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Obtaining a Visa

A visa is an endorsement or stamp placed in your passport by a foreign government that permits you to visit that country for a specified purpose and a limited time -- for example, a 3-month tourist visa. It is advisable to obtain visas before you leave the United States because you will not be able to obtain visas for some countries once you have departed. Apply directly to the embassy or nearest consulate of each country you plan to visit, or consult a travel agent. Passport agencies cannot help you obtain visas.

"Foreign Entry Requirements" (Department of State publication M-264) gives entry requirements for every country and tells where and how to apply for visas and tourist cards. It can be ordered from the Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colorado 81009. Note: The publication is updated annually but may not reflect the most current requirements. It is advisable to verify the latest visa requirements with the embassy or consulate of each country you plan to visit.

Because a visa is stamped directly onto a blank page in your passport, you will need to give your passport to an official of each foreign embassy or consulate. You will also need to fill out a form, and you may need one or more photographs. Many visas require a fee. The process may take several weeks for each visa, so apply well in advance of your trip.

Tourist Card

If the country you plan to visit only requires a tourist card, obtain one from the country's embassy or consulate, from an airline serving the country, or at the port of entry. There is a fee for some tourist cards.

Proof of Citizenship

Check with the embassy or consulate of each country you plan to visit to learn what proof of citizenship is required of visitors. Even if a country does not require a visitor to have a passport, it will require some proof of citizenship and identity. Remember that no matter what proof of citizenship a foreign country requires, U.S. Immigration has strict requirements for your reentry into the United States.

Excerpted from:U. S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. U. S. State Department Publication 9926. February, 1992. pgs. 13-14. Note: As of July, 1997 this was the latest non-internet-published U.S. State Department document pertaining to this topic.

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