A visa is an endorsement or stamp placed in your passport by a foreign government that permits you to visit that country for a specified purpose and a limited time - for example, a 3-month tourist visa. It is advisable to obtain visas before you leave the United States because you may not be able to obtain visas for some countries once you have departed. You should apply directly to the embassy or nearest consulate of each country that you plan to visit, or consult a travel agent. Passport agencies cannot help you obtain visas.
Foreign Entry Requirements
The Department of State publication M-264, Foreign Entry Requirements, gives entry requirements for every country and tells where and how to apply for visas and tourist cards. It can be ordered for 50 cents from the Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colorado 81009; telephone: 719-948-4000; Internet www.pueblo.gsa.gov Please Note: The publication is updated annually, but it may not reflect the most current requirements. It is advisable to verify the latest visa requirements directly with the embassy or consulate of each country that you plan to visit.
Because a visa is stamped directly onto a blank page in your passport, you will need to give your passport to an official of each foreign embassy or consulate. You may also need to fill out a form and submit one or more photographs with the form. Many visas require a fee. The process may take several weeks for each visa, so it is wise to apply well in advance of your trip, if possible.
If the country that you plan to visit only requires a tourist card, you can usually obtain one from the country's embassy or consulate, from an airline serving the country, or at the port of entry. There is a fee for some tourist cards.
Proof of Citizenship
Check with the embassy or consulate of each country that you plan to visit to learn what proof of citizenship is required of visitors. Even if a country does not require a visitor to have a passport, it will require some proof of citizenship and identity. Remember that no matter what proof of citizenship a foreign country requires, U.S. Immigration has strict requirements for reentry into the United States.
Reprinted with permissions granted at http://www.state.gov/www/statedis.html