Visa application basics

2013-05-20 15:01

While going on an overseas holiday is awesome, applying for a visa can be a bit of a pain (an annoyance the Brits might share with us if the government got their way to implement visa restrictions for UK visitors to SA).

So, if you're not heading off to a no-visa required destination, check out this informative Q&A we conducted with Daniel Anvari-Brown who heads up Global Visas in South Africa. 

1. It's widely accepted that if you're an ordinary South African citizen, travelling with an ordinary green passport, the world is somewhat inaccessible. Would you agree with statement? Could you explain why or why not?

I would disagree. There are many countries South Africans can visit without a visa, including popular tourist destinations like Brazil, Fiji, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Thailand. All you need to visit these countries is a South African passport. Countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, France and the USA do require South Africans to have a tourist visa. The detailed and lengthy process of obtaining such a visa may seem a daunting task, but is certainly doable.

2. Before starting a visa application, what documents should you have at hand for the process to go as smoothly as possible?

Your passport is the most important document to have before applying for a visa, but make sure that it is valid for at least 6 months from the time you arrive at your chosen destination and that you at least two open pages. Every country requires different documents when applying for a tourist visa, but you will in all cases need bank statements, the dates you wish to travel and a valid reason for your visit before applying. It is always best to contact a visa consultancy to ensure you have all the right documents for the kind of visa you require.

3. If you're travelling for business or studies, how do you make sure that you're applying for the correct visa that you don't have any nasty surprises when you get to your destination?
The only way to truly make sure that you have the right visa is to check with the visa experts or contact the respective countries' consulate or embassy in South Africa, otherwise you could be in for a nasty surprise.

4. Once you know you will be travelling somewhere (and it's not an emergency situation) how long in advance should you apply for a visa?
Tourist visas are quicker to process than working or business visas. It can take a few weeks but to play it safe apply for your visa at least six weeks or longer before you wish to depart.

5. What type of questions could you expect to be asked in a visa interview, and how can you prepare?

Questions like the purpose of your visit, the duration of your stay, how you intend to pay for you trip, whether you speak the country's language, where you will stay when in the country, what you will be using for transport, what other countries you are planning on visiting and what countries you previously visited or lived in, are likely to be asked. It is best to be well prepared for and completely truthful in your interview.

6. What is the best approach to taking money abroad with you? Should you exchange cash before you go? Or, if you have a check card, can you risk just waiting till you get to the other side to draw cash?

Carrying cash with you is not recommended due to the high risk. Carrying credit or debit cards are more common, but even more popular are prepaid cards. Prepaid cards are accepted worldwide and make it possible to draw money at pretty much any ATM. You can load the desired amount of money onto the card in advance without having to worry about your travel budget. The currency exchange rates are a lot better than with credit and debit cards. In case the card gets lost or stolen it can be cancelled or blocked almost instantly.

7. Is there a minimum amount of money you should have on you/in your bank account to enter certain countries as a tourist? Could you maybe give an idea of which countries and how much?

You will be asked to provide bank statements when applying for your visa to ensure that you are able to pay for your trip or, if you are paying for your trip through other means, you will be required to prove this. In essence you simply need to prove that you can afford the full expense of your trip. If not, your visa will be rejected.

8. And would a country ever deny you access for having too much money?

No. However, if you are carrying a large amount of cash you will be required to declare this at customs when you arrive and you will have to pay tax on it.

9. What are the declarations that most countries require before issuing a visa?

You will need to make the purpose and intention of your visit very clear, you will not be issued with a visa without a valid reason. You will also need to stipulate if you have any medical conditions, if you have a criminal record, if you are visiting family, the date you wish to depart and return home and you will be required to provide detailed bank statements and proof that you can afford to travel to your chosen destination and return home again.

10. What are some common errors made by visa applicants and how can one avoid falling into these traps?

Read more on:    travel international

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