Visa (document)

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A United States visa. Issued by the Consulate General of the United States of America in Shenyang, China. (2012)
Exit USSR visa of type 1 (for temporary visits outside the Soviet Union). Not to be confused with exit visa of type 2 (green), which was stamped to those who received the permission to exit the USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship.
Exit USSR visa of type 2. For those who received permission to leave the USSR forever and lost Soviet citizenship.
Russian empire visa stamp (1917).
Brazilian multiple entry visa in a United States passport, with immigration stamps from Brazil, France, and the United States.

A visa (from the Latin charta visa, lit. "paper that has been seen"),[1] is a conditional authority given by a competent authority of a country for a person who is not a citizen of that country to enter its territory and to remain there for a limited duration. Each country typically attaches various conditions to their visas, such as duration of stay, the territory covered by the visa, dates of validity, whether the visa is valid for more than one visit, etc. Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter a country, and are thus, for some countries, distinct from actual formal permission for an alien to enter and remain in the country. In any event, a visa is subject to permission of an immigration official at the time of actual entry, and can be revoked at any time.

The visa is commonly a stamp endorsed in the applicant's passport or other travel document. The visa, when required, was historically granted by an immigration official on a visitor's arrival at the frontiers of a country, but increasingly today a traveller wishing to enter another country must apply in advance for a visa, sometimes in person at a consular office, by mail or over the internet. The actual visa may still be an endorsement in the passport or may take the form of a document or an electronic record of the authorisation, which the applicant can print before leaving home and produce on entry to the host country. Some countries do not require visas for short visits.

Some countries require that their citizens, as well as foreign travelers, obtain an "exit visa" to be allowed to leave the country.[2]

Overview[edit]

A visa generally gives non-citizens clearance to enter a country and to remain there within specified constraints, such as a time frame for entry, a limit on the time spent in the country, and a prohibition against employment. Some countries do not require a visa in some situations, such as a result of reciprocal treaty arrangements. The possession of a visa is not in itself a guarantee of entry into the country that issued it, and a visa can be revoked at any time.

A visa application in advance of arrival gives the country a chance to consider the applicant's circumstance, such as financial security, reason for applying, and details of previous visits to the country. A visitor may also be required to undergo and pass security and/or health checks upon arrival at the border.

History[edit]

In Western Europe in the late 19th century and early 20th century, passports and visas were not generally necessary for moving from country to another. The relatively high speed and large movement of people traveling by train (the closest modern analogy would be commercial supersonic flights) would cause bottlenecks if a regular passport control were used.[3] Passports and visas became usually necessary travel documents only since World War I.

Long before that, in ancient times, passports and visas were usually the same type of travel documents. In the modern world, visas have become separate secondary travel documents, with passports acting as the primary travel documents.

Conditions of issue[edit]

Some visas can be granted on arrival or by prior application at the country's embassy or consulate, or through a private visa service specialized in the issuance of international travel documents. These agencies are authorized by the foreign authority, embassy, or consulate to represent international travelers who are unable or unwilling to travel to the embassy and apply in person. Private visa and passport services collect an additional fee for verifying customer applications, supporting documents, and submitting them to the appropriate authority. If there is no embassy or consulate in one's home country, then one would have to travel to a third country (or apply by post) and try to get a visa issued there. The need or absence of need of a visa generally depends on the citizenship of the applicant, the intended duration of the stay, and the activities that the applicant may wish to undertake in the country he visits; these may delineate different formal categories of visas, with different issue conditions.

Some countries apply the principle of reciprocity in their visa policy. A country's visa policy is called reciprocal if it imposes visa requirement against citizens of all the countries which impose visa requirements against its own citizens. The opposite is rarely true: a country rarely lifts visa requirements against citizens of all the countries which also lift visa requirements against its own citizens, unless a prior bilateral agreement has been made.

