Are you traveling internationally for work soon? Have you checked to see if you need a visa? Certain countries require a visa for any kind of business travel within their borders. We recently spoke to business travel expert Road Warriorette to get some advice on how to make it as painless as possible. Here's what she had to say.
How do I find out if the country I’m traveling to requires a visa?
There are a number of websites that will give you country-specific information about visas, but I prefer the US State Department. Simply click the country you plan to visit on the map and you will find a wealth of up-to-date information. Read the requirements very carefully, and keep in mind that visiting for tourism can require a different type of visa than visiting for work.
Another option is to use a visa assistance provider like CIBT, who is a UNIGLOBE Travel preferred visa processor. Keep reading for more information on that option.
What are the steps required?
Each country has different requirements, which can be found on the country’s embassy or consular site. Many countries require a letter of introduction from your manager, an invitation letter from the company or office you plan to visit, a photo, a copy of your passport, an application, a copy of another type of identification, or a letter of incorporation of the company you plan to visit. For my recent trip to India, I had to put together all of these documents, in addition to the hefty fee.
Start gathering your documents as early as possible, as certain documents can take a while to procure. Be very meticulous as you’re filling out any applications, as the wrong answer will cause your application to be rejected. India also has very strict guidelines for photos--I had to take a picture without glasses, makeup, or jewelry on, and with my hair pulled back. When renewing my passport I got a second photo that I planned to use for the visa, but it was rejected as I was wearing makeup, jewelry, my glasses, and had my hair down. I submitted four additional photos before one was deemed acceptable.
If there is a possibility that you will be traveling to the country again, look into getting a visa that is good for a longer length of time. To get a five-year visa for travel to India was only slightly more expensive than a one-year, and required no additional work.
Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months past your return date, as most countries require this. If you need to renew your passport do it as soon as possible, as the current estimated wait time is six to eight weeks.
Can I get a visa if I have to travel soon?
Most embassies recommend applying for your visa at least a month before travel, if not sooner. There are visa assistance providers that offer expedited service for a fee, and if you have less than three weeks until travel I highly recommend that option. I was able to get my visa about a week after submitting all of my documents using CIBT, and there are even faster options available.
Should I use a visa assistance provider?
Putting together all of the documents required for a visa can be extremely cumbersome and time-consuming. For busy employees, an agency can be a huge help in making sure everything is correct. They perform a number of services including registering your visit with your local embassy, making sure your photo is acceptable, double-checking all of the details on your application (or even filling out the application for you), and sending your application to the consulate.
As mentioned above, if you are traveling within a short amount of time an agency can also help expedite your application. CIBT, the agency I used for my Indian visa, allowed me to choose the services I needed, which was extremely helpful. It was still a lot of work to pull all the documents together, but the process would have been even more stressful without them. They gave me a very comprehensive checklist and made sure that all of my documents were correct, speeding up the process tremendously.
The most important things to keep in mind are to start the visa process as early as possible and follow all of the directions completely. If you have further questions, contact your UNIGLOBE Travel agent for further assistance.