The Common Law

Visa to travel – when & why? (Part 2)

Last week's column highlighted the importance of looking into visa requirements when planning international travel. This week's column addresses some of the common nuts-and-bolts issues related to getting a visa.

How can I figure out if the country I'm traveling to requires a visa?

The embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit can provide definitive information on visa requirements. For contact information, go to the U.S. Department of State's website ( and look up the consular information sheet, which provides basics on the destination country, visa requirements, and contact information for the embassy or consulate.

How much does it cost to get a visa?

Visa fees vary from country to country and can also depend on the reason you are entering the country. Visas for tourism or study are usually the least expensive, while those for permanent residency or working tend to be more expensive.

Can I get the visa once I arrive in the country?

Some countries will issue a visa upon your arrival, but this is not a common procedure in most countries and could cause delays. This may be an acceptable option if you want to have a flexible travel itinerary and don't mind hanging around for days (or sometimes weeks) for a visa. If you have a limited amount of time for your trip, it is almost always best to obtain a visa before you leaving the States.

Seems strange to me, but the embassy for the country I want to travel to says that I need to send them my real passport. Is that right?

Yes. While it may seem counterintuitive in the Digital Age, virtually all countries will want to actually see and handle your passport before issuing a visa. This is in part because most visas are physically stamped in your passport. Be sure to mail the passport in a secure manner to ensure its safe handling.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle