10 Hardest Countries to Get Into

by Valaer Murray Subscribe to Valaer Murray's posts Posted May 21st 2010 05:13 PM



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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These are all reletively easy to get. What about the one's that few have heard of? I think there was a group somewhere who was trying to get every passport stamp in the world. I know some difficult ones are the British Antarctic Territory. There is also Diego Garcia. That’s a pretty hard stamp to get.
Here are some of Diego Garcia. http://www.lulu.com/shop/diego-garcia/calendar/product-21244024.htmlpictures

October 10 2013 at 1:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


May 21 2013 at 4:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

some fool listed this information who had no idea about the country and their laws dnt believe it

May 21 2013 at 4:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Surprised that Sudan, Libya, Algeria, and Syria are not on that list ..... of that list Sudan can be a real hassle. Libya or Algeria tourist visas are nearly impossible for Americans.

Brazil and India have never posed a problem for me, just a bit a preparation.

Having traveled to more than 55 countries, I think that the US passport is still one of the best passports to have. Like all large developed countries, there are going to be travel restrictions to certain countries. It posed minimal travel restrictions and a US passport holder take enter most countries without a visa. When I was entering Rwanda, there were 2 European Union travelers behind me, a French girl and a Finnish guy. The French girls was not let in because for French passport, and the Finnish guy behind me had to apply for a visa couple days before entering and pay $50 For Americans like me, it a free visa issued on site at the border.

June 08 2011 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to cpsurf's comment

Well Yes US Passport can travel much far that EU but I almost travel the half of the world like as I am holding a Swiss Passport I don't need a visa to come to US even . So cool. I love Switzerland peaceful EEU country in the world . Honestly I don't love these passports and ID I love the country and obey the country rules this is how you can keep the best country without breaking any rules in any country. The funny thing is in this whole world God has created this world peaceful to go anyway as humans freelance just like animals but unfortunately people created this type of name called rules and this makes many people to seek in with maybe fake visa or try to pay money to get and the person been cheated or refuse so such person when get a visa will overstay the visa and disobey the rules what I can say is that if everybody has free travelling no police will have pressure in anyway because people knows they can come in and out of course must have money to spend and place to live . The problem is when people have families living in EU countries its so hard for them to get a visa too this I dont agree personally which is a big judgement . What I can say is that this whole world is not belongs to us people must have free life work earn enjoy . I thing this is called a peaceful Earth. When this Earth finish everything over including the rules .

December 23 2012 at 9:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Menric Detot

Chile, China, and Australia are just some examples of countries that are cheaper (or free) to EU passports holders versus US passports holders. So don't make your one time example of Rwanda the general case.

January 18 2014 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

burma must be hard now. I was there some 30 years ago and you only got a week to stay. And don't stay longer!

March 03 2011 at 12:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The list is for westerners and the reason is simple...It is difficult for them to visit these countries as it is also difficult for citizens of these countries to visit US/EU.

It is not easy for a Russian/Indian/Chinese to visit US and so the policies

December 25 2010 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To all of the people commenting on how the US should make it harder for the people from these countries to get into the US: NEWSFLASH -- it already does! It is "hard as hell" to come here.
try looking at some of the US visa application processes in Brazil or China or India sometime. They'll probably boggle your mind.

And, oh, don't diss the beauty and worth of other places when you've seen nothing beyond your own neighborhood.

November 10 2010 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Samir baral

Its funny, does America only have right to issue visa prior to travel. Its nice to hear that Ameircan feel difficulties. Hope people understand how difficult was it for the rest of the world to celebrate holiday at rocky mountain or grand canyon.

October 02 2010 at 4:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Balaji Viswanathan

Thanks for a very informative list that puts India and China, along with Cuba, North Korea, Angola etc. I'm sure North Korean tourists enjoy a lot more freedom and a lot more travel destination than ours.

You guys are probably living in another world.

August 16 2010 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

America only cares about America. That has always been a long standing tradition. I am a proud Canadian who has spent two years living in Massachusetts; in "New England". I am from Southern Ontario which is not much farther north than the state I resided in. Yet, the people I grew up with knew NOTHING about Canada. I was appalled that horrible stereotypes about my country were held as the word of God. I was criticized for not speaking french (though I am fluent in Portuguese), for spelling "color" as colour and my 'accent' (funny coming from people from Boston region) and for my country's socialized medicare. From my own experience Americans believe everyone should pay them respect 'just because' they are American. Big deal. Congrats on all that you have achieved America, but your self-proclaimed achievements do not mean you can get preferential treatment wherever you go. International relations are not just about what other countries are going to do for YOU. It's give and take - a concept seemingly poorly understood by some Americans. Americans complain about their charity in 'outsourcing' their work to foreigners... yet isn't that just another way for the American government to overwork and underpay people. That's not charity, it's exploitation. Not very democratic if you ask me. There is no such thing as a 'pure government' but America cannot possibly criticize China without looking in the mirror. How many people in your country have to sell their homes and give up their belongings when they face life-threatening illness. Sure, you have freedom, as long as your healthy enough to take care of yourself. It's all fine and dandy until it happens to you.

I hated living in the USA but I love visiting Boston. To this day it remains my favourite American destination. Likewise I love it when I hear Americans tell me they've fallen in love with some Canadian destinations. Humans are prideful and when you go around the world waving your flag in other people's faces then resentment is bound to surface. Most people know 'that guy'. The one you avoid at parties because he obnoxious, arrogant and self-centred. The guy you don't want to get into an argument with because he'll continually insist that HIS team is better than YOURS. In fact, your team just plain sucks, according to him. The guy that constantly brags about his materialistic belongings and how he's just plain awesome. To me, that's America, or at least the American attitude. Just like how different people react differently to 'that guy', different countries are not going to be as tolerant as others. You think you're country is the best. That's awesome. I think mine is too. The difference is that I don't go into your country waving my flag and trying to shove it down your throat. There modesty and pride can co-exist.

July 30 2010 at 2:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply