All You Need to Know About Travel Documents

When you are planning to travel, having the right paperwork with you is mandatory. The last thing you want is to be sent home from the airport or be deported because you didn’t have all the papers you needed. If you’re traveling within your home country or outside of it, you will need some kind of identification, the so-called travel documents. These are forms of identification issued by a government in order to facilitate the movement of citizens or visitors across international borders. In this article, I will write about the papers you need to remember every time you are traveling and I will try to answer to the most frequently asked questions about travel documents.

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ID Card or Driver’s License

ID Card or Driver’s License

If you are traveling within your country, all you need to bring is your ID card or your driver’s license, both of which prove your identity and citizenship. It should go without saying that if you’re planning to drive either your own car or a rental, having your driver’s license with you is a must. Your ID might also be necessary if you’re staying at a hotel or renting a car, to prove that you’re the one who made the reservation. An ID is sufficient for domestic flights; however, make sure to check your country’s travel regulations to find out what documents you need in order to fly domestically.

Also, make sure that your ID is not expired or close to expiration in order to avoid any further screening. If you’re traveling or flying abroad, you’ll need more documents to prove your identity, as you’ll see below.

Passport

  Passport

A passport is an official document issued by a government that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder and authorizes you to travel. It is a small booklet that contains the holder’s name, place and date of birth, the date of issue and date of expiry, passport number, photo and signature. The types of passports vary depending on the holders’ home country.

Any time you cross an international border, you’ll need a passport. You must present it several times at the airport if you’re flying or at the border if you’re traveling by car. However, having a passport does not guarantee your entry into the country you’re planning to visit. In this case, you may need to apply for a travel visa beforehand in order to be allowed to enter. Make sure to visit Passport Index to find out if your destination country is visa-free or you need to apply for a visa first.

For how long must a passport be valid on my arrival?

  For how long must a passport be valid on my arrival?

Passports must usually be valid for at least six months from the start of your travel date. However, there are countries that require a passport that is valid at least during your travel. Each country has different requirements for how long your passport must be valid. Make sure that you check with your destination country’s government website before starting your trip.  

Do children require a passport?

Do children require a passport?

Yes, children as well as infants and young adults need to have a passport. Most countries issue passports for children and young adults for five years and only for two years for infants. However, the definition of an infant, child, or young adult varies depending on the country. For example, a child in the US is defined as being under 16 years old, whereas under 19 in Japan.

Do I need any blank pages in my passport?

Do I need any blank pages in my passport?

Before traveling abroad, make sure that your passport is not full. Some countries require between two to four blank pages in your passport before your entry to their country. It is possible that the airline will not let you board if there is not space for the entrance stamp into your passport. Each country has different requirements so, again, make sure to check the website of your destination country’s government before you depart. 

What is a passport card?

What is a passport card?

This applies ONLY to U.S. citizens. Passport cards are a form of U.S. passport that can be used for land or sea travels to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. They are convenient and less expensive than a passport book, but it CANNOT be used for international air travel. It is ideal for people who frequently cross the Mexican or Canadian border by car or train and for sailors or yachtsmen who sail in international waters between U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

What if my passport gets lost or stolen?

What if my passport gets lost or stolen?

If your passport is lost or stolen you should report it IMMEDIATELY in order to invalidate it so that nobody will use it. Contact the local police, the embassy and your country’s passport authorities to report what happened. You will be issued an emergency (or temporary) passport that you will use in order to get back home. Then you should apply for a new passport.

What if my passport is damaged?

What if my passport is damaged?

If your passport is damaged in any way, it is highly likely that the border security at your destination will refuse your entry to the country. In this case, you will need to apply for a new passport. If you need the new passport as soon as possible, you can pay an extra amount of money and get it in two or three weeks.

Important Links

Important Links

U.S.A.: www.state.gov/travel

U.K.: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-passport-office

Australia: www.passports.gov.au

New Zealand: www.passports.govt.nz

Canada: www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/canadian-passports

South Africa: www.home-affairs.gov.za/index.php/civic-services/travel-documents

 

Tip: Birth certificates cannot replace passports or IDs! Some cruise companies, for example, may accept a birth certificate as a document of identification, but most of them will not.

