Saturday, February 25, 2012

Safe Travel Documents Passports & Visas

For years people from around the world noted that Americans didn’t know much about their part of the world (wherever they were), that Americans didn’t travel beyond their own borders.  Given that as recently as the year 2000 less than 10% of the American population had a passport that was a reasonable assessment.

Today, things are changing.  According to a January 2012 article in Forbes magazine ( over 100 million Americans, almost one-third of the population now hold passports.  That is  significant growth in a just a dozen years.

Some of that increase can be attributed to the requirement that US citizens now need passports to travel to Mexico or Canada.  But the growth also reflects the change in business patterns.  We are connected to partners, clients, subsidiaries and investors around the world.  No matter where home is, travel is required to connect with customers and team members. 

Our passports may be today's essential business document.  It allows us to leave and return to our own country.  It certifies our identity and nationality.   

However, having a passport may not be sufficient to insure  that you reach your destination. You may need to add a visa giving permission from the country you plan to visit to cross their borders.  The requirements vary. Are you a US citizen going to Turkey, India, Brazil?  You need a visa. Going to France, Lithuania or South Africa?  A visa isn’t required.  Coming to the US from Peru, China or Morocco?  You’ll need a visa.   Coming from Australia, France, Japan or Estonia?  No visa required. 

Before you book your flights and reserve your hotels, check the visa requirements.  They can be found on the embassy website.  A simple Google search will help.  If a visa is necessary there will be forms to complete, photos to attach, documents to be presented.  Each country has specific requirements, including the number of blank pages you must have in your passport.  Don’t be stopped at the airport check in desk and told you can’t board your flight because you don’t have a visa.

One more thing to check  is the expiration date of your passport.  Even if you don’t need a visa be sure your passport  doesn't expire for  at least six months after your departure date from the country you’re visiting. Some countries won't let you enter if your passport doesn't meet this regulation.    While not all countries have this restriction, some do. Double check to be sure you aren't  turned away upon arrival.

Don’t forget to make copies of the passport and visa to carry with you. Scan the documents and email them to yourself.  Put them in a file on Dropbox ( or a similar site.  If lost or stolen its easier and faster to replace them if you can present a copy at the Consulate.  .

The most precious document for the traveler – a passport, with an appropriate visa, lots of blank pages and one that expires long after your return home.

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