From packing appropriate clothes to ensuring your passport is valid for the proper length of time, prepping for your international business trip involves loads of details. One vital detail is securing a visa, if required, to enter your destination country. An option in some cases may be a visa on arrival, or VOA, that lets you obtain your visa upon landing at your destination instead of having it in hand before you even get on the plane.
While a visa on arrival may sound like an easier way to get a visa than going through the potential hassles of securing one in advance, VOAs come with their own batch of potential hassles of which you should be aware.
Caveats for Visas on Arrival
Not every country offers them. VOAs are only offered in select countries, and sometimes only for tourist visas rather than business visas. Not every length of visa may be available, either, with some only offering one-year options.
Countries can change visa options frequently, and without much notice. Countries may also change their visa requirements with little notice and even less publicity. A solid case in point comes from an undated website entry that outlines the VOA requirements for India, although information updated in 2015 from the U.S. Department of State website notes India does not offer a VOA option.
You still have to do footwork. While you don’t have to go through the entire visa application process for a VOA, you still need to do some preliminary work. Vietnam offers VOAs, and the country requires you to secure an official letter of approval from an agent in Vietnam before you arrive in the country. Other countries may have different requirements, such as applying for a VOA online prior to your departure.
The wait can be long once you arrive. It’s not uncommon to wait 3 hours or longer during the busy season at some airports. Finding the line you need can be confusing and tough, and you always run the risk of ending up in line behind a gaggle of tourists. Public holidays in your destination country can likewise significantly delay your visa processing.
Fees can vary, require cash only, or even border on scams. The Department of State website warns that some American citizens reported being charged unexpected and exorbitant fees upon landing in Vietnam. The Vietnam Embassy website additionally warns about websites suspected of defrauding travelers.
The Bottom Line
Obtaining a business visa before you head to your destination country appears to be much more dependable and secure than the VOA option. And you can still take the potential hassles out of the mix with Swift’s expedited visa service.
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.