Traveling : Easy steps to securing foreign visas

Travelling abroad is every Nigerian's dream whether for vacation, tourism, health,  business, visiting relatives/family or studying purposes. Many Nigerians believe the grass is greener in foreign pastures and make desperate attempts to leave the shores of the country  even if it is to a country named "Wonderland", as long as there is no "Ria" in it. Most of these adventure-seeking Nigerians have been swindled, disappointed and refused visas although they have the financial capability of making a successful trip. So why do many Nigerians get denied visas? It is simply because they do not have the right information.
 Easy steps to securing  foreign visas
Traveling and seeing the world is more than having a vacation , it is not a luxury but a necessity to learn and become exposed to other people's lifestyles and cultures. It is  a gateway to a living a better life. 

What is a visa?
A visa is a permit issued by a country's government to foreign nationals to allow them enter, stay and leave the country.

What is the average duration of a foreign visa?
The average visa period depends on the issuing country, purpose of visit and the visitor's country. Usually visas are issued to lasts from 5 days, weeks, months or years. Visitors are advised to travel within the period of their visas and leave before the validity period expires.
Some countries such as Schengen offers single, double or multiple entry visas, which means a visitor is allowed to travel to that country , once, twice or multiple times within the visa's validity period.
USA issues B1/B2 Visas for tourists, business persons, academicians e.t.c, but visitors can stay up to 6 months after the first day of travel, that is if given a visa for May 22nd- May 29th and the visitor leaves May 27th, the main visa is issued at the point of entry in United states and valid for 6 months, therefore the visitor can stay up to 6 months but must leave before November 22nd. This applies to first time visitors, even if given two years visa, you are expected to reside in the united states for 6 months, travel to your home country before returning.
 In early 70s/80s, Nigerians were not required to have visas to travel to British Commonwealth nations including UK, but now a UK visa is one of the most -sought visas by Nigerians.

Types of visas?
There are various types of visas for different purposes; Tourist visas, study permits, work permits, Immigrant visas (Green card, permanent resident permits), diplomatic visas, visitor visas and so on.

Who needs a Visa?
Any traveler going to a foreign country requires a visa, except you are a citizen, a permanent resident or have been granted a temporary immigrant status (Say 2 years-10 Years visa) or has a waiver from the country (Head of state, President or top government functionaries).

Which agency grants Visas?
Visas are granted by a country's embassy authorizing officers and verified by the immigration officials at the point of entry.

What countries can Nigerians travel to without visas?
Unfortunately, there are only few countries, Nigerian s can travel to without visas, only the West african countries that belongs to Ecowas (Economic Community Of West African States ). They are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. And you must have an Ecowas/E- passport. Kenya , Seychelles, Madagascar, Fiji, Haiti will issue a visa at their points of entry. Other African , Europe, Asian and American countries requires a valid visa issued by their embassies.

A country's visa instructions or issuance may be subject to change depending on the country visa policy reviews.

Which countries have barred Nigerians from entering their country?
As of now, none.

How to apply for US, Uk, China,Japan, Schengen, Canada,Dubai and Australian visas?
These are the top countries Nigerians apply to:
Moat of these countries including the Schengen countries ( consist of mainly European countries)  require applicants seeking immigration to download  or fill  their data online on a pdf form. After registration, visa applicants must register and schedule an Interview/bio metrics processing date,On the chosen date, they must proceed to the embassy / appointed agencies (Vfs) to submit their documents.

Which countries require face to face interviews?
Countries such as United states of America, Germany, Japan  asks applicants to come to their visa application centers (VAC) for an interview with a consul officer.

Visa application fees
Visa application fees depends on the issuing country or processing agency. Fees usually covers courier fees, processing fees, bio metrics, special requests (Fast track services), special centers (Vfs in Victoria and Vfs Ikeja charge differnt amounts for the same visa), Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for Canadian visas. Visa fees once paid, are not usually refundable.

Documents required to secure a valid visa

1.     A valid e-passport issued by your own country, Nigeria. Passport can be obtained for less than N15,000 from authorized  Nigerian immigration issuing office in any Nigerian state. 
2.     A passport picture.
3.     Health insurance (Schengen , Asian countries): To pay for a traveler's medical expenses if he /she falls ill during his trip. The  health insurance obtained must cover the visa validity period. 
4.     Health records (For sick/ill patients), stating previous health history and drug prescriptions .
5.     Yellow card ( Especially for other African countries): This card is issued by Nigerian port health authorities at Nigerian borders (Airports, Land borders-Seme), federal clinics. It shows you have been vaccinated against yelow fever and other viral infections common to Africa Like Ebola. 
6.     Employment records : Appointment, confirmation, promotion letters and pay slips. For self-employed, Company's registration certificates, tax returns,business flyers. 
7.     Statement of account: Duly stamped by a Bank. Additional financial statements such as bank's statement of sponsor, share certificates, rent returns, investment portfolio.
8.     Landed property deeds (Buildings, offices, lands), Certificate of occupancy, deed of agreement. (Optional).
9.     Marriage certificate, birth certificates of children.
10. Invitation letters, Admission letters, Conference registration details.
11. Hotel Booking tickets, Travel itinerary (You are advised not to pay for air tickets till a visa has been issued, no one/agency  will be responsible for money loss or refund incurred losses during visa application process.
12. Letter from Guarantors/Sponsors/Government.
13. Curriculum vitae, educational certificates, school transcripts, translated documents (stamped by a notary public.
14. For a writer/ journalist/ artiste : Evidence to support your performing arts, books, journals, music cds, film records, publications, photos of previous work, articles e.t.c
15. Any other document mentioned in the visa checklist.

