A Cheap Broad’s Travel Tips: Why Do I Need a Visa? I’ve Got a MasterCard

  

WHAT IS A PASSPORT AND HOW DO I GET ONE?

A passport is a document issued by a government which certifies the carrier's identity and nationality.

There are two kinds of passports available for U.S. citizens: a passport book and a passport card. Either a passport book or a passport card is required for travel in and out of the United States, but they are not interchangeable for all situations.

A passport book is required for all international air travel. It may also be used for all international sea and land travel. It is a small booklet which includes the bearer's photograph, identifying information, nationality, and includes pages for admittance stamps and visas from foreign countries. It is valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors under 16. Each person traveling must have their own passport; children cannot be covered on their parents' passport.

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A U.S. passport card is a wallet-sized travel document that can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports of entry. It is valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for minors under 16. It cannot be used for international air travel. Persons holding a passport book may also apply for a passport card. According to the Department of State website, "The passport card is designed for the specific needs of the northern and southern border resident communities and is not a globally interoperable travel document, as is the traditional passport book. While the passport card has limited use, the passport book will remain the premier internationally accepted travel document."

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In Shasta County you may apply for a passport at the County Clerk's office.

http://www.co.shasta.ca.us/html/Clerk/passports.htm

For current costs, forms, and requirements, see

http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html

IF I'VE GOT A PASSPORT, WHY DO I NEED A VISA?

A visa is a document from another country giving permission for the carrier to enter that country. It is a page that will be embedded in your passport, so you must have a valid passport before applying for a visa.

As of this writing, most Western European nations do not require a visa for United States citizens, but other popular destinations do, such as Australia and India. Currently most African nations, as well as those of the former Soviet Union, require visas of U.S. citizens wishing to travel there.

Before you make travel plans, check for the latest requirements at

http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html

WHEN YOU GET THERE

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Each country has its own entry requirements and it is incumbent upon each traveler to find out about entry restrictions and apply for any visas or other documents before leaving the United States. While it would be nice if your airline or travel agent advised you, it is ultimately the responsibility of travelers to make sure they have all necessary documents before departing.

It should also be noted that even with a valid passport and visa in hand, a traveler may be barred from entering a country. Canada will not allow entrance to Americans convicted of a DUI or other felonies (in Canada, DUI is a felony and punishable by up to five years in prison). The United Kingdom can and will bar anyone it deems "not conducive to the public good," including Martha Stewart, Louis Farrakhan, and Snoop Dogg. And lack of a return ticket, lack of proof of sufficient means of support, looking "scruffy," or lack of "sufficient ties" to one's homeland may cause a country to deny entrance. If this should occur, the traveler will be deported at his own expense, and will have a record with Border Control.

Barbara Rice is a native Igonian. Upon discovering the Beatles at age 9, she picked up an atlas and figured out how far England was and how long it would take to get there (5,371 miles, 12 hours). Though gainfully employed, she regards work as a necessary evil to finance vacations. In her spare time she looks up cheap airfares and daydreams about her next trip. She never did meet Sir Paul, but she knows where his office is.

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14 Responses »

  1. Barbara - Darn. I just had to renew my passport and found it to be a very frustrating, spooky experience online, and more difficult than getting the first one. I should have called upon your expertise, but now I'll know next time.

    Jill

    • I'm personally a bit leery of submitting this kind of information online - maybe that's just my own hysteria, but I'd much rather walk it into the County Clerk's office.

      • The information is not submitted online. The form is downloaded and completed, then printed and submitted, along with all the other stuff, via USPS. County clerk no longer submits it to INS. It all worked, but the INS instructions were horrible, or I was especially dense those days. It did make a good speech topic - if you screw up your passport, don't go to Arizona. Discussion over a glass of wine some time!

        • Gack! I need to renew my passport soon... it will be a new and interesting learning experience....

  2. Find yourself a good travel agent who can give you all the information you need for free.

    • That is certainly an option, but again ultimately it is still the responsibility of the traveler to have their ducks all lined up. Personally I'd rather do my own research rather than rely on information gleaned from someone whose goal, after all, is to sell a product.

      This is not to paint all travel agents with the greedy brush, but to make travelers aware that they can take care of their own plans and arrangements themselves.

  3. Find a good travel agent who will give you all the information you need for free.

  4. Great article! Just wanted to add that time can also be a factor- it takes about 6 weeks to get a passport, and even if you add the expedited option when you apply, it still takes around 3 weeks. If you don't give yourself enough time you're left with the option of making an appointment at a passport office or paying a company like RushMyPassport to deal with it for you.

  5. On top of all the laws and impositions we already have to deal with, I wish it was a requirement for all passport officials in other countries to have enough INK to stamp the passport! It's a major bummer to spend 842 hours on an airplane, fight your way through baggage claim, pass through a gauntlet of men with machine guns, cross a moat filled with epileptic alligators and climb a wall covered in razor wire only to have the guy behind the little window go *tap* on your passport page and you can only barely make out that there's a stamp on it at all.

    It's a complete outrage. I want a big fat red STAMP on my page every single time. Is that too much to ask?

    • No doubt you are such a distinguished gentleman that they feel a stamp with ink would be a desecration.

  6. Baba-

    Good info as always. May I add:If you are likely to need a visa, be sure to have AT LEAST two full pages left in your passport for the stamp/sticker. Otherwise, you may be shipped home on your own penny! Happened to a friend of mine, leaving for Africa.

  7. The day my first passport came in the mail, I held it in my hands and felt that the entire world had just been opened up to me. It was a heady, wonderful, freeing feeling.

    I have now re-upped my passport twice, and am getting ready to request extra pages for my current passport. I am so fortunate to get to travel and experience so many different cultures. I agree with Matt's comment though - I like being able to look back at all the stamps on my passport and remember the fun (once you get out of the airport, that is!)

  8. Especially take care with a visa to Russia.Most countries that require visas (there are only a few) allow you to fix, expand, etc. your visa at the airport. . Not in Russia. Got to go through the police. The hotel may help you. And watch out for the taxis. Most expensive in the world. About $200 from the airport to downtown Moscow. And Cuba. Get the visa in Jamica at the airport. When you go through immigration in Cuba ask them to stamp the visa and not the passport. Most officers understand. It is legal to go to Cuba but you can't spend American money there. (in theory). Buy your trip from Cubalinda in Cancun. But don't fly Cubana because our guys keep an eye on that airline especially in the Bahamas which is a defacto American territory

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