Visas are your responsibility and for expeditions, each Handbook outlines the requirements for a given trip. Here is the SCHQ Ops Department’s advice on what visas are currently required for each destination. Always check with the relevant embassy to ensure you are working with the most up-to-date and correct visa information for your specific circumstances – the information below is intended as a guide only.

Key points to research

  • How far in advance can you apply for your visa?
  • How long does the visa last for?
  • Do you need a single entry or a multiple entry visa?
  • Do you need visas for more than one country?
  • What supporting documents do you need to supply with your application form?
  • Do you need to supply photographs? If so, what exact size, colour or black and white, and how many?
  • How much will your visa cost?
  • Do you need to fulfill any medical requirements before applying for a visa?
  • Will a Letter of Invitation be required to submit with your application?
  • How and where can you apply for a visa…Must you apply in person?
  • Are there any restrictions e.g. no-one with an Israeli stamp may apply?
  • If you are travelling, how will you manage this?
  • Must you apply in person to supply biometric data?
  • Have you read the visa section of the relevant Secret Compass Expedition Handbook?
  • Has Secret Compass already provided an additional Visa Advice Document?

Visas assistance companies

If you find it easier to use a visa processing company, Secret Compass teammates have successfully used visa assistance companies to procure visas. Companies like this charge their fee on top of visa fees and are useful if you’re busy. They often send a courier to collect your passport from you, deliver it to and collect it from the embassy in question, then return it to you via courier complete with visa. Not all visas can be acquired this way so check everything in advance.

US Visa Waiver Program restrictions

Please note that recent changes to US entry requirements mean that if you live in a country which is part of the US Visa Waiver Program but have recently (since 2011) travelled to one of a number of specific countries, then you will not be able to use the Visa Waiver Program and must instead apply for a full visa to travel to the US. Currently the list of countries affected are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen, but please see here for more details and current inclusions.

Check your visa stamps or papers

Always check the dates and specifics on visas stamped into your passport or permits provided in written form to ensure you get what you wanted and what you paid for. Secret Compass has had teammates on its Wakhan Corridor trek who had requested and paid for a double-entry Tajik visa but whose passports were returned from the embassy with a single entry visa, meaning they would not be able to exit Afghanistan back into Tajikistan at the end of the expedition. Embassies make mistakes: it is your responsibility to ensure that your visas are correct prior to joining the team in country.

Visa issues at borders

While Secret Compass will do all it can prior to departure to help get you the correct visa information in a clear and timely manner (letting you know of any changes as we become aware of them) any visa-related issues which prevent you from joining the expedition team on which you are booked are your responsibility. If you know you are going to a challenging destination then keep an eye on embassy and FCO websites to keep ahead of the game and, where possible, give yourself enough time to factor in unexpected changes. This information was correct at the time of writing (see top of page) and will be updated periodically.