Some examples of countries who apply reciprocity in their visa policy are:

A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are often also reciprocal, so if country A charges country B's citizens US$50 for a visa, country B will often also charge the same amount for country A's visitors. The fee charged may also be at the discretion of each embassy. A similar reciprocity often applies to the duration of the visa (the period in which one is permitted to request entry of the country) and the amount of entries one can attempt with the visa. Expedited processing of the visa application for some countries will generally incur additional charges.

  Countries that issue visas or permits on arrival as a general rule for all arriving visitors
  Countries that issue visas to a select group of nationalities (more than 10)

This reciprocal fee has gained prominence in recent years with resentment by some countries of the United States charging nationals of various countries a visa processing fee ($140 for tourist visas, non-refundable, even if a visa is not issued). A number of countries, including Brazil, Chile and Turkey have reciprocated. Brazil requires an advance visa before entry into the country, and that a US citizen be fingerprinted and photographed on arrival—matching U.S. requirements for Brazilians and other foreigners.

The issuing authority, usually a branch of the country's foreign ministry or department (e.g. U.S. State Department), and typically consular affairs officers, may request appropriate documentation from the applicant. This may include proof that the applicant is able to support himself in the host country (lodging, food), proof that the person hosting the applicant in his or her home really exists and has sufficient room for hosting the applicant, proof that the applicant has obtained health and evacuation insurance, etc. Some countries ask for proof of health status, especially for long-term visas; some countries deny such visas to persons with certain illnesses, such as AIDS. The exact conditions depend on the country and category of visa. Notable examples of countries requiring HIV tests of long-term residents are Russia[4] and Uzbekistan.[5] However, in Uzbekistan, the HIV test requirement is sometimes not strictly enforced.[5] Other countries require a medical test which includes an HIV test even for short term tourism visa. For instance Cuban citizens and international exchange students require such a test approved by a medical authority to enter Chilean territory.

The issuing authority may also require applicants to attest that they have had no criminal convictions, or that they do not partake in certain activities (like prostitution or drug trafficking). Some countries will deny visas if the travelers passports show evidence of citizenship or travel to a country which is considered hostile by that country. For example, some Arabic oriented countries will not issue visas to nationals of Israel and those whose passports bear evidence of visiting Israel.

Many countries frequently demand strong evidence of intent to return to the home country, if the visa is for a temporary stay, due to potential unwanted illegal immigration.

Types[edit]

Entry tourist visa to the People's Republic of China.
Transit visa, issued by Chiune Sugihara to Susan Bluman.

Each country has a multitude of categories of visas and with various names. The most common types and names of visas include:

By purpose:

By method of issuance:

This list is not exhaustive. Some countries may have more detailed classifications of some of these categories reflecting the nuances of their respective geographies, social conditions, economies, international treaties, etc. Others, on the contrary, may combine some types into broader categories.

Entry and duration period[edit]

Single-entry visitor visa to Canada

Visas can also be single-entry which means the visa is canceled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry, or multiple-entry which permits double or multiple entries into the country with the same visa. Countries may also issue re-entry permits that allow temporarily leaving the country without invalidating the visa. Even a business visa will normally not allow the holder to work in the host country without an additional work permit.

Once issued, a visa will typically have to be used within a certain period of time.

With some countries, the validity of a visa is not the same as the authorized period of stay. The visa validity then indicates the time period when entry is permitted into the country. For example, if a visa has been issued to begin January 1 and to expire March 30, and the typical authorized period of stay in a country is 90 days, then the 90-day authorized stay starts on the day the passenger enters the country (entrance has to be between January 1 and March 30). Thus, the latest day the traveler could conceivably stay in the issuing country is July 1 (if the traveler entered on March 30). This interpretation of visas is common in Americas.

With other countries, a person may not stay beyond the period of validity of their visa, which is usually set within the period of validity of their passport. The visa may also limit the total number of days the visitor may spend in the covered territory within the period of validity. This interpretation of visas is common in Europe.

