Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tip of the Day: A Primer on Passports and Visas

NEVER leave visa and passport matters to the last minute, regardless of your nationality and wherever you happen to live on the face of the Earth.

I continue to be puzzled that in this day and age, even with the incredible efficiency provided by the cyber world, that so many foreign travelers continue to feverishly bite their nails as their date of departure approaches, not knowing whether visas and passports will be issued in the nick of time.

To be safe, regardless of the purpose of your travel, I suggest that if you already have an issued passport, that you commence the visa process, availing one week for every visa that is needed.

If you are awaiting a new or renewed passport to be issued, three months ahead of time is not too early to initiate travel planning.

If you are less than two months away from your date of departure, I suggest that you have your passport issuance expedited.

Typically, in most countries, if you have never had a passport issued previously, you must apply for a passport in-person.

Below, I have given our readers an updated list of do’s and don’t as it relates to passports and visas:

1. If you have never had a passport, you must appear IN-PERSON;

2. The moment that you are informed that you are scheduled to travel internationally, contact the organization(s) that process your international travel immediately to make the following arrangements:

-- Flight reservations on all legs. I suggest AISLE seats on all flights;

-- Rental vehicles only if ABSOLUTELY necessary as driving abroad can be perilous; for a foreigner you are invariably deemed as “at-fault”; and time-consuming.

Think of it! Are you being paid to drive around a foreign country looking for a place to park?

-- Reliable ground transportation that is confirmed;

-- In developing countries, I suggest business class on all flights—if unavailable--first-class; and

-- NEVER drive yourself! It is counter-productive!

3. If you are a US citizen, are not the “no-fly” list, have a spotless criminal record and fly worldwide on commercial carriers, consider applying for the below program;

http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck

4. Read visa applications very, very carefully. In the Philippines, they ask for your passport photos to be taken without glasses;

5. If you travel more frequently than 30% of the time, consider getting a legitimately 2nd passport so that you can you travel on one passport while another is being processed. Very smart!;

6. NEVER, EVER travel on a passport that has less than SIX months to expiration;

7. Read all visa applications carefully as many require that if you are traveling on business you obtain a BUSINESS visa;

8. Many nations are not flexible on requirements that you have a visa. If they require a visa and you do not have one, you could be denied entry or be potentially deported;

9. Some nations are extremely slow in issuing visas, so do not assume you can get a visa at the airport or in a day or so. In most cases, you cannot;

10. Having a business visa can actually help you clear customs quicker as most business travelers have the need for a laptop and or peripherals;

11. If you routinely travel with business samples or exhibits, go to the below link to obtain an ATACARNET:

12. If you are a US citizen, go the below links:

http://www.travel.state.gov/passport


http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/get/renew

http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov

13. In compliance with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, citizens of any country (including the United States) traveling by air between the United States and Canada, México, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda must have a passport, effective January 23, 2007.

Effective January 31, 2008, all travelers entering the United States from México, Canada, the Caribbean or Bermuda will require a government-issued photo identification card and proof of citizen, such as a birth certificate. Further, on a date to a be determined later, anyone traveling to the United States from any of the aforementioned sovereignties will be required to travel on a passport or other authorized identification. Note: These requirements do not apply to persons traveling to or from a US territory.

These new requirements are one of the reasons that resources are so limited and routine issuance of new and renewed passports can take weeks or, in some cases, months if you go through the normal process. Foreign ministries, embassies, and consulates worldwide are feeling the strain of this additional workload and resultant backlog.

The US State Department does have an expedited process for getting new or renewed US passports to you in two or three weeks. In this case, additional fees are required for expedited service and for overnight delivery.

http://www.travel.state.gov/passport

 A word of caution, though: the expedited process takes closer to six weeks, despite State Department promises.

14. There are three types of US passports:

(a)  Regular (issued to all citizens);

(b) Official (issued to citizens on official assignments abroad for the U.S. government); and

(c) Diplomatic (originally reserved for accredited diplomats only to foreign governments, but in recent years issued to expedite government officials who are not accredited diplomats);

15. NEVER purchase a passport holder that has your government’s logo on the face of it, particularly if you are an Israeli or US citizen;

16. Before departing abroad on your international trip, ensure you have a photocopy of the photo and information page of your passport, particularly the section that has your passport number) and extra passport photos tucked away in your carry-on luggage. This little trick will expedite replacing a lost or stolen passport if you are one of many travelers who lose or have their passports stolen every year;

17. Numerous countries have additional security precautions for foreigners traveling through their countries, which is why at US airports of port of entry US citizens go into one line and non-citizens go into another; and

18. In Japan, for instance, all foreigners over the age of 16 are required to have their fingerprints taken as well as being photographed.

Be prepared for additional screening dependent upon the country that you’re traveling through.

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