(Kinda) Fun Facts about Travel Visas!

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In addition to cooking at the American Guest House and slumming it around D.C. like an itinerant wastrel, I also work part-time at a visa agency near embassy row. I had zero experience with travel documents and embassy work, and my responsibilities as a courier have been relatively slight; however, after a few months in the business I’ve realized most don’t realize that applying for a visa can take months. There are exceptions with our close allies, and in some countries other documents are required, but the majority of nations have visa requirements that either restrict those who are allowed to enter or prohibit entry altogether. Here is a (tiny) list of countries and their silly visa requirements.

(image in the public domain – courtesy of wikipedia)

(1)   China: for a comprehensive list of visa requirements, just log onto the website of the consulate general of China. *Psych* It’s been about a month since the consulate general has provided seating for the hundreds of tourists who enter their visa office daily, so don’t expect them to update their website with details of changing visa requirements. Bring your flight itinerary. You’ll also need a passport-sized photo *taped* or *glued* (not stapled) onto your V.2013 form, which must be *typed*, not hand-written. If you overlook this important piece of information, don’t fret. You can pay $10 to have the racket upstairs type one for you.

(2)   Pakistan: nope

(3)   Saudi Arabia: If you’re there on business, you’ll need to have a travel agency look over your documents and get an “injaz” before taking them to the consulate. Your application includes what we call a “death letter” that applicants signs forfeiting their right to life in the case of smuggling drugs into the country. Don’t try to take drugs to Saudi Arabia.

(4)   Venezuela: Not only is it surprisingly easy to acquire a Venezuelan visa, the country’s legation is the warmest, most friendly among any of the consuates I’ve visited. I am constantly blown away by how friendly and efficient this embassy is.

(5)   Vietnam: the only country that still allows applicants to use a photo copy of their passport to get a visa. Woo Hoo!

(6)   South Africa: Lots of arbitrary hoops to jump through, particularly if you’re from a poor country.

(7)   South Sudan: easy

(8)   Sudan: nope

Although some of the requirements of some countries seem stringent, it is particularly difficult for citizens of poor or war-torn countries to enter more well-off nations, since these countries fear that the citizen won’t return to their home country. For better or worse, this means that American citizens typically face the fewest visa restrictions of any country. Just be sure to check the visa requirements of the country you’re visiting. If you’re entering the U.S. and are planning on staying at our D.C. Inn, check months in advance. We have some of the most restrictive visa requirements of any nation.

Marcos, Innkeeper at American Guest House, a Washington, DC Bed and Breakfast

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