Once in the country, the validity period of a visa or authorized stay can often be extended for a fee at the discretion of immigration authorities. Overstaying a period of authorized stay given by the immigration officers is considered illegal immigration even if the visa validity period isn't over (i.e., for multiple entry visas) and a form of being "out of status" and the offender may be fined, prosecuted, deported, or even blacklisted from entering the country again.

Entering a country without a valid visa or visa exemption may result in detention and removal (deportation or exclusion) from the country. Undertaking activities that are not authorized by the status of entry (for example, working while possessing a non-worker tourist status) can result in the individual being deemed deportable—commonly referred to as an illegal alien. Such violation is not a violation of a visa, despite the common misuse of the phrase, but a violation of status hence the term "out of status."

Even having a visa does not guarantee entry to the host country. The border crossing authorities make the final determination to allow entry, and may even cancel a visa at the border if the alien cannot demonstrate to their satisfaction that they will abide by the status their visa grants them.

Some countries which do not require visas for short stays may require a long stay visa for those who intend to apply for a residence permit. For example, EU does not require a visa for many countries for stays under 90 days, but its members require a long stay visa for longer stays.

Visa extensions[edit]

Thai visa on an Indian passport
DPRK visa
Visa Run example

Many countries have a mechanism to allow the holder of a visa to apply to extend a visa. In Denmark, a visa holder can apply to the Danish Immigration Service for a Residence Permit after they have arrived in the country. In the United Kingdom, applications can be made to the UK Border Agency.

In certain circumstances, it is not possible for the holder of the visa to do this, either because the country does not have a mechanism to prolong visas or, most likely, because the holder of the visa is using a short stay visa to live in a country.

Visa run[edit]

Some foreign visitors sometimes engage in what is known as a "visa run": leaving the country for a short period just before the allowed length of stay runs out to "restart the clock". However, immigration officers might also deny re-entry under these circumstances, especially if done more than once as such acts may signify that the foreigner wishes to permanently reside and might also work in that country. Some countries may have limits as to how long one can spend in the country without a visa, as well as how much time they may have to stay out before "restarting the clock," further creating a barrier to visa runs. For example, Schengen countries impose a maximum limit for visitors of 90 days in a 180-day window. In other countries, on the other hand, a "visa run" is pretty much tolerated, such as the daily commuting between the Malaysian border town of Johor Bahru and Singapore.

Despite the name, a "visa run" activity is usually done with a passport that can be used for an entry without a visa.

Visa refusal[edit]

In general, an applicant may be refused a visa if he or she is deemed inadmissible or not allowed to enter the visa-issuing country under that country's immigration laws. More specifically, a visa may be denied or refused when the applicant:

Visa policies[edit]

Government authorities usually impose administrative entry restrictions on foreign citizens in three ways - countries whose nationals may enter without a visa, countries whose nationals may obtain a visa on arrival and countries whose nationals require a visa in advance. Nationals who require a visa in advance are usually advised to obtain them at a consular representation of their destination country. Several countries allow nationals of countries that require a visa to obtain them online.

The following table lists visa policies of all countries by the number of foreign nationalities that may enter that country for tourism without a visa or by obtaining a visa on arrival with normal passport. It also notes countries that issue electronic visas to certain nationalities. Symbol "+" indicates a country that limits the visa-free regime negatively by only listing nationals who require a visa, thus the number represents the number of UN member states reduced by the number of nationals who require a visa and "+" stands for all possible non-UN member state nationals that might also not require a visa. "N/A" indicates countries that have contradictory information on its official websites and/or information supplied by the Government to IATA. Some countries that allow visa on arrival do so only at a limited number of entry points. Some countries such as the European Union member states have a qualitatively different visa regime between each other as it also includes freedom of movement.

