A visa is an official permission to enter a country and stay in that country. A visa is issued by the country where the traveler is going. In this way, that country can exercise control over who enters the country.
The word “visa” comes from the Latin charta visa, “document that has been viewed”. In some languages, for example English and French, the singular is also a visa – a word that in other languages, including Dutch and German, indicates the plural.
Most visas contain conditions for the visit. Often a visa is valid for a limited period of time, after that time the traveler must have left the country (standard tourist visas usually provide 90 days). Usually it is also indicated how many times the traveler can enter the country; the so-called single entry (non-recurring access), double entry and multiple entry visa (unlimited access for a certain period of time and the number of days). In addition, the visa requirements imposed on the visit in the country is such that the visitor may not carry out activities on the labor market.
Not following these rules, for example exceeding the length of stay or being active on the labor market, can lead to legal sanctions. This can range from a fine to be paid on departure for a temporary or permanent ban to visit the country again or even jail.
Request a visa
For some countries the visa must be requested in advance. This can be done via the local representative of that country (embassy and / or consulate) or through specialized companies. Through this application procedure, these countries have in principle the possibility to carry out an investigation into the past of the applicant. On this basis, it may be decided to refuse the visa, and thus the access to the country.
Other countries issue the visa at the moment that one enters the country (visa on arrival). Often the visa can also be applied for in advance for these countries, this can prevent delays or even refusals to the country at the border.
Often costs are charged for a visa. Especially for countries that do not have freely convertible currencies, issuing visas can be a source of income (and foreign currency).
A visa can take various forms. Sometimes a visa is a document that must be kept next to the passport, but usually it is a stamp in the passport or a sticker or seal that is stuck in the passport. A passport therefore has a number of blank pages next to each other. Those who travel a lot can apply for a business passport, which is a passport with more room for visas. In exceptional cases it is possible to have two passports at the same time, this can be specifically requested if trips are planned to countries with ‘mutually sensitive, tense relationships’. For example, Israel refuses entry to its territory if proof is in the passport that countries such as Iran were visited (and vice versa). A separate visa (without a passport) is not a valid travel document.
Visas are mainly issued by countries where entry restrictions apply, either on the basis of origin or on a time basis. For example, the Dutch and Belgians can only apply for a visa for a number of Gulf countries if an invitation from a resident can be submitted at the same time.