One of the best perks of remote work is the ability to travel and work at the same time. However, this freedom is sometimes curbed by the need for visas to travel. Here are a few basics and visa tips for other remote workers who love to travel (but don’t necessarily have the best passport to do so).
Why do we need visas?
Visas are a way for governments to protect their borders. They’re also a good way to keep track of how many international travelers are in one country at a time. The system helps countries control how many foreigners are traveling within their area of responsibility, how long they are allowed to stay, and whether they are allowed to visit multiple times or just once.
According to CNN, the best passport to use for travel is Germany. Travelers with a German passport can enter 177 out of 218 countries without a visa. In a close second place comes Sweden, whose passport opens doors to 176 countries without needing a visa.
On the other end of the spectrum, the worst passports for travel include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Syria. If your passport requires a visa to get to most places, this article will go through the basics of getting a visa and some advice for simpler travel.
Commonly required documents and how to get them
Here are the things I’ve had to provide to get various visas;
- Photos – I always keep a few in my passport sleeve.
- Application form – completely filled out. Add n/a in blank spaces that aren’t reserved for official use.
- Passport – this usually must be valid for at least six months from date of travel, so keep an eye on that expiration date.
- Birth certificate – keep a copy with you on your travels so you can photocopy it when you need to.
- Bank certificate and/or statement – request this from your bank, or print out a statement if that will suffice.
- Letter of employment – request a PDF from your employer, which you can easily print out.
- Tax return forms – keep a copy with you on your computer, so you can print it out when you need to.
- Health insurance – this can easily be purchased online. There are multiple options you can go through by doing a search for “traveler’s insurance.”
- Proof of lodging – hotel bookings, Airbnb confirmation, or proof that you can afford a place to stay once you arrive.
- Pre-purchased travel – typically these are plane tickets in and out of the country.
It can be tough to get some of these items if you’re away from your home country, so I recommend keeping the standard documents with you in a folder (originals + 1 photocopy). That way, whenever it’s time to pack up and go, you can photocopy all the documents you need.
Make sure you book refundable hotels and flights just in case your visa is denied. Working with a travel agent helps, since they can issue you hotel and flight reservations that haven’t been confirmed, so you can cancel them at any time.
Do your research. Your primary source of information should be the embassy website; look for instructions and follow them to the letter to save everyone’s time. However, you can also research other travellers accounts of how they got the same visa. These case-by-case accounts can give you an idea of the waiting times, what to bring, and the parking situation around the area. I also love using VisaHQ to see all the requirements I’ll need ahead of time. You can filter by passport, country of current residence, and visa desired.
Unless there are designated parking spaces, use Uber or ask a friend to drive you to the embassy. It’s less of a hassle than trying to find parking on a crowded street then making the long trek from the car to the embassy. The only time I would recommend driving is when purses aren’t allowed into the visa centers, so you have to leave most of your things in a locker or your car.
Work with a travel agent who can reserve plane tickets for you before getting your visa (sometimes a visa requirement is to have pre-purchased travel). That way, if the visa is denied you can simply cancel the reservation versus getting a plane ticket refunded.
Always download your visa application form from the embassy website to ensure you have the current version. You may find some blogs that walk you through the process of getting a visa, which have helpfully included a downloadable visa application form. However, sometimes these forms are outdated and won’t be accepted.
If you have a long-haul trip planned, try to get all the visas you need beforehand. You’ll have to do your research and be smart about how you schedule your stops. For example, if a particular visa will only be valid three months after issuing, you’ll have to go to that country first or second. Alternatively, you should plan your trips around countries where you don’t need a visa, or where you only need one (ie. the collaborative Schengen visa).
A special tip for those applying for a U.S. visa – it’s almost always better to apply for a visa from your home country. One of the factors taken into consideration is the vice consul’s assessment of your personal situation in your country of residence. Basically, you have to prove you are not an “intending immigrant.”
Applying “out of district” makes this assessment difficult, because the vice consul is not familiar with the home country. It might well happen that the visa will be refused with the instruction to apply from your home country.
Bonus: Citizenship for sale?
Did you know you could buy citizenship? Countries like St. Kitts and Nevis have started to experiment in selling their citizenships, allowing buyers to use different passports to travel visa-free. For example, a passport from Dominica allows visa-free travel to the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea.
I’m not suggesting you go out and buy some passports, but it’s something interesting to ponder.
What countries are you from, and what visa-related stories or questions do you have? I’d love to hear from you, just write in the comments of find me on Twitter @rgo_go.
Rachel manages social media at Hubstaff and enjoys writing the occasional blog post. She loves writing about remote work, productivity, and workplace culture. She works remotely from around Asia, and is continuously learning about content strategy, SEO, and WordPress. Connect with her on Twitter @rgo_go.