The U.S. passport is one of the most powerful in the world. It allows you to travel freely within the U.S., and visit a lot of other countries in the world without having to apply for a visa first. However, some countries will require you to apply for a visa before traveling there, even if it’s just for a short time period.
The typical requirements for visa application are accomplishing the visa application form, sending your passport for stamping and a copy of your photograph, and paying the visa application fee. However, some countries will require supporting documents, like a travel itinerary, a letter of invitation, and a background check.
The background check requirements for visas vary from country to country. The requirements can also change over time, so you need to make sure to check the most recent information before trying to apply for your visa to have a stress-free vacation from the get-go.
Which countries require a background check to get your visa?
Here’s the list of countries that will require you a criminal background check:
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
- New Zealand
Most of the countries in the list above do not require U.S. citizens to obtain visas before arrival. However, some would require you to obtain one depending on your criminal history, if there is one, and travel plans.
Here is the list of countries that will require you to get a visa before entry:
- North Korea^
- Russian Federation^
^U.S. Department of State encourages Americans to not travel to these countries.
*As of the date of publication, its embassy in the U.S. does not issue visas.
What’s a Visa?
A visa is a permit that allows you to enter a country. It’s an official document that you usually have to obtain before your trip and is issued to you by the country you’re planning to visit. Though some countries allow you to get one when you arrive at the border.
There are four common types of visas issued; immigration, student, tourist, or work. Each type is issued for different reasons and their validity periods vary. The most common is the tourist visa, which is issued to you when you plan on visiting a country for leisure or business purposes. It’s usually valid for a period of three to six months and allows you to enter the country multiple times during the validity period.
Why would you need a criminal background check to get a visa?
A criminal background check is a document that shows if you have committed any crimes in the past. It can show your criminal history, including those that you’re charged without being convicted.
There could be a variety of reasons for countries to require travelers to obtain a criminal background check or proof of good behavior, but the most common is a concern that the traveler may be a security risk. Countries want to maintain peace and order and ensure that their citizens are protected.
How do I get a background check in the United States?
When your travel destination requires you to present a background check, you can get it from the government either through your local police department or through the FBI. You will need to fill out an application form, attach the supporting documents required, send it in, and pay the fee. It’s easiest to do this online, though some local police might require you to personally appear in their office.
Keep in mind that if the country you’re visiting requires you to have the document which contains the results of your background check authenticated, you must indicate this in your request.
Having a visa is one of the common requirements for international travel. If you need to get one before traveling to your next destination, you’ll want to be familiar with the list of countries that require a criminal background check in your visa application.