If you’re planning to travel to a foreign country that requires you to obtain a visa, it’s important to understand what sort of visa you need and exactly how to get it. For just about any country, there are in fact several different kinds of visas. So, which one are you supposed to get?
To help you figure it out, here’s a quick and handy rundown on the four main kinds of visas, what they are, how they’re applied for and who they’re meant for.
The Two Main Ways to Classify Visa Documents
Because visas come in so many shapes and sizes, there are a couple of different ways of categorizing them.
The first way to classify visas is based off of the owner’s immigration status. There are immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas.
Immigrant visas mean that the person who obtains one plans on becoming a permanent resident of the visiting country eventually. A non-immigrant visa means the person who obtains one only plans on visiting the country for temporary purposes such as work, family business or religious reasons.
Whether you plan on simply visiting the foreign country for a few weeks or months, or plan on eventually obtaining naturalization and official citizenship there, this will determine the kind of visa that you should plan on obtaining.
But to get more specific, visas are more typically classified among the following four sub-types:
- Tourist visas (also known as pleasure travel visas)
- Business visas
- Student Visas
- Immigration or naturalization visas
While these four visa categories exist all over the world, you must keep in mind that different countries will have different rules on obtaining them. Getting a travel visa for the United States is probably not going to be the same as registering for a travel visa in Singapore.
Tourist Visa Overview
The tourist visa or pleasure travel visa is the most obtained visa and is also the easiest one to apply for. This is good news for anyone who only needs one for a vacation and not a more serious reason.
A tourist visa is classified as a non-immigration visa. If you are a US citizen, you will need to find out where you are going if you require a tourist visa. The United States requires tourist visas for certain countries, such as Russia, India and China.
Applying for a tourist visa varies by country, and some countries allow you to simply receive a tourist visa on arrival. Others don’t require a tourist visa at all for citizens of certain countries. To apply for a visa to visit the countries that require you to get a tourist visa in order to enter on leisure, you should apply at their embassy within your country. If you live in NYC for example, you can apply for a tourist visa to China at the Chinese consulate in Manhattan.
People who obtain tourist visas do so for more recreational purposes, but they can sometimes include work-related reasons as well. Many people need a tourist visa for, you guessed it, tourism, but they can also obtain one for reasons that are not really leisure.
Such reasons include medical procedures, social services, visiting family, etc. As for business-related reasons, this is when someone isn’t traveling for work or to get paid, but traveling to visit a place that is work related. This includes political or business conferences, scientific panels or shows, lectures, etc. Again, these are not jobs where you get paid, but merely career-adjacent activities.
If you need a visa for actual work, you will need the following kind of visa:
Business Visa Overview
The work or business visa is considered one of the hardest visas to obtain in nearly any country, rivaled only by immigration visas.
Work visas are complicated because they can be considered either immigration or non-immigration visas depending on the situation of the person.
Most countries, including the United States, have very strict rules on obtaining a work visa. How lenient they will be often depends on the current state of the economy one plans on working in. If a country isn’t desperate or looking for many people in a certain sector, then getting a work visa for that sector will be exceedingly difficult.
You should only apply for work visas if you have an exceptional educational and career record and reputation, and even then it will still be hard.
In order to apply for a business visa, you’ll need documentation showing that you have business purposes for visiting the country. Rules and requirements will vary country to country, but you’ll no doubt need to fill out an application and submit it to the country’s consulate for review. Then, you may get an email or a sticker or stamp in your passport granting you the visa if accepted.
Student Visa Overview
One of the easier visa types to obtain, many countries regularly accept college or university students from abroad with student visas.
Many countries have programs in place that make studying abroad quite simple. Certain European countries have a huge influx of foreign students, making it very easy if you apply to the right country.
Student visas are considered non-immigration visas, which partially explains their relative accessibility. In order to apply, you’ll need documentation from your school in the country you plan to go to. You’ll of course need to be eligible for this and will need to have been accepted into the program you’ve applied to at the school or university. Then, after applying at the consulate, you’ll receive your student visa if your application meets all criteria.
Immigration/Naturalization Visa Overview
Arguably the hardest visa to obtain, naturalization visas are for those who plan to obtain permanent residency and citizenship in a different country.
While naturalization visas can be obtained via marriage, thereby making the process a bit easier, they are very difficult to obtain without a spouse.
Also known as green cards, these visas do not immediately grant the holder residency, but the opportunity to live in the country for a while and apply for valid citizenship over time. Marriage, family living abroad, employment and refugee status are the most common ways to obtain this visa.
In order to apply for this type of visa, you’ll likely need an appointment at the immigration office of the country you are applying to within your country. You may be able to apply for this from within the country if you’re already there. Then, hopefully you will pass the interview and meet all criteria. They will surely ask for documentation and if you provide everything you require, you may be granted am immigration or naturalization visa to their country.
Applying for your Visa Easier with Photo Tools
No matter what kind of visa you need, each one needs a properly taken and formatted photograph. The visa application process is already strenuous enough as it is, so make sure to take full advantage of as many tools as necessary to make things smoother and quicker.
When it comes to taking a proper visa photo, you can use online tools to help edit it to perfection. A source like AiPassportPhotos is great for all kinds of documents, including visas for several different countries. Whether you need a student visa or a work visa, your photo will be in excellent shape after a run through this software.
Now that you understand more about what type of visa to apply for in which situations, it’s time to start filling out your application for that visa. Be sure to get a few good passport sized photos to use in your application and to keep in case you need them at some point in the near future. Good luck with your application and happy travels!