CountryTotal
(excl. electronic visas)
Visa-freeVisa on arrivalElectronic visasNotes
Afghanistan Afghanistan[16]0
Albania Albania[17]7676
Algeria Algeria[18]1010
Angola Angola[19]211
Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda[20]9999
Argentina Argentina[21]787803
Armenia Armenia[22]1304387
Australia Australia[23]11036+9+27
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan[24]13112
The Bahamas Bahamas[25]120120
Bahrain Bahrain[26]42537
Bangladesh Bangladesh[27]174+25All-20Limited VOA locations.
Barbados Barbados[28]106106
Belarus Belarus[29]1717
Belize Belize[30]9696
Benin Benin[31]2626
Bhutan Bhutan[32]33
Bolivia Bolivia[33]174+50124+
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina[34]6767
Botswana Botswana[35]9696
Brazil Brazil[36]7474
Brunei Brunei[37]57516
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso[38]611645
Burundi Burundi[39]194+4AllLimited VOA locations.
Cambodia Cambodia[40]184+8All-10
Cameroon Cameroon[41]55
Canada Canada[42]5151
Cape Verde Cape Verde[43]194+19All
Central African Republic Central African Republic[44]1313
Chad Chad[45]13112
Chile Chile[46]88835
China China[47]77
Colombia Colombia[48]9494
Comoros Comoros[49]194+0All
Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo[50]12012
Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo[51]633
Costa Rica Costa Rica[52]8888
Ivory Coast Côte d'Ivoire[53]2020
Cuba Cuba[54]1616
Djibouti Djibouti[55]194+0All
Dominica Dominica[56]192+All-2
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic[57]74866
Ecuador Ecuador[58]185+All-9
Egypt Egypt[59]N/AN/AN/A
El Salvador El Salvador[60]8686
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea[61]11
Eritrea Eritrea[62]321
Ethiopia Ethiopia[63]39237Limited VOA locations.
Fiji Fiji[64]106106
Gabon Gabon[65]11
The Gambia Gambia[66]1291254
Georgia (country) Georgia[67]102102
Ghana Ghana[68]24186
Grenada Grenada[69]1151096
Guatemala Guatemala[70]8484
Guinea Guinea[71]2121
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau[72]194+14180+
Guyana Guyana[73]4545
Haiti Haiti[74]191+All-2
Honduras Honduras[75]8484
India India[76]13211Limited VOA locations.
Indonesia Indonesia[77]771562Limited VOA locations.
Iran Iran[78]1797172
Iraq Iraq[79]0
Republic of Ireland Ireland[80]8958+31 EU/EEA/CH citizens.
Israel Israel[81]9292
Jamaica Jamaica[82]115
Japan Japan[83]6767
Jordan Jordan[84]134+12122+Limited VOA locations.
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan[85]1414
Kenya Kenya[86]178+43All-16
Kiribati Kiribati[87]6767
North Korea North Korea[88]22
South Korea South Korea[89]113113
Kuwait Kuwait[90]57552
Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan[91]816120
Laos Laos[92]175+11All-30
Lebanon Lebanon[93]87978
Lesotho Lesotho[94]4949
Liberia Liberia[95]1616
Libya Libya[96]33
Republic of Macedonia Macedonia[97]8080
Madagascar Madagascar[98]194+0All
Malawi Malawi[99]70701
Malaysia Malaysia[100]156156
Maldives Maldives[101]194+0All
Mali Mali[102]191+20All-3
Marshall Islands Marshall Islands[103]49346
Mauritania Mauritania[104]1111
Mauritius Mauritius[105]17711166
Mexico Mexico[106]6565
Federated States of Micronesia Micronesia[107]194+194+
Moldova Moldova[108]6363
Mongolia Mongolia[109]2121
Montenegro Montenegro[110]7474
Morocco Morocco[111]6464
Mozambique Mozambique[112]194+8AllLimited VOA locations.
Myanmar Myanmar[113]33
Namibia Namibia[114]5252
Nauru Nauru[115]55
Nepal Nepal[116]184+1183+Limited VOA locations.
New Zealand New Zealand[117]5959
Nicaragua Nicaragua[118]1679473
Niger Niger[119]1919
Nigeria Nigeria[120]20191
Oman Oman[121]70565
Pakistan Pakistan[122]77
Palau Palau[123]192+0192+
Panama Panama[124]111111
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea[125]56056
Paraguay Paraguay[126]62566
Peru Peru[127]9595
Philippines Philippines[128]153153
Qatar Qatar[129]42537Limited VOA locations.
Russia Russia[130]3232
Rwanda Rwanda[131]1313
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Kitts and Nevis[132]101101
Saint Lucia Saint Lucia[133]1479354
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines[134]186+0All-8
Samoa Samoa[135]194+0All
São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé and Príncipe[136]000194+
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia[137]55
European Union Schengen area[138][139]734132 EU/EEA/CH citizens.
Senegal Senegal[140]431627
Serbia Serbia[141]6565
Seychelles Seychelles[142]194+0All
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone[143]1515
Singapore Singapore[144]161+161+
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands[145]78078
Somalia Somalia[146]194+0194+
South Africa South Africa[147]7676
South Sudan South Sudan[148]404
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka[149]330191+
Sudan Sudan[150]725
Suriname Suriname[151]572037
Swaziland Swaziland[152]9595
Syria Syria[153]0
Tajikistan Tajikistan[154]88979
Tanzania Tanzania[155]170+6All-24
Thailand Thailand[156]765521
East Timor Timor-Leste[157]194+1AllLimited VOA locations.
Togo Togo[158]194+14180+
Tonga Tonga[159]64064
Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago[160]1041013
Tunisia Tunisia[161]7474+16 for organized groups.
Turkey Turkey[162]119784140+54
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan[163]0
Tuvalu Tuvalu[164]194+0All
Uganda Uganda[165]194+33161+
Ukraine Ukraine[166]6262
United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates[167]51546
United Kingdom United Kingdom[168]89584+31 EU/EEA/CH citizens.
United States United States[169]44038
Uruguay Uruguay[170]7171
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan[171]99
Vanuatu Vanuatu[172]100100
Venezuela Venezuela[173]7171
Vietnam Vietnam[174]1515
Yemen Yemen[175]12012
Zambia Zambia[176]1334192
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe[177]1004159

