Traveling to a foreign country

If you are traveling to a foreign country, you need to make sure you have the proper documentations with you. For some countries, you need a proper visa even if you stay for a few hours to change aircraft, routed to your final destination. Each country has specific visa requirements or waivers for visas for citizens from other countries. The best way to find out whether or not you need a visa is to contact the embassy for that country in your country. In other words, if you are in India now and want to travel to UK, you need to go to UK embassy in India to learn about the visa requirements.

Generally specking you will need the following documents for traveling to a foreign country:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Driver’s license (or international driving license, if applicable)
  • Any other documents that the visa issuing embassy instructs you to have with you

When traveling to a foreign country:

  • Remember to check the country is safe for you to visit
  • Take with you any needed medications
  • Know your basic medical information such as blood type, allergies, or any special problems
  • Make sure your passport is valid (for at least six months).
  • Apply for a passport, if you don’t have one. Do this as quickly as possible, particularly if their delays in issuing of new passports. US citizens can get their passport in one day if you are traveling in a few days and if have your application is ready and a ticket in hand to prove your departure. Check with the US State Department website or local office on the specifics of getting a US passport in a day.
  • Make sure you have the proper driving license if you will be driving. Obey all traffic laws.
  • Know if you will have computer or telephone access, if necessary, to get in touch with your loved ones.


In the case you need a visa to visit a country, get that early as possible. Usually US citizens can get a visa to a foreign country within days by going to that country’s embassy. They can also apply by mail but this will take longer. Some foreign embassies also offer visa services via websites thus eliminating the need for your trip to the embassy or mailing of your application and passport. Note the issuing of a visa requires a fee of a few hundred dollars. Each country embassy charges different rates for its visas.

A quick tip

Know about the visa waiver program for the country you want to visit. Under the program, citizens from qualifying countries do not require a visa provided they do not intend to stay for more than ninety days. So this means you can fly to your destination without getting a visa. Check with the embassy to be sure you do or do not need a visa for your travel.

Getting a visa may involve the following:

  • You need to complete a visa application for each person that wants to travel to foreign country
  • Embassy issuing you the visa may require you have documentation for the proper vaccination, if any.
  • You may need to show your itinerary (or ticket) for departure and arrival dates
  • You may to provide the foreign address where you will be staying
  • You may also have to indicate how much money you will taking with you
  • You may also have to specify the purpose of your trip (i.e., is it for vacation, education, employment, or seeing family?)


After you have arrived at your destination country, you will go through immigration procedures (at the airport if you travel by air).

Basically, upon arrival signs will direct you to the immigration hall. You can also ask the airport staff, in case you feel lost. You may expect to wait for about half hour or longer in the lines for immigration clearance. As you proceed to the immigration officer desk/cubical, you will notice there is a line marked on the floor. You need to stay behind this line until called by the officer. The officer will check your passport to verify you have the right visa. You may be asked some questions such as why are you visiting and for how long you intend to stay.

If you have reached the immigration hall, there should not be any cause for concern. (In route to the destination country, your traveling documents were probably verified or inspected more than once.) The immigration officer will stamp a date on your password indicating the date of your arrival. The officer will also collect from you immigration form that you filled in the airplane. The airplane crew usually starts giving out immigration forms in the last hour or so of your international flight.


What is next after you are done with Immigration? You will need to go through customs. Countries have certain restrictions on what you can bring with you in to the country. You won’t be cleared from customs if you have:

  • drugs
  • dangerous substances
  • firearms
  • wide range of foods
  • a lot of cash (more than $10,000 if coming to or leaving from the US)

You will need to list what you are bringing into the country in the customs declaration form. Be aware countries do random x-rays of your luggage.

Posted on 2/9/2007
by Raj Singh