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It’s peak travel time across the world, and wanderlusters around the globe are planning to take off for exotic locales. Before booking that ticket, though, make sure you know whether or not you need a visa to accompany that passport.

We’re lucky here. The US is tied in first place with Germany, Sweden, Finland and the UK when it comes to traveling freedom provided in the Visa Restrictions Index. US passport holders can visit a mere 174 countries with no visa, or by simply getting a visa upon arrival. It’s a stark difference, compared to countries like Saudi Arabia and Colombia, where visa laws are extremely restrictive. Still, even for us, the visa requirements of various countries can be tricky. Americans need to get advanced tourist visas to most countries in Africa, along with Brazil, China, India, Russia and Vietnam.    

Don’t get to the airport after spending thousands on a summer escape, only to find out you don’t have the necessary documentation. And the process can be long and grueling, so don’t wait until the last minute to get started. Follow these steps to make sure you have what you need for your summer getaway.   

Do your research

American privilege gives us the benefit of being able to travel to most countries with just a passport. Again, that’s not the case for all places, though. Visit travel.state.gov to find out if your destination is on the list, along with links to each country’s embassy or consulate website. Each country will delineate its own process for obtaining a visa, and anything else that may be necessary, such as vaccines.     

Complete the necessary application

While each country varies, most will require some sort of entry application. To complete it, you must already hold a US passport. In most cases, you may fill out a form online, then print or mail them in. In others, you do this at the local consulate. As Houston is home to over 90 embassies, it’s probable that you can complete this process in person.

It’s key to remember that this process takes time. After processing the documents, the consulate will take anywhere from two weeks to two months to mail your visa. In some cases, this process can be expedited, but only a few agencies can do it and the service fees can add up.

Foot the bill

You’ll be required to pay a fee typically ranging from $50 to $200. You usually pay this fee via check or money order and attach it to your visa application. After you’ve been approved, enjoy your trip!

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