Traveling is fun, but when it comes to international travel, the first thought that crosses everybody’s mind is the visa. Visa applications can be a little daunting if travelers are not familiar with the process. We have some good news for such travelers. Most countries in the world welcome citizens of a few eligible countries without a visa. Read on to know more about visa-free travel.
A visa is a legal document issued by governments to foreign nationals who wish to visit their country for various purposes including tourism, business and education. Most of the visas are valid for the duration of the trip and some visas can be extended further. There are different types of visas, but the most common are tourism visas, transit visas, and business visas.
A visa is simply a legal authorization to enter a country whereas a passport is the legal identity of a traveler. It will have details like his/her name, nationality and date of birth. Visa-free travel is a trip to a foreign country that does not require travelers to get a visa to cross its borders.
Travelers are not asked to complete a lengthy visa application process that, in many cases, requires them to visit the destination country’s consulate for in-person interviews, medical verification and biometric details. They also do not need to gather additional documents like a letter of invitation and accommodation details.
They also do not have to shell out money for visa fees and need to worry about visa rejection and re-apply. They can just reserve a ticket and pack their bags. Of course, they should carry their identity document, that is their passport.
International travelers need to carry proper identification documents to enter any foreign country. Their passport is the internationally-reorganized identity that provides information about the country of their citizenship, their name and date of birth.
For example, citizens of New Zealand can travel to Australia only with their passport, German citizens do not need a visa to visit Turkey and Americans can enter Canada without a visa. In some countries, visa-free travelers need to fill out immigration forms where they will have to provide their travel itinerary and accommodation details. They may be given a return date to leave the country.
A trip to a foreign country that does not require a traveler to provide a visa to cross its borders is called a visa-free entry. The validity of such a visa waiver is usually short term and foreign travelers are generally allowed in for tourism and business. The legal period of stay for visa-free entry can vary, but in most cases, it is between 15-90.
Visa-free entry refers to entering a foreign country without a visa. In the case of visa on arrival, the travelers need to get a visa on arrival at the port of entry in the destination country.
The US government grants visa-free entry to the country to citizens of a few select foreign countries. Foreign travelers from these eligible countries can visit America for tourism and business for a maximum duration of 90 days under the US government’s Visa Waiver Program. The travelers are, however, required to provide a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding the inbound flight to the USA.
The ESTA is a web-based program run by the customs and border protection force of the US government and this document is issued directly by them after verifying the eligibility of the applicant. The ESTA is valid for two years and the holders have to re-apply for the ESTA if they renew their passport or change their passport during this time.
Travelers eligible for the ESTA can apply for it at their nearest US consulate or embassy. Note that applicants using an emergency or temporary passport to enter the US must have an e-passport even for transiting through the country.
Countries that are eligible for the US visa waiver program include Andorra, UK, Croatia, France, Germany, Iceland, Greece, Italy, Monaco, New Zealand and Singapore. At present, around 50 foreign nations are eligible for the visa waiver program. Citizens of Canada to do not require a nonimmigrant visa to travel to the US for tourism and business provided they are not criminally inadmissible.
Citizens of America can visit as many as 148 foreign nations without a visa. The list includes American Samoa, Austria, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Spain and the UK.
The government of Canada too allows visa-free entry to citizens of a few eligible countries. Instead of a visa, they can apply for an electronic travel authorization (eTA) for short-term visits of up to six months. The eTA, which is valid for up to five years, is digitally linked to the electronic passports of the applicants. The application process for an eTA is completely online and simple.
Travelers from visa-exempt countries need to show their Canadian eTA at the airport to enter the country. If they are using other modes of transport, they may need a visitor visa. Citizens and permanent residents of the US can travel with their legal passports and PR certificates. Nations that do not need a visa to enter Canada include Brazil, Romania, Switzerland, UAE, UK, Vatican City and Andorra.
The government of Brazil to permits visa-free entry to citizens of some foreign countries for trips related to tourism, transit and business or to participate in art and sports events. The duration of such trips should not exceed more than 90 days. They can travel with their passports or recognized identity documents. In some cases, they also need to submit proof of funds to support themselves during the stay, especially if they come from countries like Spain.
Some visa-exempt countries are America, Georgia, Morocco, Switzerland, South Africa, South Korea, Australia, Canada and Japan.
Foreign nationals need a legal visa to enter Peru unless they come from visa-exempt countries. The government of Peru issues visa-free entry to citizens of 97 nations including Schengen countries. This is for visits related to tourism. The permitted duration of a stay varies from country to country. While citizens of most visa-exempt nations can stay for a maximum of 180 days, those coming from Schengen areas have to leave the country within 90 days.
Citizens of India and China who hold permanent residency or a valid visa can also enter the country without a visa. Peru also allows citizens from close to 20 foreign nations such as Russia, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, and Malaysia to enter its borders for business and stay for up to 90 days without a Peruvian visa.
Most foreigners need a visa to enter Turkey. Citizens of close to 97 nations can enter the country visa-free for tourism. This includes Austria, Spain, Belgium and the UK. Visa-free entry is granted for tourism and business for a period of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. Citizens of visa-free countries can enter the country with their legal passport or in some cases the legal identity card issued by their home country.
The country also offers conditional visa-free status to citizens of Algeria, Cyprus, and Libya. The applicants should be in the age bracket of 15-65 years and their visit should be related to tourism.
India is a country with strict border control measures. Foreign nationals need proper authorization to enter the country except those visiting from visa-exempt nations. Citizens of Bhutan and Nepal do not need a visa to enter India unless they are coming from China or Pakistan.
An overseas citizen of India and persons of Indian origin card holders too do not need a visa to enter India for tourism and stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days.
Germany, a member state of the Schengen area, allows citizens of some eligible foreign nations visa-free entry to visit the country and stay for 90 days for tourism and business. They cannot work or earn money during this period. Foreigners from as many as 62 countries including Japan, Brazil, Israel, Canada, Honduras, Brunei, and Canada are eligible for this visa waiver to enter Germany.
The visa validity is six months, but travelers can stay up to 90 days during this period. Travelers from Schengen member states will have to register with an electronic travel information and authorization system (ETIAS) to enter other Schengen member states from 2023 onwards. The ETIAS is valid for ten years and the application process is very simple and online.
New Zealand has a visa waiver program in place for travelers from eligible countries for short-term visits not exceeding three months. Citizens of the United Kingdom arriving on this visa waiver program can stay up to 180 days. Travelers eligible for this visa waiver have to get a New Zealand electronic travel authorization (NZeTA) before arriving at a port of entry in NZ.
However, if they are coming for medical treatment, they will have to apply for a visa even if they belong to visa-exempt nations such as Qatar, Norway, Mexico and Greece.
International travelers need a visa to enter the United Kingdom except those coming from visa-exempt nations. The UK is no longer an EU member, but visitors from the Schengen member states can cross the UK borders using the eGate facility. Ireland, Australia, Canada, and the US are other countries eligible for visa exemptions in the UK for short-term visits.
Citizens from these countries can enter with their biometric-enabled passports provided they are not under 12 years of age. Minor children between 12 and 17 years of age have to be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians.
Australia has one of the strictest border control laws in the world. The country allows visa-free entry to citizens of New Zealand only. Australia also grants visa waivers like an electronic travel authorization (ETA) and eVisitor to a few eligible countries. The application process for an ETA is through an official mobile application while the process for an eVisitor is online. Both are multiple entry visa-waiver programs and travelers can stay in Australia with an ETA/eVisitor for up to three months at a time.