Individual countries, or nations, throughout the world determine their own rules and regulations regarding permission for foreign-born nationals to enter the country. When a person wishes to visit a foreign country, he or she must abide by the rules and procedures enacted by the country for visitors wishing to enter. In some cases, a visitor only needs a passport to enter a foreign country, while, in others, he or she will also need to obtain a tourist visa before being allowed entry. This visa allows a foreign national to enter a country and legally remain in the country for a designated period of time.
The principle factor that is used to determine whether or not the visa is required to enter a country is the country of origin of the visitor. Many countries throughout the world have agreements with other countries to allow visa-free passage between citizens of the respective countries. In Europe, for example, countries that are part of the Schengen agreement are not required to obtain a visa to travel throughout the other member countries. The United States also has agreements with many countries that allow United States citizens to visit those countries with just a U.S. passport.
When a tourist visa is required, the application must be completed well in advance at the country's nearest embassy in most cases. Although application requirements and procedures will vary, the application usually requires basic information about the applicant and must be accompanied by a certified birth certificate, a completed medical examination form, and a current police background check. An applicant is also frequently required to prove that he or she has the means to support himself or herself while in the country. A fee is required and an applicant may expect to wait anywhere from several weeks to several months for the application to be processed.
If approved, the tourist visa will be sent to the applicant and must be presented at the point of entry into the country and at any official point thereafter, if requested. The duration of this visa will also vary by country. Typical lengths for a tourist visa are from 30 to 90 days, after which the holder of the visa must either apply for extended permission to remain in the country or exit the country. Remaining in a country past the time frame allotted on a tourist visa is a crime in most cases and may be cause for forceful deportation or even incarceration.