Visa exemption agreements[edit]

Possession of a valid visa is a condition for entry into many countries, and exemption schemes exist. In some cases visa-free entry may be granted to holders of diplomatic passports even as visas are required by normal passport holders (see: Passport).

Some countries have reciprocal agreements such that a visa is not needed under certain conditions, e.g., when the visit is for tourism and for a relatively short period. Such reciprocal agreements may stem from common membership in international organizations or a shared heritage:

Other countries may unilaterally grant visa-free entry to nationals of certain countries to facilitate tourism, promote business, or even to cut expenses on maintaining consular posts abroad.

Some of the considerations for a country to grant visa-free entry to another country include (but are not limited to):

To have a smaller worldwide diplomatic staff, some countries rely on other country's (or countries') judgments in issuance of visas. For example, Mexico allows citizens of all countries to enter without Mexican visas if they possess a valid visa of the USA (on which an entry has already been granted to the USA). Costa Rica accepts valid visas of Schengen/EU countries, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the USA (if valid for at least 3 months on date of arrival). The ultimate example of such reliance is Andorra which imposes no visa requirements of its own because it is inaccessible without passing through the territory of France or Spain and thus "protected" by the Schengen visa system.

Visa-free travel between countries also occurs in all cases where passports (or passport-replacing documents such as laissez-passer) are not needed for such travel. (For examples of passport-free travel, see International travel without passports.)

As of 2012, the Henley Visa Restriction Index ranks the Danish passport as the one with the most visa exemptions by other nations totaling 169, allowing holders of a Danish passport to take part in the most visa-free travel globally.[183]

Common visas[edit]

Normally visas are valid for entry only into the country which issued the visa. Countries that are members of regional organizations or party to regional agreements may however issue visas valid for entry into some or all of the member states of the organization or agreement:

Previous common visa schemes[edit]

These schemes no longer operate.

