If you want to travel outside of the U.S., you probably know that you need a passport. Passports are forms of international identification that include certain identifying information about you, such as your picture, date of birth and gender.
But a passport doesn’t necessarily, in itself, allow you to enter another country. For that, you must apply for a visa. Visas help countries screen the potential visitors to their nations. The actual visa that’s issued to travelers spells out the purpose of their trip abroad, which might be for recreation, work, or educational reasons. In addition, it notes the estimated length of the trip and the expiration date of the visa.
Every country has its own process for visa application and issuance. While the Schengen visa allows for access to 25 different European countries through one simple visa, not every country that borders another will currently allow for easy access from one to the other. But current visa requirements are not permanent, and many countries are presently trying to get various visa restrictions lifted around the world.
Russia and the European Union
The European Union (EU) is made up of 27 countries throughout Europe who are united in recognizing certain treaties. The EU also has a common market and trading system as well as a shared currency among roughly 17 of the member states.
This unionization of so many different countries within one shared land mass helps make regulation, trading and travel easier. Currently, Russia—which is not an EU member—is attempting to enter into a visa-free travel agreement with the EU. If approved, that would allow would-be travellers to more easily roam between Russia and bordering countries such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia or Finland.
Just recently, Russian international news agency, Ria Novosti, reported that the agreement had hit a snag due to Russia’s request that official passports of certain state employees, such as parliament, be cancelled prior to lifting restrictions.
Cayman Islands and Jamaica
Most citizens of British Commonwealth countries are permitted to land in the Cayman Islands without a visa. Jamaican residents were once totally excluded from this convenient visa exemption but in 2011 certain restrictions were lifted, allowing travelers from Jamaica who were over 70 and under 15 to land in the Cayman islands without a visa.
From China to the UK
Not every attempt to lift visa restrictions for country-to-country travel is about eradicating the necessity of visas altogether. British officials are currently being urged just to simplify the process of getting a visa to enter from China.
Travel Weekly recently reported that only 200,000 Chinese nationals visited Britain in 2011, compared to the roughly 940,000 who visited the U.S. in the same year. With an estimated £1,600 spent per Chinese visitor during a trip to the UK, there is definitely a financial incentive in the UK adjusting its visa requirements.
Health Insurance for International Travel
Visa requirements don’t just vary based on country of residence and destination; they can also fluctuate based on the purpose of your trip. While every applicant will likely need a passport to travel abroad and get a visa, some may find there are additional requirements such as proof of hotel accommodations, marriage certificate and labor certifications. Some visas, such as student visas, require that a traveller secure a certain level of health insurance protection for their international travel plans. Even if your visa application doesn’t require proof of international insurance coverage, it’s a good idea to secure this protection so that you can ensure you have the means to pay for any medical treatment and emergency transportation you need while abroad. More comprehensive policies can even provide death benefits and financial protection for cancelled trips and stolen property. Before securing coverage, make sure you understand the minimums required by your visa application and find out whether you must provide a paper copy of the policy when you apply for the visa.
Visa Requirements: A Thing of Change
If you’re planning for a trip abroad, make sure to brush up on the most recent visa requirements for travel from your country of origin to your destination. Relying on outdated information might be more trouble than it’s worth and may also force you to delay your trip or scramble at the last minute to comply with some new requirement.