Venturing abroad is an exciting experience, filled with new cultures to explore, foods to taste, and vistas to see. However, before immersing oneself in these novel experiences, one must navigate the labyrinthine process of obtaining a visa. While the general rule of thumb dictates that visa requirements ask you for a sober, straightforward exchange of
8 May 2023| Post by
Traveling the world can be an enriching experience, opening doors to new cultures, customs, and unforgettable memories. However, not all countries are as welcoming to tourists, and obtaining a visa can be a daunting task.
In this article, we’ll explore the hardest countries to get a visa for, and the reasons behind their strict visa policies.
Why Are Some Visas Difficult to Obtain?
There are various reasons why some countries have more complicated visa applications than others.
- Political Tensions: Governments may impose strict restrictions on travelers from specific nations due to ongoing disputes or past conflicts.
- Security Concerns: National security is a top priority for all countries, and governments may enforce strict visa policies to mitigate potential risks. Particularly if the country has a higher crime rate or risk of terrorism threats.
- Limited Resources: Smaller or less developed countries may not have the infrastructure or resources to handle a large influx of tourists. As a result, these governments may impose strict visa requirements to control the number of visitors.
- Cultural Preservation: Countries with unique and vulnerable cultures or ecosystems may enforce strict visa policies to protect their heritage. Limiting the number of tourists can help reduce the negative impacts of mass tourism.
- Diplomatic Reciprocity: Visa requirements can also be a matter of diplomatic reciprocity. If one country imposes strict visa policies on citizens of another nation, the latter may choose to enforce similar restrictions in return.
Understanding the reasons behind strict visa policies can help you navigate the application process for the country you wish to visit.
Hardest Countries to Get a Visa
While obtaining a visa for some countries can be challenging, the opportunity to explore these unique destinations may make the effort worthwhile.
Although opinions vary, and this is by no means a comprehensive list, below you can find some examples of the hardest countries to get a visa for.
North Korea is notorious for its secretive nature and tight restrictions on tourists. The country does not offer visa exemption to any nationality apart from holders of a People’s Republic of China passport.
All other nationals must be traveling on a guided tour that starts in China to get a visa for North Korea, and adhere to strict rules during their visit. The visa process is only initiated once the tour is confirmed.
For some nationalities, obtaining a visa for Iran can be challenging due to political tensions. The application process can be particularly lengthy for US, UK, and Canadian citizens. It can take up to 8 weeks for these nationals to receive an approved document.
Additionally, these visitors need to obtain their Iranian tourist visa through an authorized travel agency in Iran. Approval is subject to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who require the agency to submit a detailed day-by-day itinerary for the trip on the traveler’s behalf.
Turkmenistan is known for its strict visa policy and low approval rates. All travelers need to first secure a Letter of Invitation (LOI) from a sponsor in the country, either a local travel agency or business. This must then be approved by the State Migration Service.
Additionally, all foreign arrivals need to complete an immigration card at the border. They must also register with a State Service of Turkmenistan office within 3 days of arriving.
Russia’s visa policy is not as strict as some others on this list, as it actually offers visa exemption for short stays to over 60 nationalities. However, the majority of foreign citizens, including holders of some of the most powerful passports in the world, need a visa for any length of stay.
What’s more, most applicants for a tourist visa must first obtain an invitation from a Russian citizen, hotel, or tour operator. Nevertheless, Russia has recently announced plans to reintroduce its E-Visa in order to make the process a little easier.
China only grants visa exemption to around 20 nationalities. The visa application process can be complex for all other visitors, as it usually involves an interview at a Chinese embassy or consulate.
It also requires the applicant to provide a range of supporting documents, often including a detailed travel itinerary and proof of accommodation. Additionally, the processing time for a visa for China can be incredibly lengthy, even up to 2–3 months
Bhutan is a hidden gem that remains relatively untouched by mass tourism, mainly due to its visa policy. Most visitors must book a tour through a Bhutanese travel agency, and pay a daily tariff that covers accommodation, meals, and transportation.
The agency will submit a visa application on the traveler’s behalf. The document is then stamped upon arrival at select border entry points (Paro International Airport, or Phuntsoling, Samdrup Jongkhar, or Gelephug land checkpoints).
Eritrea is among the least-visited countries globally, and is infamous for frequently featuring last on the World Press Freedom Index ranking. Only nationals of Kenya and Uganda can visit Eritrea visa-free.
For all other visitors, the visa process is notoriously difficult. While it is possible to get a visa on arrival, most travelers must first have a sponsor in the country submit a request to the Eritrean Immigration Authority on their behalf.
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