Many countries have adopted online visas to make international travel easier without risking security clearances. Electronic visas and travel authorizations began in the early 2000s, and now most countries provide a form of online visa. Moreover, several countries have used online visa agreements as a political element to strengthen the relationship between two or more states.
What Is an Online Visa?
An online visa is an official document issued electronically by a foreign country permitting you to enter that country. The most significant advantage of an online visa is that the document is issued much faster when compared to a paper-based permit.
Types of Online Visas
In most cases, online visas are issued for short-term purposes— some of the most common visas obtained online include the following:
- Tourist visa.
- Business visa.
- Medical visa.
- Transit visa.
Visas for long-term purposes such as student, work, or family visas, require you to submit a paper-based application and visit the embassy or consulate several times before receiving your permit.
Online Visa Application Process
Here’s how you can apply for an online visa:
- Find the embassy’s official website. To apply for an online visa, you need to find the official website of the embassy or consulate representing your destination country. Each representative office posts the link for the online application. Some countries, but not all, will also post their eVisa application form on their Foreign Ministry website— make sure you check all official websites.
- Fill out the application. Once you find the appropriate application, you can start filling out the form. You will need to have an active email address and your passport near you to put in your details.
- Attach your documents. After your application form is filled out, you must attach your documents. All your documents must be scanned and uploaded as files attachments for online applications. Documents must be a specific size and file format— you will find the instructions on uploading the documents during the application process.
- Pay the visa fee. Then after your application has been filled out and you have attached the required documents, you must submit the application fee. You have to pay using a credit card and wait while your application is processed.
- Print your permit. If your application is successful, you will receive a confirmation email from the embassy/consulate. The email will usually contain a numerical code used at border crossings to verify your visa status. Additionally, you will receive a confirmation document which you have to print out and take with you when you travel in case it may be required at border patrol. In some cases, the receipt for the visa will suffice.
Please note that the application process may differ depending on your destination country and nationality.
Documents Required for an Online Visa
Documents required for an online visa application vary depending on what your visit purpose is, but it usually includes the following:
- Your passport with a six-month validity period.
- Passport photographs that were taken according to the instructions.
- Supporting documents such as birth certificates, CV, employment contract, etc.
Online Visa Processing Time
An online visa is usually processed within 24 hours, but the processing time may take up to a few weeks, depending on the online system.
How Long Is an eVisa Valid For?
Visas obtained online are usually valid for 30 days. But, the validity period changes based on which country you are visiting and the purpose of your visit. Sometimes, online visas can be valid for only 14 days— check with the consulate before applying.
Online Visa Cost
An online visa can cost anywhere from $30 to $100— depending on your destination country. However, in some cases, eVisas are free of charge.
Can I Extend an Online Visa?
In normal circumstances, you cannot extend an online visa. But, some countries may allow you to extend your eVisa in cases of emergencies.
Difference Between an Online Visa and a Traditional Visa
The main difference between an online and a paper-based (traditional) visa is that you don’t need to visit an embassy or consulate at all for visa applications over the internet— the entire visa process is done remotely (online), even the visa payment and the issue document. Another significant difference is that traditional visas are issued for short-term and long-term purposes, while eVisas are temporary.
What Is the Difference Between an Online Visa and an Electronic Authorization?
An electronic authorization is a regulated system between several countries that allows you to simply register as a foreign visitor without applying for a visa or printing out the permit. On the other hand, you still have to submit an application and print a physical copy of your visa for an online visa.
Countries that provide electronic authorizations include:
- Australia ETA. The Australian ETA is valid for one year, but there are two separate ETAs; for EU nationals and US nationals (plus several other countries).
- Canada eTA. If you are eligible for Canada eTA, the authorization is valid for five years, and once you register, it takes a few minutes for approval.
- The United States ESTA. The US electronic authorization is valid for two years, and similar to other ETA, it’s approved within minutes.
- ETIAS (European Union). ETIAS still hasn’t launched, but when it becomes active— in November 2023— it will be issued for three years.
Electronic travel authorizations are usually agreements between your home country and travel destination, which means that not everyone is eligible to apply for an ETA.
Which Countries Issue Online Visas?
The countries listed below issue an evisa online, or an electronic travel authorization for all visitors:
|Antigua and Barbuda*||eVisa||Myanmar||eVisa|
|Bahrain||eVisa||Papua New Guinea||eVisa|
|Ethiopia*||eVisa||Saint Kitts and Nevis*||eVisa|
|Gabon*||eVisa||Sao Tome and Principe*||eVisa|
|Hong Kong||eTA||Sri Lanka||eTA|
|Madagascar*||eVisa||United Kingdom||Electronic Visa Waiver|
Important: These countries (*) issue online visas, but only for visitors from specific countries.
Visa on Arrival Alternative Countries
In cases where you are not eligible for an online visa, the following countries provide a visa on arrival as an alternative option:
|Cambodia||Kuwait||Papua New Guinea|