Once you have your passport, and therefore a number to quote on all further documentation, you can start applying for any necessary visas.
- Contact the Embassy /Consulate/go online for detailed requirements for visa application.
- Identify relevant personal & family circumstances (dependent children reaching adulthood, criminal records, ability of spouse and/or dependents to be employed).
- Identify additional documentation required once in host location.
- Schedule interview appointments well in advance.
- Ensure your paperwork is correct and complete, and you have accompanying documentation organized in an envelope. You will be required to show it at various checkpoints. Get professional help if necessary.
- Present yourself well. Smart casual dress works well, leave personal belongings, electronic devices and cell phones at home or in your car. Carry only your visa information and a purse or wallet.
- Be patient, stay calm and try to relax.
The Embassy or Consulate of your destination country will be the most accurate (www.transitionsabroad.com/navpages/links/bestembassies.shtml has a great list of links if you haven’t got a clue where to start), but information is also available online on sites like www.visasintl.com, www.traveldocs.com, which will give you some idea of requirements and timeframes. There are also links to service providers who will either guide you through the process, or do most of it for you, should you need more help.
A visa that entitles the primary worker to be employed in your host country does not automatically mean that the partner, spouse or dependents are also allowed to work, so if that may be a problem, clarify exactly what you need to apply for with the immigration agency before you go any further. If you are the ‘trailing spouse’ in this scenario, be warned. You may be the last to know that your plans of setting up as a brain surgeon /lawyer/yoga instructor are now mere pipe dreams…
While we are on the subject of dependents, there’s a pitfall that I’ve seen more than one unsuspecting family fall into. If you have older children who will become legally adult in your new location, check to see whether they are entitled to remain in the country with you, especially if they are planning on attending college or university there.
Discovering that they are no longer legally allowed to stay in the country really takes the fun out of 18th / 21st birthday parties, especially when they have to be up to catch the first flight out in the morning. Most of these issues are discussed in the Family section, and have pretty straightforward solutions if you know about them at the outset, but as with everything relocation, the earlier that you can plan, the easier life will be. Also see Education for further information)
Many countries have vaccination requirements for entry, and may also carry out a background check. Questions to ask while you are at the Embassy / Consulate include what other documentation and permissions you will need once in location, including taxation, employment permits, driving licenses, and any others your new location might require. And how do you apply for them, and how much do they cost.
For most visa applications, you will be required to provide:
- Completed visa application form, usually obtained from the Embassy/Consulate or online
- Passport with at least one blank page for the visa, but (unless you want to have to go through the whole process again when you run out of space) preferably enough space to last for the duration of the visa.
- Evidence of invitation to the destination country (either travel tickets for vacation, or letter of invitation from a company if on business)
- Evidence of ability to both enter and leave the country (i.e. a return ticket)
- Evidence of place to stay (hotel reservation or host address)
- Evidence of ability to work legally (if traveling for longer term employment)
- Additional 2×2 inch passport type photographs – check requirements before having these taken, some countries require all features (including ears) visible, some need them in digital format. etc etc.
- A fee (of course), often in the local currency, so be prepared to bring cash in the currency of your destination to your visa interview.
Usually, the visa application process includes an interview at the embassy of your destination country. You will have to make an appointment, and there can be a considerable delay (typically up to 3 months), depending on the complexity of the application and the numbers of people applying for visas. It is vital that all your paperwork is complete and correct before you go – any mistakes, and you may not even make it through security on the front gate (the voice of experience, believe me!). If you are unsure, get professional help.
Be prepared to have to spend the day there, as appointments rarely run to time, and you will not be the only person waiting. Although the interview is usually fairly informal, it is always a good idea to dress in “smart casual’ attire, and to leave personal items at home. Electronic devices and personal belongings etc. are usually not permitted, so bring a small purse or wallet with the bare minimum required.
Carry your application and supporting documents together in a large envelope – they will be checked at various points as you progress through the system. Make sure that you are familiar with all the details on the forms – you will be asked about your answers, and if you filled them in months ago and haven’t looked at them since, I guarantee you won’t be able to remember so much as your own name. Which never looks good when you are trying to convince somebody you have just met that you would be a valuable addition to their society. Finally, whatever happens, be polite, courteous and try not to get frustrated. It is not a particularly fun process, but unfortunately for you, necessary. Just grin and bear it.