10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

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With the quick stamp of the passport, American citizens can usually breeze right across foreign borders. But as part of the rising trend of reciprocity for the restrictions the U.S. places on visitors that come to our shores, more countries are requiring Americans to have pre-issued tourist visas that can cost up to $400.
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10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

With the quick stamp of the passport, American citizens can usually breeze right across foreign borders. But as part of the rising trend of reciprocity for the restrictions the U.S. places on visitors that come to our shores, more countries are requiring Americans to have pre-issued tourist visas that can cost up to $400. Still, others like Chile charge U.S. nationals exit and entry fees at airports. Another problem travelers run into, besides rising fees, is the visa processing time often found with less developed countries like Angola or those with stricter political standards like Saudi Arabia. While most countries require that your passport be valid for six months after entry to the destination and that it contains at least a few empty pages, the ever-changing quality of visa regulations means that travelers must be mindful of extra requirements before even buying the plane tickets. Nina Grothaus, Visa Director at A Briggs, a top passport and visa specialist, acknowledges this. "Many of our customers book expensive trips to these destinations, with urgent departure dates, without realizing that a visa is needed," she says. It's a good idea to check entry and exit requirements on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, but beware of these 10 countries when planning your next exotic vacation.

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

Many Americans attending the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were taken by surprise by China's $130 fee for a single-entry visa. China requires that the applicant or a visa specialist that represents the applicant arrive in person at one of the six consulates across the U.S. to submit the forms and visa fee (which for citizens of other countries starts at a mere $30). At least the processing time is a standard four days, according to the Embassy of China's web site. In April 2010, China relaxed another stringent travel policy - their ban disallowing HIV positive tourists to enter. http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

India makes its way onto this list because many travelers find it difficult to navigate their way through the process. "With the start of the New Year, India visa requirements have changed and continue to change regularly," says Nina Grothaus. "The Indian government has heightened security and every visa request is scrutinized." In an interesting move, India has transferred all visa operations for U.S. citizens to Travisa Outsourcing, a private company that handles applications through the India Visa Center. In addition, consular fees range between $60 and $150. https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

Officially called The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country does not share diplomatic relations with the U.S. and there is neither a North Korean embassy in the U.S. nor is there an American one there. Instead, the Swedish Embassy provides assistance to U.S. travelers, who are escorted by North Korean "guides" throughout the duration of their stay. In order to obtain a visa to North Korean, travelers must go to the DPRK Embassy in Beijing, but many sources report that a visa is generally not granted to Americans unless part of an organized delegation accepted into North Korea for cultural exchange purposes. If, however, you succeed in getting a tourist visa, North Korea may only be entered through a handful of cities serviced by Chinese airlines, trains or the North Korean Air Koryo, which flies to 11 foreign cities including Macao, Bangkok, Zurich and Prague. http://www.korea-dpr.com/

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

Displaying perhaps the vestiges of its Iron Curtain days, the Russian Federation has a particularly rigid and complex visa process. One of the biggest barriers is the letter of invitation, written in Russian, which can be obtained in several ways. You can obtain one from your hotel, an authorized Russia-based tour or travel agent, or from companies like Intel Service, which A Briggs partners with. The consular fees range from $130 to $250 and applicants must also answer extensive questions about health insurance, military background, employment, and education history. http://moscow.usembassy.gov/

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

Like the Russian Federation, the DRC also asks for an invitation notarized within the Congo as well as an International Certificate of Immunization that proves that you have received a yellow fever vaccination. Application fees start at $100 for a one-month, single entry visa and go up to $400, but after paying up, you won't wait too long since the DRC Embassy web site promises only three days' processing time. However, the U.S. State Department cautions, "Travelers to the DRC frequently experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, such as temporary detention, passport confiscation, and demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial 'fees.' " http://www.ambardcusa.org

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

Of all the countries in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has one of the most tightly controlled visa administrations. There are special visas for family visits and religious pilgrimages, but according to the State Department, a limited amount of tourist visas are given to government-approved tour groups that act as sponsors, and if a traveler has a layover or are passing through Saudi for more than 18 hours or less than 72, he or she must apply for a separate transit visa. Women are subjected to additional rules as well, such as needing to be met by their sponsor at the point of arrival and having to be accompanied by a male relative while in transit. http://www.saudiembassy.net

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

You may ask, why would someone travel to Angola? The coastal Portuguese-speaking nation boasts dramatic desert beaches, national parks and a thriving capital. It also borders Namibia, one of the up-and-coming African destinations offering safaris and adventure tourism. On the downside, both A Briggs and the U.S. State Department warn of excessive waiting periods to receive a tourist visa. "Technically visas are issued within nine business days from the date the Angolan government approves the visa request. The problem is that the approval time can take weeks and in some cases months," says Nina Grothaus. "Our customers have experienced processing times as quickly as three business days and as long as three months." Consular fees start at $141 and travelers must provide immunization proof, two invitations, and means of financial support (at least $100 a day). http://www.angola.org

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

The official U.S. position on tourism in Cuba is difficult to decipher. The Department of Treasury must license an individual traveling to Cuba for any "travel-related transactions," but it won't license tourist travel. Even if Americans arrive in Cuba via a third-party country, flaunting the Treasury regulations could result in civil penalties and criminal prosecution, according to the State Department. Licenses are only made available for specific purposes like visiting family members, education, and religious travel. Flights to and from Cuba are available through Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, and the rule of thumb for U.S. travelers there is to not have the Cuban authorities stamp your U.S. passport, though they will provide a Cuban visa upon entry. http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/cuba/cuba.shtml

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

One of the most sought-out travel destinations in the world requires patience, money and a close attention to detail from American travelers. Aside from the $130 to $150 reciprocal consular fee, the many quirks in Brazil's visa application process sets this country apart. The A Briggs Visa Director cautions, "Some applicants may find that their visa will take three business days and that their passport has to be signed before submission, whereas other their visa will take 20 days and they cannot smile in their photo." Plus, various consulates in cities around the U.S. have their own methods of application and processing times. http://www.brasilemb.org/

10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

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