquired whether visa applicants were Communist sympathizers (and denied visas to known or suspected sympathizers.)

Bearers of official, and especially diplomatic, passports are generally subject to supplemental checks (diplomatic personnel must be formally recognized as such by the host country to benefit from diplomatic immunity.)

Types of visa

Common types of visas are:

  • transit visa, usually valid for 3 days or less, for passing through the country to a third destination
  • tourist visa, for a limited period of leisure travel, no business activities allowed. Typically the only visa granted for free. Some countries (eg. Kuwait) do not issue tourist visas. Saudi Arabia introduced tourist visas only in 2004 although it did (and still does) issue pilgrimage visas for Hajj pilgrims.
  • business visa, for engaging in commerce in the country, usually valid longer and more easily renewable than a tourist visa
  • student visa, which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuer's country
  • diplomatic visa, which confers diplomatic status on its holder and is normally only available to bearers of diplomatic passports
  • journalist visa, which some countries require people in that occupation to obtain when travelling for their respective news organizations. Countries which insist on this include Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the US (I-visa) and Zimbabwe. In each case failure to obtain the correct document is likely to result in the refusal of entry, or interrogation and deportation.
  • fiance visa, granted for a limited period prior to intended marriage based on a proven relationship with a citizen of the destination country, for example an American man who wishes to marry a Russian woman would obtain a Fiance Visa (also known as a [K1 Visa]) to allow her to enter the United States.

Entry and duration period

Visas can also be single-entry, which means the visa is cancelled as soon as the holder leaves the country, double-entry, or multiple-entry, permitting 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, and the period of validity starts only on entry into the country. A notable exception to this is India, where the visa validity period starts immediately when the visa is issued. Once in the country, the validity period of a visa can often be extended for a fee. Overstaying a visa's validity period is considered illegal immigration and the offender may be fined, deported, or even blacklisted from entering the country again.

Visa refusal

A visa may be denied for various reasons, for example:

  • if the applicant does not have a genuine reason for their journey;
  • if there is already an immigration problem in the country the applicant intends to visit;
  • if the applicant is asking for a resident visa and has no visible means of sustenance;
  • if the applicant has a criminal record;
  • if the applicant is considered to be a security risk.

See also

External links

ja:査証 pl:Wiza sv:Visum zh:签证


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