What you need to know about passports and visas when traveling to southeast Asia
For those looking to travel to Southeast Asia on vacation the first question that is often asked is how long it takes to get a passport. First time travelers are often confused as to how long it will take for their passport to arrive once they have completed the application process. The weeks leading up to departure can be a stressful time. Bags have been packed. Tickets have been bought. Hotel reservations have been made, but still no passport.
The general rule is to allow up to six weeks for a passport application to be processed and for the passport to arrive, but the US Government’s website says this process could take up to ten weeks. The amount of time it takes to receive a passport is often dependent upon traffic and workload. If the application was submitted during the middle of a high travel volume time period it might take longer than an application that was submitted in the off season. In short, the sooner an application is submitted the better. The last thing a traveler wants is to have to stay home while the rest of their group has the vacation of their life because there was a problem with their passport.
Some trips are spur of the moment and six or even ten weeks is too long to wait for a passport. While there is still no way to get a passport the next day, there are ways to greatly speed up the process of attaining a passport. The applicant can choose to pay for expedited service and overnight their passport application. This cuts the wait down to two to three weeks in most cases. This is the way to go if the trip is on short notice.
When traveling to Southeast Asia it is imperative to know the Visa requirements for each country as they vary. All countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months after the arrival in country. The following information is taken from the US Bureau of Consular Affairs travel site (http://www.travel.state.gov/
Brunei: No Visa is required for stays under 90 days. Immigration offenses are punishable by caning, fine, or incarceration.
Burma: A visa is required for all visits to this country. These can be obtained at the Burmese Consulate. The Burmese Government no longer offers the “visa on arrival” program as of September 1st, 2010.
Cambodia: A visa is required for US Citizens to visit Cambodia. These can be obtained online. These Visas are valid for one month after entry.
East Timor: No Visa is required for arrival by air. A Visa can be obtained for a $30 dollar fee at the airport. They are valid for 30 days.
Indonesia: Temporary tourist Visas are available at most airports. They are valid for 30 days.
Laos: Temporary tourist Visas are available at most airports. They are valid for 30 days.
Philippines: US Citizens can visit the Philippines for 21 days without a Visa. All that is required is valid Passport and a return or onward ticket.
Singapore: No Visa is required for visits under 90 days
Thailand: No visa is required for visits of less than 30 days
Vietnam: It is necessary to have a Visa to enter Vietnam. Those without a visa will be deported. A Visa or a Visa exemption form can be obtained from the consulate.
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