I'm a travel newbie but I do want to travel to a lot of places.

It seems that I could book flights to where ever I want to go, but some countries have visa requirements.

What happens if you do get a flight, arrive at the destination, and then realize that there's a visa requirement that you don't have?

  • I had a funny situation where I was flying to country X, and literally as I was checking in, the check-in staff realised I did not have a visa for it. In short I rushed over to a computer (in the airport hotel lobby) and was in this case able to get some sort of visa online for country X. I rushed back to check in, incredibly it worked, and just made it through check-in. {Then, incredibly, while rushing through security there was A MASSIVE BOMB SCARE at this airport and everything was delayed for hours with 1000s of people out on the street! heh!}
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 7:08
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    Not just a visa; most airlines will also require you to present proof of onward travel unless you are a resident of the destination country.
    – user82
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 15:27
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    Just to clarify, that "booking a flight" (as mentioned in the title) and "boarding a flight" (as assumed in the question) are two different things.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 17:44
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    It's quite normal to book a flight before getting a visa. In fact (as I had to last week) you may have to produce the flight booking in order to secure the visa! As the accepted answer indicates if you don't have a visa (and you do require some kind of visa to land) they'll generally prevent you from boarding. I've heard of a couple of exceptions where they missed it though, and sometimes people were able to make ($$$) arrangements without being sent back on the next flight. I would not expect this kind of accommodation to ever happen with US arrivals. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 19:06
  • I have never been asked for a visa. I know it was required for Turkey, and I think I had to show it on arrival, but I have never been asked for a visa at any departure point. And never asked for proof of onward travel at either end, even when my tickets were one way.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Oct 16, 2015 at 23:38

4 Answers 4


In general, the airline won't let you get on the plane. If you are refused entry to a country upon arrival, it is the airline's responsibility to return you to your place of origin, so they have an interest in confirming that you hold the correct visa for your destination (if required).

Airlines frequently use a system called Timatic for this:

IATA Timatic is the industry standard used by airlines and travel agents to verify passengers travel document requirements for their destination and any transit points. Airlines use this information to ensure their customers are compliant with border control rules and regulations. Timatic delivers personalized information based on the passenger's destination, transit points, nationality, travel document, residence country etc.

It is your responsibility to make sure you have the required visa for your destination. The airline is unlikely to offer you a refund if you show up for departure with no visa.

  • Awesome. Fast, informative answer. Thanks for this.
    – Zaenille
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 3:28
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    Been there, done that. My Hong Kong girlfriend and I boarded a flight to Canada via Detroit. I am Canadian so needed no visa, but we were told at the ticket gate that my gf couldn't take the flight. We ended up getting her a same-day direct flight that avoided the US. The entire pre-booked ticket price was lost :(
    – tar
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 5:49
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    Airlines can be wrong though - in the EU it's legal to travel with a non-EU spouse (as long as you are an EU citizen) under Directive 2004/38/EC with no visa. However most airlines are unaware of the law will prevent you from boarding.
    – Ashley
    Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 11:08
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    Almost been there. They tried to deny us boarding on the basis of expired visas. Yeah, there were expired visas from a cancelled trip, there were also current visas. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 16:30
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    Dear answerer: the question is poorly written. It asks one question in the title, and a different question in the body. May I suggest you edit your answer to answer the question posed in the title also. May I suggest you mention that nothing will happen at the time of booking: the airline will be happy to take the OP's money and sell him a ticket without telling him anything about the destination country's visa requirements. Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 17:56

To add to Greg's correct answer about boarding a flight without a visa, the airline won't care if you have a visa when booking the flight.
They will probably remind you to get one before departure, but on booking you don't usually have to produce a visa or even passport. Not surprising as you can usually book a flight far in advance, and getting a new passport or visa issued in between booking and travel is not at all uncommon/

And then there's the visa on arrival procedures for some countries. Airlines will then just check whether you have the required documents needed to get such a visa issued. Nothing more they can do...

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    I don't recall ever being advised to get a visa, just a form e-mail that didn't address anything about where I was heading. Commented Sep 1, 2014 at 21:39
  • @LorenPechtel on the booking page there's usually a reminder that you need to have valid travel documents for your destination... And last few times I'd to fill out all kinds of forms supplying passport numbers and stuff like that before they'd let me check in online. No visa required for those destinations, but there were fields to enter those as well for people that do need them.
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 6:23
  • Yeah, there are generic reminders, but nothing specific about your destination in my experience. Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 17:34
  • I got a generic "visa reminder" email from an airline that will remain anonymous, since they had my passport info and the ticket was into my country of citizenship (USA). Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 23:16
  • When I have flown United at least, they checked my passport before getting on the international flight. Mostly to ensure I had one. Commented Jul 10, 2015 at 12:04

This check is made at origin boarding point itself, and then verified at destination point. At time of booking VISA is not considered as a requirement.

There could be an issue if the country you land in transit has you move out of airport to a different airport (be it even in same city), and that's when you would need to have a transit visa. As long as you stay within the departure gates this issue should not arise.

  • 3
    Not so. Some countries (for example, Schengenland or Australia) require (at least some) travelers to have transit visas even if they don't leave the airport. Some countries' airports are even designed in such a fashion that direct connection between international flights is not possible (the best known example of such a country is the USA).
    – ach
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 11:05
  • Ah. I didnt know this. Never flew via australia. Mostly my transit was via Asian or European countries, and destination was almost always US.
    – Sri
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 11:42
  • in fact in the US you need a transit visa even if you never leave the aircraft, if it's just a tech stop. Or at the very least an approved ESTA (which is effectively the same for people under the VWP).
    – jwenting
    Commented Sep 3, 2014 at 6:12

I actually could not board my plane because I did not apply for a visa for when travelling to Thailand. The countries that I had been previously usually were either my home country or countries that just automatically gave visa on arrival so it did not occur to me to apply for the visa. There are some countries that can apply on arrival in Thailand but some need to apply at the country of residence. I was in the latter one and I could not apply for a visa because I was transiting in a country. Since it was a short trip I just stayed there and spent my time surrounding myself with food and met people whom I wouldn't have had I left for the trip with my friends. A valuable lesson learnt....now the first thing that I check is the visa for the country that I want to travel to.

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