Exit visas[edit]

During Fascist Italy, an exit visa was required from 1922 to 1943. Nazi Germany required exit visas from 1933 to 1945.[199] The Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies required exit visas both for emigrants and for those who wanted to leave the USSR for some time.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have an exit visa requirement, particularly for foreign workers. Hence at the end of a foreign worker's employment period, the worker must secure clearance from his/her employer stating that the worker has satisfactorily fulfilled the terms of his/her employment contract or that the worker's services are no longer needed. The exit visa can also be withheld if there are pending court charges that need to be settled or penalties that have to be meted out.

Nepal requires citizens emigrating to the United States on an H1 visa to present an exit permit issued by the labor ministry. This document is called a labor permit and needs to be presented to immigration to leave the country.[200]

Uzbekistan is the last remaining former USSR country that still requires an exit visa, which is valid for a two-year period.[201] There has been explicit UN complaint of this practice.[202][202]

The government of Cuba announced in October 2012 its plans to remove exit visa requirements to be effective January 14, 2013, albeit with some exceptions.[203]

The DPRK (North Korea) requires that its citizens obtain an exit visa stating the traveller's destination country and time to be spent abroad before leaving Pyongyang. Additionally, DPRK authorities also require that their citizens obtain a re-entry visa from a DPRK embassy or mission abroad before being allowed back into the DPRK.

The government of the People's Republic of China requires its citizens to obtain a Two-way Permit issued by the PRC authorities prior to their visit to the Chinese dependencies of Hong Kong or Macau. The Two-way Permit is a de-facto exit visa for Hong Kong- or Macau-bound trips for PRC citizens.

Some countries, such as Russia or the Czech Republic,[204] require that an alien who needs a visa on entry be in possession of a valid visa upon exit. To satisfy this formal requirement, exit visas sometimes need to be issued. Russia requires an exit visa if a visitor stays well past the expiration date of their visa. They must then extend their visa or apply for an exit visa and are not allowed to leave the country until they show a valid visa or have a permissible excuse for overstaying their visa (e.g., a note from a doctor or a hospital explaining an illness, missed flight, lost or stolen visa). In some cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can issue a Return-Home certificate that is valid for ten days from the embassy of the visitor's native country, thus eliminating the need for an exit visa.[205][206][207]

A foreign citizen granted a temporary residence permit in Russia needs a temporary resident visa to take a trip abroad (valid for both exit and return). It is also colloquially called an exit visa.

Some countries also implement a departure tax for their citizens. Indonesia previously implemented a departure tax of Rp. 1000000 (around U$100 in 2011) for its citizens exiting the country via air travel; the tax was discontinued in 2011.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ B. S. Prakash (2006-05-31). "Only an exit visa". Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
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  5. ^ a b Travel Report for Uzbekistan
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  138. ^ Encompasses Schengen member states - Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland as well as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania and countries without border controls - Monaco, San Marino, Vatican and a country accessible only via Schengen area - Andorra.
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  178. ^ US Embassy London
  179. ^ ECOWAS Official Site
  180. ^ Tanzanian Embassy in France
  181. ^ Ugandan Visa
  182. ^ Kenya High Commission Official site
  183. ^ Henley & Partners website
  184. ^ Single East African visa for tourists coming in November
  185. ^ East Africa geared for single tourist entry visa program
  186. ^ a b Southern Africa Tourism News
  187. ^ a b SADC moves fast to stamp in univisa
  188. ^ Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) - Queen's University
  189. ^ Peace Parks Foundation SADC univisa
  190. ^ SABCnews.com - Single Visa to be launched for Southern Africa
  191. ^ SADC – Speeches
  192. ^ SADC media releases
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  200. ^ Labor permit Nepal
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  203. ^ Cuba to end exit permits for foreign travel 16 October 2012
  204. ^ Act on the status of aliens in Czech Republic, §20
  205. ^ Visahouse.com
  206. ^ Russianvisa.org
  207. ^ Visalink-Russia.com

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]