What is an issuing officer/Consul officer looking for? Possible Interview questions

  • To get a visa, what the issuing officer requires is a substantive financial statement that proves you are credit worthy and have enough funds to last you before and during your trip. If you getting sponsorship , you should be able to explain relationship between sponsor and yourself (Employer, parent, guardian, relative or friend)
  • A strong statement of purpose, What you going to the country to do, who you are visiting, how long you intend to stay, where you will be lodge for the duration of the trip, health records e.t.c 
  • Most countries will like for you to return home after the duration of your stay. Do you have a strong commitment or ties to your home country like aged parents, young siblings, new family (wife/children), that you are the one responsible for their needs? Do you have  Landed property, a secured well paying job or other official roles you perform?
The interviewer will test your level of knowledge, they do not want people who cant add value to their system, prove yourself to be smart, that he/she will be convinced that your visit to that foreign country will be of more benefit to them than to you. 

Useful tips to take note of when going for a Visa interview
1. Do not be late to the interview, try to arrive at least one hour before time. Lateness can mean an outright cancellation and then you will have to reschedule or forfeit the application fee.
2. Do not panic, fidget or be distracted.
3. Beware of touts or those claiming to be travel agents, most of them are just seeking for fast money, they will recommend you print 100 pages, take 50 pictures, scan unnecessary documents and can waste your time.
4. Ensure you have the necessary passport picture and in the right size. Read the visa instructions for passport. Most passport pictures for visa are to be taken with a white background, no covering of hair/face, wearing of heavy accessories, too much makeup or wearing sunshades should be avoided. For most visa applications one passport photo, or at most 2 is enough.
5. Have the necessary documents intact and neatly packaged, do not take more than the required documents or forget the ones that are important. You may not have the opportunity to go back and bring a document or defend yourself, an issuing officer will judge based on the documents he/she can see.
6. Be composed , eloquent and coherent, answer questions clearly . Do not throw tantrums or try to distract others.
7. Avoid bribing officials , security officials, consuls and agents, they do not have an impact on the outcome of a visa application.

What is the average visa processing time?
Depending on the country, a day for USA, 20 working days for Schengen countries, 2/3 weeks for Uk and 60 days for Canadian visas.

What to do while waiting?
Pray and continue with your normal business

What to do when you are successful?
You are one of the lucky ones, go prepare for your trip, but have these travelling documents with you. Many Nigerians have been deported from another country's point of entry because he/she does not have a valid yellow card, hotel booking, has no place to stay or incoherent when asked questions.

What to do when denied?
A denial is not a death sentence or the end of the world. If you have the means, reapply or seek for appeal. Different countries have different positions on rejected/denied visa applications. Others do not encourage an appeal , so you have to start the visa application again, while some will advise an applicant to observe a waiting period before reapplying ( 1 month - 1 year). Never give up.

Major reasons for denial
1. In substantive documents.
2. Poor financial standing.
3. False information: Incorrect answers to questions like lying about previous visa rejections, marriage status, employment records, unverifiable documents can lead to visa denials. Try as much as possible to fill your application form yourself. Do not be caught unawares. If you must use gaents, use the ones tat are accredited by a country's government (Canada has a list of accredited agencies that help with study/work permit visas).
4. Denial by sponsor: Many visa applications especially UK Visas get rejected when the supposed hist denies the intending visitor when asked by visa authorizing offices. If you are uncertain if your host will accommodate you, choose a hotel / guest house as alternative lodging instead.
5. Suspected ties to terrorists or criminal activities (child trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling): For people on a security agency( police, FBI,SSS)wanted list or the Nigerian government has already warned various embassies that an individual should not be allowed to leave the country for reasons best known to her, the applicant may be rejected.
6. Lack of accommodation arrangements; Booking a hotel for one day and you travelling for one month or hotel status cannot be confirmed.

Tip; Do you know you can do your hotel booking for any number of days with less than N5000? No need to allow Hotel robs you off hard earned dollars.

Category of Nigerians that will easily secure a foreign visa
1. Gainfully employed people: Especially those who work in Fortune 500 companies, federal or state governments or have good income salaries.
2. Government functionaries/ politicians
3. Highly profile individuals and celebrities (Famous Nigerians, socialites, musical artistes, filmmakers)
4. Seriously ill patients who have secured funding for treatment (heart surgery, kidney transplant e.t.c)
5.  Business men with verifiable business partners abroad.
6. Health workers (Doctors, Health practitioners) and NGO owners.
7. Sports men/ athletes
8. Intellectuals: Writers, journalists, professionals (engineers, lawyers, bloggers), highly skilled individuals or craftsmen and Academicians (Visiting professors, lecturers).
9. Aspiring students who want to study abroad.
10. Relatives of the above listed people.
If you do not fall among the above categories, you can still apply, but must have strong supporting documents to aid your cause.

My first visa was a USA visa, though I got my new passport three months to the scheduled interview date, my passport was virgin, had no prior travel experience but the right knowledge like the one you are reading now helped me secure the visa.

Do you know that lost Nigerian passports can only be reissued in Abuja immigration office only and 5 times costlier than a new passport?  Please keep your passport carefully and report loss to the nearest police station.

Ask in the comments below.