What Is an Electronic Visa?

Ken Black

An electronic visa can refer to the application process to get a visa, or even the visa itself. In most cases, the process for the visa application can be completed online, instead of having to appear, or mail documents, to the consulate of a foreign nation. In other cases, it is possible that a visa may be a card, perhaps with a magnetic stripe, that can provide vital information about a traveler.

Traditional visas are stamped into a passport, while an electronic one may be an emailed document or a swipe card.
Traditional visas are stamped into a passport, while an electronic one may be an emailed document or a swipe card.

Though they just beginning to gain popularity, an electronic visa may soon take the place of a more traditional visa. Visas are usually needed to gain entry into a country. Some countries may require visas be applied for ahead of the trip. Other countries may issue an entry visa at the point of entry into the country, which is usually an airport or border crossing. In most cases, visas are stamped into a passport and normally state the maximum amount of time the holder is allowed to remain in the country.

It's possible that electronic visas will replace traditional paper ones in the next few years.
It's possible that electronic visas will replace traditional paper ones in the next few years.

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An electronic visa may be paper or plastic. In some cases, the procedure for applying for an online visa will be completed online and sent electronically to a processing office. If the visa is granted, a document may be e-mailed back to the requestor. This document will often serve as the visa needed to gain entry into the country. It should be kept with the passport at all times, when traveling to or in the country.

For those who apply for an electronic visa, there is often a huge convenience factor involved. In some cases to get a visa to enter certain countries, it requires mailing your passport to a consulate office. Many are concerned about letting their passport out of their immediate possession. It is an important document for identification and American passports, especially, can be very valuable on the black market.

If the visa is approved, there is usually an expedited process for getting into the country. At some international airports, there are special lines set up for those with an electronic visa to get through the immigration procedure more smoothly. This process can save a considerable amount of time, perhaps even hours.

Though electronic visas in the form of cards that may look similar to credit cards have yet to catch on, it is envisioned that they could soon replace paper visas. An electronic visa card would be able to hold all the traveler's information, which could be easily accessible to authorities by either scanning it or entering the number into a national database. It would allow authorities then to determine if the person was in the country illegally or not.

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Discussion Comments

Whatever the benefits of an electronic visa may be, do not ever let your passport out of your sight or possession. This article is correct in saying that American passports are quite valuable on the black market. I lived in Germany for a while - this was before the EU knocked down borders and you still needed a passport to travel between countries (Americans probably still do - I don't know).

Anyway, I had just returned from a trip to some other country and left my passport in the glove box of my car. A couple days later I took the car into a shop for some service, completely forgetting about the passport. Got the car back the next day and of course the passport was gone. Reported it to the police and went to the consulate in Frankfort for a new passport, which was issued to me without much problem.

Several months later, I flew back to the states and was stopped at customs in the Philadelphia airport. The customs folks wanted to make sure it was me, for which I was actually quite grateful. Moral of the story: Keep your passport on you at all times when you are traveling!

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