What is a travel visa?

Ever since the conception of borders between different lands have visas been a necessary part of our lives. It would be chaos without them and traveling so freely and easily as we do today would not be possible. So, what is a visa and where did they originally come from?

A visa, or travel visa, is an official authorised document from a specific country which allows a foreigner to enter, remain or leave its territory. It provides a time limit and could even specify the areas you’re allowed to visit and what you can participate in within the country. Typical visas include transit visas, tourist visas, students visas or residence visas. 

Historically the word visa or charta visa comes from Latin meaning “paper that has to be seen”. One of the earliest references to a visa is found in the Hebrew Bible and dates to around 450 BC. A man called Nehemiah, an official serving the Persian King Artaxerxes I, asked to travel to the territory of Judea. The king gave a letter to Nehemiah which requested of the governors beyond the Euphrates to provide safe passage as he travelled through their lands. 

The visa we use today is a little more developed than a direct letter from a king, but essentially the principle carries on – an agreement between governments of how foreign citizens should be treated as they visit their country. Today, we’ll commonly use electronic visas (e-visas) which are requested and processed online. Visa evidence otherwise will be a physical sticker or stamp placed in our passport which immigration officials can check upon entry.

Many countries that are friendly with each other have agreements in place that may exclude the need for a visa at all (visa-free). For example, if you are a citizen of a country within the European Union you will not need a visa to enter, work or live permanently in any other European Union country. 

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