Breaking Down Travel Visas

Travel visas can be confusing - let Sherpa be your guide.


We get it. Planning a trip can be one of the most exciting activities known to man. Admittedly, navigating the world of travel visas can be daunting. At Sherpa, we know. Where do you begin? The advent of the internet has made information available through blogs or forums like TripAdvisor. While these are a good place to start to research, more often than not the information one person provides doesn’t pertain to you, or the passport you hold.

“The best information is often the personal experiences of others and word of mouth advice. It’s good, but it shouldn’t be this way.” – A Travel Insider

Official government or embassy websites are a great place to find the right information you need, the documents you’ll be required to produce, and the timelines you can expect. There are also legitimate third-party companies that provide information and process visas, however, with the good comes the bad. Many “official” websites have popped up in recent years. These provide misinformation, faulty services, and scam individuals into paying for a visa or service that is illegitimate or not recognized by the immigration department of the country you are visiting. Even the most experienced of travellers can fall into these traps if they aren’t careful. Although visa requirements change all the time, there are some fairly standard terms that come up consistently with regards to finding and applying for visas. We’ve outlined common terms below.

Glossary of Visa Types and Terms


Visa-Free Travel

You are good to go! This means that you do not need a visa, or are not required to pay a fee when entering the country for travel. HOWEVER – this does not mean you don’t ever need permission to stay in a country. For example, a Canadian travelling to France doesn’t need a visa to enter this part of Europe (Schengen agreement) – they would just have their passport stamped on arrival. Canadians, however, can only spend 90 days total in Schengen areas of Europe in every 180 day period. So although the Canadian traveller can “walk in” visa-free, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to be mindful of how long they can stay overall even though you don’t need a visa. You should know how long you can stay in the country, as well as vaccination and passport requirements. Some countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months after the date of departure.



This is a visa that is typically applied for online and received in an online format. The traveller presents an email, scannable barcode, or is already registered with the country they are travelling to. Many countries are moving to this format as it’s cheaper and faster to administer and process. Recently, Australia, Turkey, and Vietnam have begun to process e-Visas. We recommend printing out your e-Visa before travelling.


Visa on Arrival

This means that your citizenship requires a formal visa to be allowed to enter and travel the country. On arrival means that you can simply get this type of visa when you arrive at the airport or land border crossing, as opposed to before you leave for your trip.

Visas on Arrival tend to be a full page sticker in your passport. While they are pretty to look at, you might want to be mindful of your passport’s valuable real estate and get an e-Visa, if one is available. E-Visas save you a whole page, since the border guard simply stamps your passport.

One tip we have for travellers: Make sure you have enough cash on hand. Currency Exchange in airports can cost a pretty penny.


Embassy Visa

Think of these as the “Classic Visa”. This kind of visa requires the traveller to get their visa from the destination country’s consulate. Usually accompanied with an application that requires physical paperwork, this is the kind of visa that takes the most time and effort. Another great reason to use Sherpa. Remember, budget plenty of time to get this visa, as they can take over a month to process in some cases.


Reciprocity Fee

A fee that you pay to enter a country upon arrival. Different citizenships pay different amounts based on the relationships/agreements that your country and the country you are visiting have with one another. The best place to get up-to-date fee information is through your Embassy to the country you are travelling. While reciprocity fees allow you entry, they do not guarantee a prolonged stay – so you must still do a little research to see how long you can stay in a country before you would require a formal visa for travel. Typically, but not always, the length of stay covered by fees alone is up to 30 days.

Be sure to check if you need to pay the reciprocity fee in advance. Some airlines do not allow you to board the plane without proof of payment.


Loose Leaf Visa

A loose leaf visa is simply that: a loose sheet of paper which provides Customs Officials with information. They are seen as advantageous because it can be applied for and paid for beforehand and they don’t take up a page in your passport. Vietnam issues a loose leaf visa that they take back from you when you leave the country. Be sure not to lose it while travelling, however!


Transit Visa

If a traveller is heading for a final destination country by air, they may have a layover (or stopover) in another country on the way. Sometimes, citizens of certain countries are required to get a visa even if they are just entering the country and never leaving the airport. A common example of this is China – Canadians travelling to Japan, for example, need a “transit visa” if they are stopping in Beijing on the way. If you are flying internationally, be sure to check if you need a transit visa. Airlines can prevent you from boarding the airplane if you do not have an appropriate visa.


Sherpa Says: There are many Visa Terms. We make it easy.

We’ve done the homework so that you don’t have to. Now that you know a little bit more about the terminology most commonly used, we hope you can travel more confidently. That said, our work is never done! Have a visa question? Email us at or reach out to us on Facebook, or Instagram and Twitter @joinsherpa.

As always, Travel Easy! – The Sherpa Team