Planning A Foreign Trip? Here Are 12 Easy Tips To Get A Successful Visa!

Having travelled a lot (40 countries & more), I am waiting to get inside an airplane! If you're planning a foreign trip, these 12 tips will help in getting a successful visa.

Having travelled a lot (40 countries & more), I am waiting to get inside an airplane! If you’re planning a foreign trip, these 12 tips will help in getting a successful visa!

I haven’t stepped inside an airplane since February 2020. And for someone who travels all the time (40 countries and counting now) the cabin fever is threatening to overwhelm me. Hopefully, life will return to normal for the whole world (fingers crossed) soon and I’ll be able to get up and go somewhere. In the meantime, I dream of the days when I travelled. And I yearn.

With travel opening up, many people are planning a foreign trip. Use these 12 tips as a general rule of thumb for a successful visa application process. I typically keep all of these together and submit them. 

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First step to a foreign trip! Be prepared to wait in long queues 

Yes, this is the first step of a foreign trip! This may come off as awful but you haven’t suffered for the sake of traveling if you haven’t been to a visa office or an embassy and waited hours and hours there before you’re called for your visa ‘interview.’

And then wait in suspense before ‘they’ either accept your application or reject it. But I’ve lived and learned. Over the years I’ve figured out how to crack getting visas.

I have figured out how to take all the anger and angst and disappointments of having your visa rejected and turned it into an almost painless process. It’s almost like science now.

I genuinely yearn for the day when I’ll be one of those travellers who have No idea of the torture that a non-American or a non-European traveller goes through when thinking about traveling somewhere.

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You are just 12 steps away from getting your visa

Honestly, I can boldly claim that unless you’re genuinely unlucky, you can follow these 12 tips and you will get your visa. But that doesn’t mean that every single time I go somewhere I wistfully wish.

Do I wish I had an American passport? Yes. Or an EU passport? Yes. Or a Japanese passport? Yes. Not because I wish to become an American or an EU or a Japanese citizen. I want those passports because traveling with them is so much easier than traveling with an Indian passport (one of the less powerful passports in the world).

In my experience almost every country asks for these items, some may ask for fewer than these 12 items.

1) Research the visa policies of the country you wish to travel to

Make sure and find out if the country you’re applying for a visa requires you to fill out an application form. If so, duh, fill it.

If you’re applying for a Schengen Visa, make sure you download the application form from the country to which you’re applying for the visa, the forms are mostly similar but there are differences that you should pay attention to.

Rule of Thumb for Schengen: Apply to the country where you’re entering first or to the country where you’ll be spending the most time in.

For all other countries, go to their country’s website and search for visa rules and forms or if they have a service agency like VFS Global, then download from their website.

2) Never book but reserve the hotel rooms and tickets until you get your visa!

The trick here is to NOT actually book tickets and hotel rooms but just reserve them and get a copy of the reservation.

Once you get your visa you can confirm the booking. This is absolutely and 100% MANDATORY for most countries these days.

3) Get your salary sheets for the last six months

I typically get salary sheets for the previous six months. If you don’t get a hard copy, make sure you get details of direct deposit in your bank account. Print a copy of the same, highlight the previous six months’ salary deposit and submit.

4) Carrying your tax documents is a must

A lot of people I know have issues with this. Not because they don’t file taxes but because they don’t have their documents where they can find them.

Over the past many, many years, my constant traveling has made me very cognizant of the importance of this. And so I have my tax documents from India and the country where I work with me at all times.

5) Business folk need to carry their bank documents

You can combine this with point 2 if you do not have access to your salary sheets. But always make sure you get attested bank documents showing your income and bank balance for the past 6 months.

I submit this irrespective of whether a country asks me for this or not. For business folks – Point number three is irrelevant. So, this one becomes crucial. Make sure you find out what the basic bank balance is required by the country you’re applying to and that the balance is reflected in your account statement. 

Since you’re a businessperson, it would be good if you can attach copies of any Fixed Deposits and Mutual Funds you may have. Basically, the more money you show, the better chance you have of getting a visa.

6) A well-researched schedule always makes an impression

For getting your Schengen visas, this is mandatory. For other countries, this is not always essential. But again, I have gotten so used to doing it for Schengen that I now do it for all countries.

Make sure you do your research and come up with a schedule and print that out. You are not expected to stick to every little detail you put on the itinerary but this just shows the embassy that you are in full control of your travel. It shows that you know where you’re going and what you’ll be doing for the duration of your stay.

7) Make sure you have an official letter from your workplace

 Again, this is a must-have for some Schengen countries. This is an official letter from your place of work attesting to the fact that you’re an employee there and how valued you are.

I write the letter myself and then have it printed out on my company’s university’s letterhead and have it signed and stamped by the relevant administrative officials in my place of work.

These days I have an employment letter template saved and I just change the dates and the country names and I’m done.

8) Carry a copy of the ID and address page of your passport

Make a copy of the ID page and the address page of your passport. Again, some countries ask for it, others don’t. But almost always all of them take it if you give it.

9) Take your passport-size photos with you

Carry passport-size photographs (some countries take their pictures, especially when you apply for a Schengen visa and you need to get biometrics done – they will take their pix).

But make a few copies of your photos and take them. You don’t want to run around once you get to the embassy. Make sure you get these photographs taken the way the countries require you to.

Countries like the US, England, the Schengen countries all have their own specific rules when it comes to background colour, size, glasses vs. no glasses, jewellery, etc.

10) Make sure to carry both cash and credit cards

Always carry more cash than the actual fees. There will always be additional service charges the embassy will levy. Also, carry a credit card.

Some embassies will only take credit cards, others will only take cash. Some VFS counters in Shanghai will only take WeChat money! So, be careful with this.

11) Health insurance documents are mandatory

Most countries need a copy of your health insurance for the duration of your stay in their country. Interestingly, while countries do not need to book airline tickets or hotel bookings to be confirmed they do, however, demand you buy health insurance before they will even consider accepting your application. 

Schengen is adamant about this and, in recent years, other countries require this as well. Case in point, this was mandatory for me when I went to Turkey.

The good thing about most of these health insurance policies is that the companies will change the dates if you don’t get your visa or if you get your visa for a different time frame. So, you will be able to use it one way or the other.

12) Write a cover letter to the embassy of the country you are visiting

Always write a cover letter to the embassy of the country you’re traveling to and tell them why you wish to travel to their country. This is not mandatory at all. Most countries don’t ask or expect one.

But I always submit one. I find that telling the embassy the exact reasons for my travels, information on my previous travels, and other pertinent details lays it out very clearly for them.

It’s also very professional. And every single time I’ve submitted this letter even when the embassy hasn’t asked for it, the visa guys will always accept it. Other items they may give back, the letter they keep.

Listen, if this list overwhelms you, don’t let it. I no longer think about this. I have copies and templates of all of the items here. It’s just a matter of collecting them each time I travel.

It has become like clockwork for me. And I promise it will be for you too. Just take it one step at a time and it’ll all get done. I promise!

Happy Visa-ing and Happy Travelling!

Image source: Still from Cocktail

A version of this post has earlier appeared here:

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Roopa Swaminathan - The Messy Optimist

Hi...I'm Roopa. I'm also a messy optimist! I'm an academic-cum-artist. I'm a writer, filmmaker and professor of creative writing. Academically, I've a Double Masters and a Phd read more...

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