How does visa on arrival travel work?

From choosing a destination and sorting out accommodation, to renewing your passport and buying appropriate clothes, going abroad involves a lot of organisation. One task you often can’t avoid before travelling is securing a visa to the country in question – many governments won’t let you enter without one. While this usually involves applying ahead of time, many nations now offer individuals the opportunity to acquire a visa on arrival instead. In this piece, we look at what exactly getting a visa on arrival involves, as well as its benefits and drawbacks.

What is a visa on arrival?

As the name suggests, a visa on arrival is issued to travellers upon arrival in a country, typically at a port of entry like an airport. This is different to a visa-free entry where no visa is required to enter a nation, as visitors must still obtain travel documentation in order to be let in. Alternatively called a visa upon arrival or a landing visa, a visa on arrival is usually printed on a passport like a standard visa, meaning individuals must have a sufficient number of blank pages available. At the time of writing, over 40 countries allow British citizens to obtain a visa on arrival, including Bangladesh, Egypt and the UAE.

What does securing a visa on arrival involve?

As well as stamping a person’s passport and checking it before issuing the documentation, government officials may also verify an individual’s immigration and criminal history, take photos and collect biometric data to confirm their identity, and collect payment. For example, an Egyptian visa on arrival costs $25.

Like with a standard visa, individuals usually have to provide information like their contact details, address and employment status. Some governments will also ask for details like proof of accommodation during a trip, evidence of sufficient funds, and an invitation letter from somebody within the country. This could be a family or friend for a tourist visa, or an employer for a business visa. It’s advisable to check what the requirements are ahead of time so that you’re fully prepared to fill everything out.

What are the benefits of a visa on arrival?

They’re quick to obtain

Generally speaking, a visa on arrival is quicker to secure than a standard visa. This is because all of the required steps are undertaken in one location, with applicants not required to wait in line at a country’s embassy or consulate or send off an application themselves. 

There’s usually less hassle involved

As the visa on arrival process is completed upon entering a country, individuals do not necessarily have to consider this documentation prior to flying out. This allows them to focus on planning their trip without the hassle of securing a visa. However, as touched upon, it is still worth checking what the requirements are beforehand, especially as visas on arrival do sometimes require preflight preparation like obtaining an invitation letter.

They can be cheaper

Applying for a standard visa often involves visiting the embassy of the country in question, which can be costly to do if you don’t live nearby. As a result, getting a visa on arrival can work out cheaper. 

What are the drawbacks of visa on arrival travel?

There’s still effort involved

As touched upon, although you don’t have to apply for the visa prior to flying out, you may still have to obtain and prepare documents in advance of your trip. As such, a visa on arrival isn’t always hassle-free. Worse still, failure to do this preparation could even see you unable to fill out the application form upon arrival and prevent you from entering the country entirely.

The wait can be long when you arrive

While you may not have to do too much preparation for your visa on arrival application, you could still face a lengthy wait to fill it out upon touching down in the country in question. It’s not uncommon to face long queues for visas on arrival at some airports, especially during the busy season, while it can also be difficult to find the line you need in the first place.

They’re not available at every airport

Not only do many countries fail to offer visas on arrival at all, but some only do so at certain ports of entry. Consequently, you may hold off on applying for a travel visa on the belief you’ll be able to obtain one upon arrival in the country in question, only to find this isn’t actually an option in the airport you fly into. As such, securing a standard visa instead could’ve saved you time and money overall.

Why you should always secure visas in advance

Because of the potential issues with visas on arrival outlined above, you should always secure your documentation in advance. Of course, there are problems with that approach too, but these can also be circumvented by relying on a dedicated visa agent like GulfVisa. Instead of applying for a visa by yourself, we can do so on your behalf as part of our visa services. All you need to do is provide us with the required information and documents, and we can take care of the rest, including going to the requisite embassy so you don’t have to. Using a visa agent has numerous advantages you may not have even thought about, including increasing the odds of your application being approved, saving you money because of this, and speeding up the process.

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