A visa is an authorization allowing a person entry into a foreign country. There is a vast difference between a passport and a visa.
Passports are documents that allow the holder to leave the country and go overseas for a holiday, event, study or work. However, entry into a particular country is not automatically granted to the holder of a passport; he or she has to apply for a visa to gain entry into that country. But both are in conjunction with the other; no one can leave their country of birth or get into another country without a passport and a visa.
A visa stipulates certain reasons why a person will be visiting or staying in a foreign country for a specified period of time. It is stamped on the passport and is seen as a supplement to the passport, which is the main travel document. Most visas come with time limits; typically the time limit is up to six months, in certain cases it may be extended if prior request is made through proper channels and with substantiated documentation. However, there are very strict requirements and regulations governing visa extensions.
Even in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, not much importance was placed on passports and visas and these were not required for movement from one country to another. Large numbers of people travelled by train through the European continent and except for certain sensitive areas where some kind of personal identity of proof needed to be established at a border between two countries, by and large they were not insisted upon.
Post World War I, the scene changed with geographical boundaries and territories markedly different necessitating the need for regulating movement of people and goods. Before that, movement of goods and people only needed a paper with a stamp of approval akin to a passport.
Certain types of visas are stamped on arrival in a foreign country or through a specialized private visa service provider usually appointed by the consulate or embassy of the country, if a person is unable to appear in person. These private service providers usually charge an additional fee to carry out the process of customer and document verification, scrutinizing applications and submitting the papers to the relevant authority. In the absence of a consulate or embassy of the visa issuing country in a person’s home country, then it may be necessary for the person to travel to a third country where a consulate or embassy of that particular country exists to receive a visa approval in person.
However, such cases and far from the norm; almost all countries have consulates and embassies around the world.
The need for a visa is generally contingent upon factors like:
• Citizenship or nationality of the application
• Intended duration of stay
• Purpose or activity applicant wishes to undertake in the country of travel