Back to Basics Visas

This is the second blog post of the Back to Basics series of blog posts on travel admin. This series is for people who haven’t yet traveled out of the country and need an easy to follow rundown on how to make it happen. Seasoned travelers may learn a thing or two from this series as well. It’s never a bad thing to expand your knowledge and understanding.

This blog post is all about tourist visas.  A tourist visa is a supporting document that is placed within your passport to grant you access into a country for a specified period. 

When do I need a tourist visa?

There are 94 countries that can be visited without a visa using a South African passport. The remaining 100 countries will require that you obtain a tourist visa before entry.

Just because a country doesn’t need a visa to visit your country does not mean you also won’t need one to visit theirs – and vice versa. You can not visit all countries in Africa without a visa just because you are from an African country. South Africans require a visa to visit Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt for example. Not all visa applications are successful.

What is the visa application process?

The visa application process differs depending on the visa you’re applying for.  There are three main types of travel visas:

  1. visa on arrival: these are obtained and paid for on arrival at the airport or border post (E.g for South Africans traveling to Maldives, Madagascar and Zimbabwe)
  2. e-visa: the entire application process is done online. (E.g for South Africans traveling to Turkey)
  3. pre-application visa:

The usual procedure for a pre-application travel visa:

  1. Download and complete the application form
  2. Compile required supporting documents
  3. Make appointment for visa consultation
  4. At your appointment, the country visa requirements differ but you can expect to submit documents, get your photo taken, do an interview and pay

The latest visa I applied for was for my trip to Greece.  From my experience, the visa appointment can take as quick as 20 minutes if you have all of your documents. It then takes up to 15 calendar days for your visa application to be processed. They then call to notify you that your visa is ready for collection. Your visa will be pasted into your passport and will have a specified expiration date.

What documents are required for tourist visa applications?

The required documents are visa specific. Examples of information required includes proof of accommodation reservation, bank statements and proof of employment. Some application processes include an interview where they ask questions about your reason for travel, your financial ability to afford the trip and your commitments in your country of citizenship. Basically, they want to make sure you’re not going to enter their country and never return home!

At which stage in travel planning should I apply for a tourist visa?

Apply for a visa sooner rather than leaving it till the last minute. Check for all the documents required for the visa application, and once you have all of them, book your appointment! What could go wrong? Booking appointments may be full OR the visa may take longer to process than the normal specified time OR your application may be unsuccessful at first try.

What is a Schengen VISA?

The Schengen Area consists of 26 countries that have agreed to allow their citizens access to all countries within the area as if they were one country. How incredible is that? A Schengen visa is required to enter the Schengen Area.  Once in the Schengen area, you too have access to all 26 countries within the area.

South Africans are required to have a Schengen VISA in order to travel to a country within the Schengen Area. These countries include Italy, Greece, France, Denmark and other European countries excluding The United Kingdom. If you are visiting more than one country within the Schengen Area, then apply for a visa at the embassy of the first country you enter or the country at which you will stay the longest. The list of VISA application requirements including the application form can be found on the VFS Global website.

Where do I begin?

I’ve listed links to visa application websites for some popular travel destinations. I will keep extending the list:

United Kingdom

Schengen Area

Dubai

United States of America

Nigeria

South Africa