Visa Issues While Traveling – Know All Requirements
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week entitled "Visa Issues While Traveling – Prepare in Advance."
For business aircraft operators, it’s important to be mindful of associated documentation requirements necessary in the visa application process. Your ground handler will be able to advise on all current requirements.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Having a visa is not a guarantee of entering a country
Having a visa does not guarantee you entry into a country, and visa privileges may be revoked at any time. It’s always important to have a back-up plan if visas are revoked. Be aware, also, that certain countries – including Saudi Arabia and Qatar – require foreigners, and even the countries’ own citizens, to obtain exit visas in order to depart the country.
2. Be mindful if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport
Many Middle Eastern countries will not allow access to any crew members or passengers with Israeli stamps in their passports. For this reason, it’s best when visiting Israel to request that the visa be stamped on a separate sheet of paper or that a sticker be used instead of a stamp, to be removed at a later time.
3. Visas on arrival may be possible
Some countries – usually only at specific airports – offer visas on arrival for both crew members and passengers.
In Russia, for example, you used to be able to obtain visas on arrival at some airports, but this regulation has now changed. Currently, visas can only be obtained through the Russian embassy and must be approved and obtained prior to traveling to this country. Alternatively, a penalty is to be levied to each person without a visa, including and up to banning the individual from any travel in Russia for up to five years.
Other countries that can process visas on arrival include South Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and India. In the UAE, some ground handlers are able to process visas on arrival for you; however, validity of these visas is usually limited. In India the process of obtaining visas was changed in September 2013 with new regulations for general aviation operations. For more information on the India visa process, please see our article entitled, "Obtaining Crew Visas and Temporary Landing Permits for India – Process Has Been Streamlined."
4. Ground handlers can assist with visas on arrival
Best practice is to forward all required information – passport details, trip purpose and schedule, and a passport-type photo – to your ground handler in advance. Lead times differ for each country, but on average it’s best to forward information at least three days in advance when possible. Your ground handler will communicate with appropriate authorities to pre-set up as much of the visa-on-arrival process as possible.
5. Be aware of additional visa requirements/considerations
In the case of diplomatic flights, passengers may not require visas, but crew members must have visas in most cases. Invitation letters from local sponsors or business contacts are necessary in order to process visas for certain countries – including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Be aware that changes in visa requirements can occur frequently and on short notice. Always obtain visas as far in advance as possible and check with your ground handler prior to departing that you’re still covered in terms of visas and documentation requirements. Ensure that you have correct documentation such as passports when traveling as a forgotten document can result in denial of entry and in some cases imprisonment and fines. Always have a scanned copy of your passport, as well as current visas, on file with your 3rd-party provider.
Best practice is to confirm visa requirements as soon as schedule is known and to obtain required visas as early as possible. Never assume that information you have regarding visa and documentation requirements is correct without first double-checking with your 3rd-party provider, ground handler, or embassy.
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