Visa

Visa

Having a passport will not guarantee entry into any country you’d like to visit. In some cases, you may need to apply for a visa beforehand. A visa is an official document issued or stamp marked by the authorities of a country, allowing the holder to enter, remain within a specific period, or leave the country. Visas are either stamped on glued into your passport and include your name, passport number, place of birth, reason for travel and expiration date. Stamped visas typically include only the destination and date from which the visa is valid as well as how many days it is valid for. Check iVisa, the government’s website or call the embassies of the countries you plan to visit in order to get informed about their visa requirements.

Types of Visas

Types of Visas

Here are some of the most popular types of visas that are issued by a number of countries:

 Travel/Tourist Visa: Allows the bearer to enter a country for touristic and leisure reasons only. The visitor can stay only for a specific time period in the host country and should not be engaged in any business activities there.

 Transit Visa: This type of visa allows its holder to pass through a country only without staying there. It is ideal for travelers who want to pass through a country that is not their destination country. Their validity lasts for a few days, but once again, you have to check to the country’s embassy in order to find out its visa regulations.

 Working Holiday Visa: It allows the holder to undertake temporary employment in a country and not all countries offer such a visa. Australia, for example, is one of the countries that issue this temporary visa for young people who want to holiday and work in Australia for up to a year.

 Business Visa: This type of visa allows the bearer to stay in a country for a short period of time for business related reasons without joining that country’s labor market. This means that the visitor will not receive any income from the host country. 

 Student Visa: It allows the bearer to enroll at an education institution in the host country and study there for a specific time period.

What is the Schengen Visa?

What is the Schengen Visa?

 The Schengen area comprises 26 countries in Europe that share a common visa policy. An EU national can travel from one border-free Schengen EU country to another freely. However, it does not necessarily mean that you won’t need a visa to enter, but that the procedures will be faster. If you are not a resident of a Schengen country, you are requested to apply for a Schengen Visa in order to enter this zone. Specifically, the countries whose citizens need to obtain this visa are the following:

Afghanistan, Guinea, Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, Philippines, Angola, Guyana, Qatar, Armenia, Haiti, Russia, Azerbaijan, India, Rwanda, Bahrain, Indonesia, Samoa, Bangladesh, Iran, Sao Tome and Principe, Belarus, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Belize, Jamaica, Senegal, Benin, Jordan, Sierra Leone, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Kenya, Somalia, Botswana, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Burma/Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Burundi, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Sudan, Cameroon, Lesotho, Suriname, Cape Verde, Liberia, Swaziland, Central African Republic, Libya, Syria, Chad, Madagascar, Tajikistan, China, Malawi, Tanzania, Maldives, Thailand, Comoros, Mali, Timor-Leste, Congo, Marshall Islands, Togo, Cote D’Ivoire, Mauritania, Tonga, Cuba, Micronesia, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Mongolia, Turkey, Morocco, Turkmenistan, Dominican Republic, Mozambique, Ecuador, Namibia, Uganda, Egypt, Nauru, Equatorial Guinea, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, Niger, Vanuatu, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Fiji, North Korea, Yemen, Gabon, Northern Mariana’s, Zambia, Gambia, Oman, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Kosovo, Ghana, Palau, Papua New Guinea.

Either you need a visa or not, you are not allowed to stay in any of the Schengen countries for more than three months. However, keep in mind that obtaining a Schengen visa does NOT include working or studying in that country.

Make sure that you check what documents you must have in order to travel outside your home country and to enter one Schengen country. Once you enter, you can travel freely throughout the rest of the zone. Here is a list of the Schengen member countries:

Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Belgium, Greece, Malta, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Estonia, Italy, Poland, Liechtenstein, Finland, Latvia, Portugal, France, Lithuania, Slovakia.

 

There are also some European countries outside the Schengen area that allow you to enter their country for tourism without a visa. Here is a list of these countries and the period you are allowed to stay there:

Up to 3 months

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Ireland, Kosovo, FYROM, Romania, Serbia

Up to 3 months within a six month period

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Moldova, Montenegro

Up to 6 months per year

Armenia

Up to 6 months

United Kingdom

Five days per visit, with a maximum of 3 months per year

Belarus

 

How do I apply for a Schengen Visa?

