How do Visas Work?

Okay, so before we start, we‘re not talking
about Visa credit cards, we‘re talking about travel visas. What are travel visas? Well,
a travel visa is a special permission given by… wait hang on, let‘s at least get the
intro out of the way first. There we go, that‘s better. So, a travel
visa is basically a special permission given by a country for a foreign national to enter
their country. They often have restrictions on the traveler, such as when they may enter,
how long they may stay, whether or not they are permitted to work, and often even how
much of the country they can explore (though this isn’t as common of a regulation). However,
there are numerous types of visas for all different kinds of uses, countries and nationalities.
Let‘s take this guy here as an example. He is an East German citizen, which means…
he can‘t enter any countries anymore because the DDR stopped existing 29 years ago. Okay,
let‘s take this guy, who is an American citizen. He, for some reason, has only just
now gotten around to watching Kung Fu Panda– “Just imagine I‘m a panda, it‘ll make
the issue of copyright a hell of a lot easier!”– and he is hooked, so he decides he‘d like
to go to China. He then discovers that, in order to visit the People‘s Republic of
China, he needs to get a visa in advance. This involves filling out a form, going to
the nearest embassy/consulate, paying some money, letting the staff look over his passport,
and getting a special sticker in the mail to put into his passport. Only then can he
go begin his tour of China. Yeah, this guy looks different when he travels.
However, most countries around the world do allow nationals of some other countries to
visit for a short time without any of that fuss. In fact, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan
all have separate visa policies to both each other and to the mainland. So the guy from
earlier visits the Wikipedia page “Visa requirements for United States citizens”
and goes down to the territories section, and finds out that all three of these places
allow Americans in for a certain amount of time without a visa. Macau for 30 days, Hong
Kong for 3 months, and Taiwan for 90 days. (By the way, I will quickly iterate that,
while Hong Kong and Macau are not separate countries, and Taiwan isn’t always recognized
as a separate country, all three of these areas have a separate immigration and visa
policy from mainland China. This is actually not unique to China, Guam has a separate visa
policy from the mainland US, and Kish Island has a separate visa policy from mainland Iran.
So don’t be put off by how I treat Taiwan as a separate country for these intents and
purposes. Please don’t kill me). Many countries around the world will let citizens
of certain other countries in with just a passport, but only for a limited time. An
American can also visit Canada for up 180 days, the Schengen Area for up to 90 days
in a 180-day period, Japan for up to 90 days, etc. However, some countries will only let
foreigners in without a visa if they get a special kind of “light” visa either online
or at the border. For Americans, some countries, like Turkey or Australia, require you to get
the visa online (which is actually very easy, especially through websites like,
which I have an affiliate link for in the description below), whereas others, like the
United Arab Emirates, will grant the visa upon arrival. These visas, often known as
electronic visas or evisas, are not the same as regular visas, as they don’t require
any visits to the embassy/consulate, and generally aren’t used in the form of special stickers
they send you to put in your passport, but they are also subject to the visa-free limit.
Even with the right evisa or on-arrival visa, Americans can only stay in Turkey or Australia
for 90 days, and in the UAE for 30 days. That’s because they’re just for tourists
(or business travelers, whatever floats your boat), but if you want to live somewhere long
term, that’s where long-stay and immigrant visas come in. Long-stay visas are visas granted
for those who don’t plan to live in the country forever, but are still going to be
there for longer than the time normally allowed for tourists. These are used for things like
studying (as is the case with exchange students), temporary work, asylum, or residence permits.
For those who do want to actually immigrate to the country however, there are of course
immigrant visas. These too come in different types, such as the spouse/partner visa allowing
married couples of different nationalities to stay in one of their countries, or the
marriage or fiancée visa for those couples who are about to get married. As well as plenty
others. Visas like these, while often still temporary, offer a path to citizenship, as
well as the right to live and work in the country in the meantime.
Going slightly further down the system, the United States operates their Electronic System
for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and Canada their Electronic Travel Authority (eTA) for
citizens of certain countries who don’t need a visa in advance. ESTA and eTA are not
visas, but are basically security clearances for citizens– generally from Europe, east
Asia and Australasia– to enter either country without a visa. ESTA is required by every
US visa-waiver country (not including Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau, which
don’t need a visa at all), and eTA is required by every Canadian visa-free country except
the US and for French citizens living in St. Pierre and Miquelon, due to their proximity
to Canada. Of course, there are also various treaties
between different countries that make everything easier for those looking to live and work
in another country. Probably the most famous example is the European Union, where a citizen
of any of its member nations can move to another country, no questions asked. However, some
other examples include things like the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement between Australia and New
Zealand– The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement allows Australians and New Zealanders to live,
work and study in the other country, but there are some restrictions. For example, Kiwis
coming to Australia to study wouldn’t be automatically eligible to get a student loan,
and they wouldn’t be eligible to work in the Australian public service– Oh okay, thanks
Tibees (personally, I’d have called it the Trans-Tasman Travel Treaty, just to keep the
pattern going, but still). The United States also has something called “Compact of Free
Association” between itself and Palau, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia, where citizens
of any of the four countries can freely live and work in any of the others (though it’s
restricted to 1 year in Palau). Numerous other countries, like India and Nepal, or the states
of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have also organized these such freedom of travel permits
between their countries, often requiring citizens to only use their national ID cards when crossing
the border. Obviously though, this isn’t the case with foreigners, who may still need
a visa. So, at the end of the day, why do citizens
of some countries need visas to visit a country, whereas citizens of others are basically treated
as residents automatically? Well, visas are basically the host country granting permission
for the applicant to enter the country, and the visa-free requirements are really the
exceptions to the rule, especially since they’re only allowed in for a limited time and with
limited privileges. They can be pretty inconvenient a lot of the time, however the World Tourism
Organization announced in 2015 that that year had the lowest level of tourists needing to
get a visa before travel on record, so there is hope.
Thank you as always for watching this video. If you liked it, and want more out of this
channel (aside from all my other videos) please be sure to subscribe, follow me on social
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so you can learn something new every Sunday.

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