Apart from deciding which cities to visit and which sights you want to see, there are other essential elements of planning your trip, such as booking your flights and visa. The first question that comes to mind is, do I require to book my flight ticket first or process the visa? This poses an obvious confusion for spontaneous travelers. Some countries require you have proof of confirmed return tickets and accommodation, some other countries have these regulations but don’t necessarily enforce them, while some countries will refuse to issue the visa without the proof of round-trip ticket. An ever growing number of countries around the world are now requesting proof of onward and return travel for the visa application.

“I haven’t yet decided on my travel dates, so I don’t want to book my flight tickets first. Can I process my visa first?”, asks our customer Mr. Joshi. Travelers consistently ask us if they really need to have a round-trip ticket purchased before applying for the visa. It’s an interesting question that doesn’t always have a clear answer. It will depend entirely on where you’re travelling and what is the visa criteria.

A travel visa is obtained through an application process at the Embassy/Consulate. This visa application process can be as simple as an online form and payment, or as complicated as stringent requirements and multiple visits to the Embassy. If the Embassy does not require a confirmed flight ticket for processing the visa, we’d always recommend applying for the visa first. This way, if you encounter any difficulties when you apply, you can resolve any issues before you book your flight.

Visa processes can be confusing, messy and complicated and it’s easy to overlook the important procedural requirements that could very much mess up your travel plan. As long as you satisfy the requirements of the Embassy/Consulate and there are no problems, you should get your visa within the time frame, usually within a few days. But, some requests may need more time, due to incomplete documentation, personal interview or demand for additional documents. These factors may delay your application process indefinitely.

Many, in particular first-time applicants, fail to understand what the Embassy precisely wants them to do. Some often make the mistake of booking actual flight tickets and making hotel reservations; fully paying for their stay there, due to the fear of the increasing ticket price or lack of availability later. But what happens when you don’t get the visa on time, you will then need to hopelessly reschedule/postpone your ticket and, as you are aware, making any changes to a booked ticket involves huge cost. Under worse circumstances, if your visa application is rejected, you will be liable to pay a huge cancellation penalty or loose the entire ticket amount in case you have booked a non-refundable ticket. As without the visa, you can’t go anywhere, so cancelling the booked ticket is your only choice. Yet, the Embassy by no means wants you to risk losing that much money, since the flight itinerary does not guarantee you with the issuance of a visa.

Countries that do not require proof of onward travel or accommodation:

Believe it or not, there are only a few countries that actually do not state requirement of confirmed flight tickets and accommodation in their immigration laws. These countries include (but may not be limited to) US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Dubai. When you fill the application form for these countries, it asks you to fill dates of travel. These dates are tentative and for the Immigration Officer to know your travel plans with type of visit.

There are some countries that do not require a pre-requisite visa or provide visa on arrival and few others who provide visa-free travel. Depending on your citizenship and country, you’ll just get a stamp on your passport authorizing your entry to the country for a certain period. In such cases, you can freely book your flights tickets well in advance.

Also read: Visa-free Countries for Indians to travel

Still confused? Leave it to us.

Obtaining a visa and how long it takes to get one depends on each country. You need to look at the requirements for each country you plan on visiting and find out the most efficient and economical way of obtaining one. The time taken to obtain one will determine when to book a flight. Of course, there is no denying the fact that visa requirements can be crippling, but they don’t have to be. There’s nothing you can do about the immigration laws, but there are ways to ensure that you get your visa successfully without any red tags.

No matter whether you are a first-time flyer or a seasoned traveler, having the right information and guidance can greatly simplify the process. Akbar Travels is here to take care of all your travel worries. Yes, you read it right! We are just a phone call away.

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