When You Need a Visa or Just a Passport
Thinking about traveling to a foreign country but aren’t sure what travel documents you need? Are you not sure about the difference between visas and passports? Depending on where you’re from and where you’re headed, you may need a passport, a visa, or both.
Today we’re breaking down passports vs. visas so you can fully prepare for international travel.
What is a Passport?
A passport is an official identification document issued by your own government. It includes your photo, name, address, date, and place of birth, as well as blank pages for travel stamps. Immigration officials will stamp those pages for approval every time you enter and exit a different country.
A U.S. passport is required to travel between the United States and all foreign countries. In certain parts of Europe, however, you can travel from one country to another without a passport. Even without a passport, you’ll always need to show identification. In some cases, you’ll need to show proof of your nationality.
Then Schengen Agreement, signed in 1985, allows people to travel freely between 26 countries without a passport. Be aware that most airlines do require a passport for travel, even if the countries you’re traveling between don’t.
If you’re planning to travel outside your home country, it’s always best to have a passport. Without one, immigration and customs officials can deny you entry or exit.
How to Get a Passport
The first step in getting a passport is to complete an application. To get a passport from the U.S. Department of State, you’ll need to provide proof of citizenship. This can be your birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship. You’ll also need to prove your identity with a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license. Passports are usually valid for ten years from the date of issue. At the end of that period, you can renew your passport. So how much does it cost to get a passport in the US?
For adults over the age of 16, your first passport will cost $145. Every ten years you’ll have to pay an additional $110 for the renewal to retain a valid passport. Expect to wait between 6-8 weeks for your passport to be processed. To expedite processing time, you can pay an extra fee of $60 to get it sooner.
What is a Visa?
A visa is an official document issued by a foreign government that permits entry into their country. Visas have various expiration dates. They may be 10 days, 30 days, or 60 days – or longer. Once your visa expires, you will no longer be able to stay legally in that country. Visa requirements may be different from one country to the next. In some countries, a transit visa, business visa, student visa, or employment visa might be necessary.
And sometimes, there are places you can travel to without a visa.
For example, US citizens can spend up to 90 days (for tourism or business) in dozens of countries without a visa. Some of those countries include most parts of Europe, Canada, Mexico, and South America. United States citizens can visit the United Kingdom for tourism or business for up to six months without a visa.
Some countries do require visas for international visitors and US citizens. Here are some useful resources:
- How to Get a Visa for China
- How to Obtain Canadian Work Visas
- Thai Visas for Tourists and Expats
- Understanding the Schengen Visa
How Do I Get a Visa?
Before you plan your next trip abroad, check the government website of your destination country. The official website or the embassy of each country will provide you with the information you need to apply for a visa if one is required. Countries like India and Turkey will let you apply for an e-visa online.
In some cases, you may need to complete a visa application form in person.
Like the visa itself, the costs vary by type or country. For example, a Chinese tourist visa for a US citizen costs $140. Heading to Nigeria? That travel visa will cost you $160. Russian visas are some of the most expensive, with the price of a tourist visa costing around $270.
Moving to the USA: US Work Visas for Foreigners
Passport vs. Visa: What’s the Difference Between a Visa and a Passport?
A passport is an identification document issued by a government that gives a citizen official permission to travel in and out of their home country.
A visa is a document issued by a government to foreign visitors, providing them with legal entry into a foreign country.
A passport comes from the country you live in. A visa comes from the country you’re visiting.
The confusion of when you need a passport vs. visa is common among many travelers. To make your next trip run smoothly, get a passport regardless of where you’re going. Most airlines require it. Research your destination country to see if a visa is necessary and apply for one if need be.
International travel is thrilling, but without both travel documents in hand, you may be denied entry or exit into a foreign land.