passportYour job as an engineer – especially as you gain seniority – may require business travel to foreign countries. In my own experience the time available to plan such a trip is always limited which may leave you in a crunch trying to get your passport and visa in order.

Passport Tips & Tricks

Now here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years:

  1. Keep an eye on your passport validity (expiry date). This may sound obvious, but keep in mind that most countries will require 6 months validity beyond the return date of your trip in order to supply you with an entry visa. This means you may wish to renew your passport in advance to keep up your readiness for business travel. Note that there may not be any time available (or additional cost involved) for an emergency renewal when you need to apply for a visa as well.
  2. In case you do not reside in your home country, check the duration of the procedure for renewal and its requirements. It may take a lot longer than normal to complete if you’re living abroad. 
  3. Keep an eye on visa or entry stamps you may have in your passport that may cause issues when applying for a visa (or when entering a country). For instance Turkey and Cyprus still don’t mix and you may very well be refused access to Cyprus with a Turkish stamp in your travel documents. By the same token it may not be a very good idea to have certain middle east stamps in your passport when traveling to the USA. If you want to travel to such countries, it could be a good idea to apply for a second passport next to a business passport.
  4. If you do apply for a second passport, make sure your business passport is your first one. Many countries require you to submit your first passport as well in case of a visa application in the second passport. This kind of defeats part of the purpose of a second passport.

Visa Application 

For all business travel abroad, check if you will need an entry visa or not. It will usually take a week to get one, starting from the moment you have all of the required paperwork in place, but duration can even be longer than that.

You can apply in person or have the application handled by a visa service company. The latter will save you time and hassle, but it is never a bad idea to check the embassy website yourself to see if there are any special requirements that need to be fulfilled. In my experience the information given by visa service companies is not always accurate and it may screw up your time table badly if they get it wrong!

Visa come in different types of which the single entry, multiple entry and tourist visa are the most common. Single entry visa usually require less formalities and can therefore be preferred, even if multiple entries are foreseen in the future. Some countries (like Russia) even require you to travel on a single entry visa first before you can apply for a multiple entry visa. Traveling on a tourist visa while on business is risky but can sometimes be the only timely way to enter a country. In such case one should be informed of the possible consequences and not make the purpose of the trip too obvious (e.g. avoid wearing a 3 piece pin-stripe suit!).

As far as timing is concerned make sure that you are aware of special requirements like invitation letters, letters of guarantee, or health insurance statements. Also make sure you know exactly what should be in these documents as this type of paperwork takes time to obtain and should be right the first time around. Be aware that Russia is a special animal in terms of health insurance statements. Their required format deviates from the world-standard so make sure your insurer knows that in advance!

Finally – as with your passport – mark the expiry date in your day planner, allowing time for renewal in case you plan on multiple entries. You don’t want to be stopped at the airport because your visa expires during your planned trip!

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