Holidays are a lot of fun. Unless you are a travel agent. I imagine it’s not fun being bombarded with calls from angry tourists who are stranded in the middle of somewhere because you didn’t pay the guide enough. Funny but not fun. Or when Gujju tourists think their trip wasn’t great because you didn’t cover every single thing on their checklist. Overall, holidays are where you drink up on some sun (We Indians just go all out dark), enjoy cocktails at 9am and buy trinkets no one will ever want.

Before you step out for this much-needed break though, you are going to need to sort out your visas, for most countries. Especially if you have an Indian passport. Here are a few basics you need to keep in mind.

Passport

For most countries nowadays, you will need a passport that has all the details printed. Even if your or someone else’s passport in the family hasn’t expired but has all the details handwritten, you will need to apply for a new passport. Also, your passport must be valid for atleast 6 months but more is always better when traveling and this applies to most countries. Remember to have atleast 3-4 pages empty for them to stamp the visa. If you are running out of pages, you will also need a new passport. India doesn’t give extra pages that you can attach to an old passport anymore.

Application

This is possibly the most crucial part of your visa process. Check and cross check everything before you go to the centre and apply for the visa. But most importantly, remember to check these:

  1. Check if you need a visa. Rules change and sometimes countries offering visa on arrival don’t do that anymore. Ensure you know if you need a visa. For example, Indians need a visa for Malaysia if you are flying straight into the country but if you are going to Singapore or Thailand first, you can get the Malaysian visa on arrival.
  2. Whether you get the visa or not can depend on whether you choose the right category. The documents required for each category are also different so read up on that. Also, if you need a letter of invitation from a company or from relatives there, make sure you have that in hand before you apply.
  3. All visas come with a validity and how long you can be in the country for. So make sure you have studied that carefully when you apply. You should also know if you want a single or a multiple entry visa and if there are options, choose the right one.
  4. Almost all countries will require you to show them your flight tickets and hotel bookings. Most people will do this on a provisional basis but if you do that make sure all your bookings are flexible and fully refundable or you might end up spending a lot more than you intended to.

Timing

There’s not right time to apply for a US visa. I think the Patels of the country have made choc-o-bloc bookings at the embassy. But for other countries, you might be in luck. Try and find out when the applications are lean but even so you might not be allowed to apply too early. Secondly, check if you are applying through a visa centre (VFS Global) or directly through the embassy and note the timings they have given. You will need to know application timings – when do they take in passports and applications , what are the timings to collect your passport and in how many working days you can expect to see your passport in your hand etc. You will need your passport well before you fly so don’t cut it too fine.

Photograph

While ugly passport photographs are a hit in every country, you should be fairly aware of what kind of picture you need for the visa you are applying for. Most countries have a defined size (3.5cm X 4.5cm) is the norm but it varies from country to country. This should be recent – not more than 3 months old and should show your features clearly. Even your ears have to show. They also tell you that atleast 70% of the photo should be your face but your local studio guy should be able to tell you these things, check anyway. You might not be allowed to smile but you could smirk, or maybe not. Check.

Bank Statements

Most countries will subtly tell you that you aren’t welcome unless you’ve money in the account. So you are going to need bank statements. You can either go to the bank and get these or get them online. Even if you do get them online, you will need to go to the bank (or send someone) to get it stamped from them. Most countries will require atleast a 3 month bank statement but some ask for almost 6 months so read up carefully on that. Also, every country will tell you how much they expect you to have in the account to cover the trip so you will need your balance to show that and then some. There’s also the payment to look into. Some visa processing fees may be paid in cash but some require demand drafts, so look up that information as well.

Disclaimer: This article is to serve as a guideline. It’s not a definitive statement on the visa process. Please check with the respective authorities before you apply.

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