So how does my passport work?

Got a passport for myself about 4 years ago, thought i was going overseas for a while, plans changed it didnt happen.

Now i’m thinking i might want to do some traveling overseas (Norway, Netherlands, England)

Do i just need my passport, or do i need to go to each countries government website and buy a visa?

If you are a US citizen, there is no need for a visa for those 3 specific countries, and as far as I know, no other Western European countries currently require an American to get a visa for stays of less than 90 days.

To be sure, you can always double check with the State Dept., whose e-mail address is on your passport.

The State Department website has a travel information page that lists other countries’ entry requirements for US citizens.

Here’s the difference between a passport and a visa:

Your home country cares nothing about you having a visa. Visas are only for foreigners - like you would be if you went someplace. Many countries are so friendly that they’ll allow foreigners in without a visa, or they’ll give you a visa as soon as you arrive. But other countries won’t let you in unless you get a visa in advance – sometimes LONG in advance – so you should always check this out when you start making your plans.

Passports are mainly for your home country. It’s what proves you to be a citizen, and in many cases they won’t let you back home without one. The place you’re visiting also wants to see your passport, because it proves who you are, and they need to see it and mark it up it for recordkeeping and such.

Generally you need a visa, unless the country in question has a reciprocal visa-waiver arrangement with your own country. Fortunately, most western countries do and you won’t need one for the countries you listed.

My father was taken by surprise several years ago when he arrived in Australia to find he needed a visa (US citizen).

When in doubt always ask the embassy of the country you intend to visit. A friend of mine claimed that he had asked “the embassy” if he needed a visa to go to Estonia over the weekend. It turned out he had asked his own embassy, not the Estonian, and as Canadians were not particularly popular in Estonia at the time (because of some diplomatic feud) he wasn’t let into the country.

What?! I thought everyone loves Canada! :slight_smile:

They are welcome now again. :wink:

No, they Blame Canada for everything.

You don’t “buy” a visa like you do buy a ticket for a toll-road. You apply for a visa at the embassy of the country(ies) you want to go. If there is more than one type of visa - tourist, student, work - you need to explain what your purpose is, and do it convincingly, maybe give evidence.
Then, in some cases, the embassy may want a fee to cover their expenses (= the time of the officials). But that’s not the price of the visa, because there is no guarantee you get one. Not only can you be denied if you come from the “wrong” country (= there are tensions or hostility between your home country and the travel country), but you, as individual, can also be rejected. If you want to come as tourist, but they suspect you want to stay and live off their wonderful socalist system, or if they think you are a spy or CIA-terrorist, they can deny you a visa.

for western countries, there are far more countries that you can visit than their citizens can visit visa-free.

reciprocity isn’t the guiding light here. it’s tourism dollars or other diplomatic carroting.

Also, it would be helpful if there was a clear understanding of what, exactly, a visa is.

For most visas, the application process and granting of a visa is basically pre-clearance to travel to a country and seek admission under the relevant admission category. It basically front-loads the majority of the investigative process (i.e. to make sure that you qualify, legally, for entry under whatever category you’re looking to get admitted under) onto the consulates abroad and gives enough time for the relevant government to check you out.

The granting of a visa is not permission to enter by any stretch - it’s not like once you have the visa you are automatically entitled to enter. You still typically have to “prove” yourself when you are actually seeking admission (the degree of proof varies from country to country, some will just verify your stated intentions, some will check you out a bit - the US is one of the more explicit countries where the visa is nothing but pre-authorization to seek admission, not pre-authorization to be admitted, but the mechanism is all the same).

Countries with either sophisticated information networks, or a lot of tourist money to lose if they make it hard for foreigners to come visit, can ease up a bit on having every foreigner checked out in advance before they show up at the border because they either have the infrastructure in place to check you out when you hand over your passport or it’s not really going to be a problem. That’s why you’ll notice that westerners are given visa-free access to a country for tourism purposes (but note, usually any other type of visa category, from employment to study to an extended vacation to doing academic research, a visa is still required of these same citizens) but not people from “shoddier” countries.

Has it been determined what country you are a citizen of? Because that could make a difference.

As has been said, in general you do need a visa from the country you are visiting, but many countries have arrangements between each other that waive this requirement, at least for certain categories of visitors.

So if you are a U.S. citizen visiting those three countries as a tourist and not staying longer than 90 days (I think) in any of them then you do not need anything other than your passport.

(I’m presuming that you’re from the US.) Norway has a visa exemption agreement with the US, so you only need a valid passport to visit us. I believe the same is true for the Netherlands and the UK. May I ask where in Norway you’re visiting? :slight_smile:

ETA: Please note that hotels and such are legally bound to check passport and/or ID with foreign nationals; it’s not meant as an insult when we do. :slight_smile:

This is not entirely true. (Below is from US perspective)

For some countries, like China, you must apply for a visa like you’ve outlined.

For other countries, like Turkey and Egypt last time I was in each, you do in fact just ‘buy’ the visa when you get there. You get off of the plane, stand in a line, and pay the teller, who then places the visa sticker in your passport. There is no background check or anything of the sort and the whole affair (once you get through the line) takes about 30 seconds if you have correct change.

Most relevant info can be found on the US embassy website (for US citizens, I’m assuming other countries have a similar source). WikiTravel is also a decent starting point.

I think everyone who is not an Australian citizen needs a visa to enter Australia – even Kiwis, who can get an electronic visa when they arrive in Australia. For US citizens, it’s a little more difficult: you should apply for an electronic visa before you leave to go to Australia.

Going the other way, an Australian on a short-term visit to the US generally does not need a visa, but gets what’s called a “visa waiver”. In terms of the practicalities, that’s not much different from an electronic visa.

Also your passport says ‘We’re a place that will take TNWPsycho back if he/she outstays his/her welcome’ - it’s reassuring for the receiving country to have somewhere to repatriate you to.

I’m sorry, I keep re-reading that sentence and can’t parse it. Could you rephrase it? I wouldn’t normally ask, except that you said it directly in response to me so it’d probably help me reply if I understood what you meant!

How long ago was this? I ask because if you arrive in Australia without a visa, the commercial carrier that brought you is fined and you are put on the next ship/plane out of the country at the carrier’s expense back to your point or origin.