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What is a visa and what is it for?

What is a visa?
A visa is a document that allows a foreign citizen to enter a state (country). It specifies under what conditions and for how long you can legally stay in the territory of a given country. To apply for a visa, you need a foreign passport and a package of additional documents. The terms and conditions for issuing visas depend on the country you choose.

When did the first visas appear?

According to official data, the first visas are believed to have been used in the 17th century. Back then, however, they looked like ordinary certificates. Now visas have a unified format (seals, stickers, etc.). The first country to start using visas was Egypt. In the Middle Ages, an “exit visa” was developed there, whereby even slaves were documented.

For a long time, a visa was a formality. It was issued at border posts at the entrance to a state (country). It was usually used as a form of registration. Only just before the end of the Second World War did the distribution of visas become widespread.

What is included in a visa

If you look carefully at a visa, you will notice that it contains the following data:

  1. Document number
  2. Territory of action (name of the country or state)
  3. Personal data of the owner (full name, ID number, date of birth).
  4. The type of visa and the basis for its issuance (in short, the purpose of the trip and the length of stay in a foreign territory).
  5. Validity period of the permit (each visa has its own validity period).
  6. Number of entries. The numbers 1 and 2 indicate the possibility of a single or double border crossing. The mark MULT (multivisa) means unlimited entries are permitted.

To learn more about what your visa contains, call the relevant embassy for a consultation.

Short-term Visas

Short-term permits allow a citizen to visit the chosen country just once. That is, a foreigner can enter the territory of the state for several weeks or months, and once the period has expired he or she is required to leave. Once the visa holder leaves the country/state, the visa becomes invalid (with the exception of business visas.

There are the various types of short-term permits:

  1. Tourist. Provided to tourists for three weeks.
  2. Guest. Issued at the invitation of relatives/friends from another country for a period of one to six months. The purpose of the trip is an official visit to a family member or friend.
  3. Transit. This is issued if a tourist flies to a certain country, but at the same time crosses the border of another state. A transit visa is issued after obtaining a basic (primary) permit. The document is compiled on the basis of the tickets purchased. The maximum period is 5 days.
  4. Business. Provided for business purposes. The validity of this visa is determined by the dates indicated on the invitation letter. A permit is issued based on a request from an individual entrepreneur or company that operates in the country of your choice.

Now that we’ve looked at short-term visas, let’s move on to long-term ones.

Long-stay Visas

These visas allow foreigners to stay in the territory of another country for at least 90 days. They also make it possible for visitors to come and go from a foreign country on a frequent basis without the need for additional permits. The following types of long-term visas are currently popular:

  1. Student. This is issued to foreigners to allow them to undertake a year of study. It is issued on the basis of documents confirming that an applicant has been enrolled in an institute, college or school. In addition, in order to apply for this visa, you need to confirm your financial solvency.
  2. Work. This permit is issued for only 11 months for the purpose of employment. To get a work visa, you need to have an employment contract or an invitation from a foreign company.
  3. Diplomatic. Provided to diplomatic agents. These include officials and all types of politicians.
  4. Service. This is also issued to official state representatives, but with a different official rank. These include members of delegations, employees of the consulate, the military. Official documents can also be obtained by relatives of the above citizens, their assistants and accompanying persons.
  5. Humanitarian. This is issued on the basis of documents that demonstrate the need to visit a specific city (country) for a humanitarian mission. The purpose of the visit could be: participation in a sporting competition, religious tourism, attending a charity event, etc. This visa is also granted to people who provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. Permission is issued only after receiving an official invitation letter.
  6. Immigration. This document enables a foreigner to enter the country of his choice for permanent residence and get a job there. It is worth applying for this permit if you have an opportunity to get a job or obtain political asylum in the selected state or country. You can also try to get this type of visa with the help of relatives who live in the country of your choice.

Visas are divided not only into types, but also into categories. For every person who wants to visit another country at least once, it is important to know the classification of each permit. We discuss categories of visas in this article.

How and where to get a visa

To find out how to obtain a visa, you need to contact the consulate or embassy of your chosen country. Only these institutions can help you obtain this document.

Sometimes accredited visa centers also deal with visas.

An immigration officer issues visas and has extensive experience in this area. He can advise you on all the intricacies of the paperwork.

Alternatively, you can use the services of companies / agencies that specialize in issuing these permits. In this case, you will need to pay for the organization’s services, and specialists will collect all the documents for registration for you. They can also tell you about all the nuances of obtaining a visa.

What you need to prepare to apply for a visa

If you decide to collate the necessary paperwork for obtaining a visa yourself, get ready for a long and exhausting process of searching for / processing documents. Everywhere has different requirements for the future visa holder. The number of documents depends on the country you have chosen as the final destination of your itinerary. Most often, Russian citizens are asked to prepare the following papers:

  • A photocopy of the page of the international passport, which contains a photograph of the traveler, as well as information about other visas
  • Several new photos of the applicant (sized 35 × 45 mm)
  • Application or questionnaire (sometimes a form is provided right at the border);
  • A document that can confirm financial solvency (an extract from a banking institution);
  • If the applicant is a minor, official permission from guardians or parents.
  • In addition, it is likely that you will need other documents. It depends on the purpose of your trip, means of transportation (for a car trip you will need to provide information about your route), and whether you have changed your passport.

Getting a visa is not always easy, because some countries put forward serious requirements for those who wish. For example, if a Russian wants to get to the USA, he will need to receive an invitation for an interview from a company that operates in this country, or at least win a green card by filling out an official application form on the website.

The cost of a visa

If you already know where to apply for a visa, then it's time to look at prices. The cost of the document includes payment for:

  • Consular fee
  • Visa center services
  • Service fee
  • Insurance
  • Translation of permit into another language.

The price also depends on the following factors:

  • the state for which the permit is being prepared;
  • document type;
  • terms of preparation of documentation;
  • intermediary company rates (if a citizen submits papers not independently, but through specialized agencies).

Based on the above information, we can conclude that it is impossible to specify the exact cost of a visa, since people go to different countries, and not all applicants do without the help of intermediaries. However, the exact details of the service fees will be posted below. It is first worth considering the fees for Schengen Group countries, since they are fixed.

Service fee in Schengen countries

To enter a country that is part of the Schengen Group, you must pay a fee. Here are some example costs for the registration procedure in 2024:

The best option for a tourist is to visit Schengen countries. To go to the USA, Canada, England and other countries, you will have to raise a lot more money, however, you will have to pay not for a service fee, but for other additional services.


Visas are primarily used by citizens to visit other countries and states with which there is no visa-free agreement. Visas can be obtained before traveling or issued upon arrival. Do not forget that everything depends on the rules and requirements of a particular state. Before your trip, it is best to clarify the requirements of your host country in order to avoid any legal problems.

Registration of an official visa, as well as its verification, is carried out at a consulate or embassy. The employees of this institution make a decision on issuing a permit based on the documents you provide. First of all, a citizen must demonstrate his own financial security, as well as travel and hotel reservations.

In addition, long-term medical insurance, an income statement and other documents (for example, confirming their right to own real estate) are more likely to make your application successful.

And, of course, knowing the language of the country you have chosen as the final destination of your exciting journey will be an undoubted advantage. Previously, foreigners who did not know English well were practically banned from the United States. And although these requirements have now been relaxed, they still exist and are taken into account when considering a visa application.

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Josh is our resident content wizard! With his encyclopedic knowledge of travel and visa regulations, Josh shares his expertise on site's pages with travelers around the world.