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Travel Talk

Going overseas? Check your visa

I adore interesting statistics and the September issue of Conde Nast Traveler has a fascinating mega-display of international travel stats (pages 95-98). Would you believe New Hampshire made the display?

Seems that while the number of Americans holding passports has tripled to almost 13 million, the percentage of residents holding valid passports varies greatly from state to state. New Hampshire is fifth at 43 percent, just behind four other Northeast states. New Jersey is first with 50 percent and Mississippi is last with 13.1 percent.

Heartening news for the world of international travel - but is a passport all you need to head for another country or continent? No! You might need a visa, too.

Visas: About 170 countries allow U.S. citizens to enter and exit just by showing our valid passports on arrival or departure - think Canada, the United Kingdom, most European countries and a smattering of countries in Asia, South America and Africa. They just check us in and out with a thud. Other countries want more information about us and ask that we apply for visas.

Once issued, a visa shows we do indeed have permission to be in the country, usually for a certain period of time and purpose, say, tourism.

Sometimes visas are separate documents, but increasingly they are just a sticker inserted on a page of your passport. Visas always cost money.

Application: Sometimes you can get a visa on arrival at the airport - fill out a form and pay the fee before going through immigration or customs. Think Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, Chile and Argentina, among others. This is usually easy and fairly quick, requiring basic information like passport number, name, gender, address, local contact, tour company and dates of travel, but usually no photos.

Other countries, like Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil and Russia, ask that you apply through their embassies in advance of your arrival.

This requires filling out forms (usually downloadable) and sending your passport, the completed form, the fee and often two passport-sized photos to the embassy via the mail or UPS/FedEx. This is my least favorite option. I hate letting go of my passport!

Sometimes you can download the forms and submit them on arrival at the airport. Visit travel.state.gov for entry and exit requirements at the ‘’country-specific’’ tab. There’ll be a direct link to the official embassy website - or you can go to embassy.org. If the information is conflicting or unclear, visit the forums at Tripadvisor.com or frommers.com to see what recent travelers are saying. You can always ask a direct question of anyone posting.

Tips: You’ll need a passport valid for at least months after your return date. You’ll also need enough completely empty ‘’Visas’’ pages (numbered 8-24) inside your passport.

If there are entry/exit stamps on all pages, send your passport with fees and forms (travel.state.gov, allow 2 weeks) to the State Department to have additional pages stitched in. These will have letters A-X. Most important: Check it out at least three months before travel.

(Chase Binder lives in Bow. Read her blog at travelswithchase.blogspot.com.) ‘

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