How do I apply for a Schengen Visa?

In order to apply for a Schengen Visa, it is very important to book an appointment at the embassy or consulate at least 15 days prior to your departure. In general, you can apply up to 12 weeks before you travel. In order to be able to apply, you need to hold a valid passport that has a period of six months until its expiration date. You will also be asked to fill out an application form and collect the mandatory documents that the embassy or consulate will ask. If the paperwork is valid, you will need to attend an interview where you will be asked questions regarding your trip, e.g. the purpose and duration of your trip, which countries you intend to visit, your family status etc.

When applying for a Schengen visa there is a non-refundable fee that every applicant is obliged to pay. The fee varies depending on the type of visa and the age of the applicant. The regular fee is:

 € 60 – Short stay visa, less than 90 days

 € 99 – Long stay visa, more than 90 days

Here is some further information about visa requirements for specific countries:

  United States: Citizens of the U.S. can stay in the Schengen Area under 90 days without having to obtain a Schengen visa.

   United Kingdom: British citizens can travel across Europe without a visa for a maximum of 90 days, even though U.K. is not a member of the Schengen Area.

   Canada: Canadian citizens can travel within the Schengen Area for tourism or business for a maximum of 90 days.

For more information about the Schengen visa please visit www.schengenvisainfo.com.

What is the U.S. Visa?

What is the U.S. Visa?

In order to enter the United Stated, a citizen of a foreign country must obtain a U.S. visa. A U.S. visa will allow you to travel to the United States but does not guarantee your entry in the country. As soon as you arrive, you need to request permission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector who is responsible for admission of travelers to the United States.

You can choose between nonimmigrant visas (travel for a temporary period) and immigrant visas (travel to live permanently in the U.S.). So, if you just want to visit the United States, you have to submit electronically the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form. While completing the application you should have available the following documents:

 Passport

 Travel itinerary

 Photo

 Your travel history for the past five years (and the dates of your last five visits to U.S., if any)

 Résumé or Curriculum Vitae.

All the answers in the application should be in English and all questions must be answered. After you finish the online application, you need to call the embassy or consulate in order to arrange an appointment for a personal interview. You will then be interviewed by the consular officers who will determine if you are eligible for a nonimmigrant visa. The documents that you need to gather before your visa interview are:

 your passport

 the confirmation page of your Nonimmigrant Visa Application

 the Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview

 Photos

 The purpose of your trip

 The place you will be staying in the U.S.

 Your travel itinerary.

For further information about the U.S. visa please visit official website of the U.S. Department of State.

Tip: It is advisable to avoid buying tickets until you have a visa since there is no guarantee that you will be issued a visa.

What is the Australian Visa?

What is the Australian Visa?

As for the entry in Australia, you need to apply for a visa before leaving your home country. If you are a New Zealand citizen, you can apply for a visa upon arrival in Australia. There is a range of visas for which you can apply, depending on the purpose of your trip. Whether you are visiting for less than 3 days or planning to stay for several years you must obtain a valid Australian visa. Specifically, there are two main categories of Australian visas:

1)      For those you visit as tourists, for business visitor activities, to see family, on tour with a registered travel agent from the People’s Republic of China (Visitor Visa) and,

2)      For those who wish to study, work, or live in Australia (longer than a visit).

For more information on how to enter and leave Australia please visit the official website of the Australian Department of Home Affairs.

Do I need Travel Insurance?

Do I need Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance can cost you a lot of money, but it can save you a lot more in case something goes wrong. If you’re planning an extended trip, you should definitely consider buying the travel insurance package that will cover any unexpected event that might occur. To find out more about the types of travel insurance policies and the reasons why you should or should not buy one, read our article on Travel Insurance.

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

Having the right paperwork is the no. 1 priority when it comes to traveling. What documents you need depends on what country you are visiting. The requirements about IDs, passports, or visas change from one country to another and the best ways to find out is to call a foreign embassy or consulate, visit the government’s website or consult an official tourism website. Make sure you start your trip well-prepared!


Edited  by Eleni Gkovedarou

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