Although leisure travellers can go from one year to the next without thinking about visas, business travellers always need to consider if work visas are necessary.

Firstly, the more you travel, the more likely you are to be travelling somewhere that requires one. Secondly, most countries welcome leisure tourists, and are wary of providing obstacles to tourist revenue. As a result, leisure visas are often easier to obtain, and may even be available on arrival in the country. Those same countries, however, see business travellers as a source of additional revenue, or at least a revenue stream that can subsidise those leisure visas. Business visas are therefore more expensive, and can also be more time consuming to obtain.

Lastly, as we become more “adventurous” in looking for the next sales opportunity in less-visited destinations, we tend to go to countries outside our normal comfort zone. These often require visas because they are developing nations keen to raise money from relatively wealthy travellers, or are simply countries where our own governments enjoy charging their citizens a lot of money to visit us, so they reciprocate. We can hardly complain what the Russians charge us if we do the same to them.


Obtaining visas is rarely pain-free, but there are measures you can take to avoid the likelihood of last-minute trip cancellations if a visa is delayed or refused.

The basics are:

  • Ensure you have at last two clear pages in your passport
  • Consider having a second passport so you can keep travelling
  • Check your passport has at least six months’ validity
  • Have bank statements for proof of income
  • Collate utility bills for proof of residence
  • Keep a list of countries you’ve previously visited
  • Keep your medical certificates to hand (eg yellow fever)
  • Have proof of travel insurance


If you are planning a trip to a country that needs a visa – do some research. Top of the list should be finding out how long it takes to get a visa. For some countries it can take up to 15 working days to get the visa, which with bank holidays – and different countries have different bank holidays – can be the best part of a month.

  • Check the country’s requirements as soon as your travel is confirmed
  • Apply in good time
  • Carefully read the application instructions
  • Provide the documentation requested
  • Have an employer’s letter ready
  • Print an invitation from the host company
  • Keep your signature within the box on forms
  • Enclose the right number of photos of the correct size
  • Accept that for some visas, you have to attend in person at the consulate/visa office
  • Get the visa before you go, even if in theory you can apply on arrival in the country


If you are very busy and want to save yourself much of the hassle, you can use a visa specialist. You still have to provide the documentation, but at least they can check you have done everything correctly and thus prevent your application being rejected. You may still have to attend the consulate/embassy/visa office for an interview or to give biometric information, but they can often pick up the passport for you and most can arrange a speedier process – at a price. Specialists include:


Do not try and visit on a leisure visa if you are on business. If you think business visas are expensive, consider how expensive legal advice will be when you are caught. And your insurance will not be valid if you knowingly lied about your purpose for going into that country.