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As a general rule, can I apply for a tourist visa to a country, while in a country where I'm not a citizen or resident?

Most visa applications require that you apply no earlier than 3 months before departure, but that assumes you have everything well planned out. What if I'm already traveling, say without a very well defined itinerary, before getting to the country requiring a visa ?

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    Note that for most countries applying such restrictions (that I am aware of) you need to be a resident, citizenship does not matter. Of course, in practice, you can still apply from your country of citizenship even if you aren't a resident because they don't check residency as thoroughly for citizens but that's the way the rule is formulated. – Relaxed Sep 8 '14 at 8:22
  • It might be okay for your country in question. If, say, you live in country X, going to country Y, but there's no embassy of Y in X, you could perhaps go to a neighbouring country Z where there is an embassy of Y that will be happy to issue visas to residents of country X. I know people who have had to go through that. – Nobilis Sep 8 '14 at 13:29
  • @Nobilis Technically, the country usually does not matter as such, but consulates have a specific territorial competence that might extend to several countries or only to a part of one country. For countries that enforce such restrictions, you still cannot chose where to apply, even if there is no consulate in your country. – Relaxed Sep 8 '14 at 14:53
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There is no general rule, each country sets its own rules for this. Most countries could not care less, but some countries are quite prickly about only accepting applications from residents (eg. many Schengen members), and some countries can't even make up their mind (eg. China, which generally allows visa applications only from residents, unless you apply in Hong Kong!). The enforcement may vary based on what visa you're asking for, there's a thicket of exceptions regarding what you're supposed to do if you're from a country without an embassy or living in a country without an embassy, and not uncommonly various embassies have different ideas about what the rules are supposed to be!

TL;DR, you have to figure these out on a country-by-country basis. If there are specific countries you're interested in, please feel free to ask additional questions.

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    The key point is that if there are rules they normally come down to residency (rather than citizenship -- although I'm sure there are exceptions and citizenship will affect your visa options). For what it's worth I've never seen a visa application where you had to prove residency short of having a local address for correspondence (which is rarely, if ever, used). China does ask you to apply from the country where you're resident but I've never seen any effort to actually confirm that fact. – SpaceDog Sep 8 '14 at 6:38
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    @SpaceDog Just as an example (and probably a representative example), applying to the French Consulate in Washington DC for a Schengen visa requires both proof of US residency/citizenship as well as proof of address in the consulate's area of jurisdiction. – 200_success Sep 8 '14 at 9:23
  • @200_success Ah, thanks for that. I guess it does vary a lot depending where you are, where you're from and where you're going. Always best to check specific cases in advance. – SpaceDog Sep 8 '14 at 9:36
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    @GayotFow: Fair enough, link removed. Better examples welcome. – jpatokal Sep 9 '14 at 0:03
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    @jpatokal, thanks for the speed and gracefulness of the correction. For future, a visitor can apply from any place he entered legally and has a British issuing post. All other UK visas require that the applicant's visa in the country where they want to apply was issued for a period longer than 6 months. The UK site will never say 'resident' or 'residency' because those words are fuzzy. :) – Gayot Fow Sep 9 '14 at 0:07
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This is unfortunately a very complicated issue. My wife made that experience more than once (she bears a Chinese passport) and it's one of her main motivations to get the Swiss passport as soon as she cans (beside political participation).

Since every country has its own rules there is simply no general rule. After all, you have to ask the representation of your destination country in the place you want to apply to. Only they can tell you for sure whether they will accept your submission of the application or not (note: This does not imply any acceptance of the application itself!).

Let's assume the following: You are a citizen of Country Z with a residence permit in Country A, planning to travel to country B.

You have good chances that your submission of an application is accepted if you have a long-term residence permit in Country A (let's say at least 6 months) and the entire validity of the visa you apply for lies completely within the validity of your residence permit. Please note: This does not imply any acceptance towards the application itself! Only the submission of an application may be accepted in such cases.

Some countries allow you to apply for tourist visa in places where you are staying on another visa if you have good reasons to do so (this may include: medical emergencies, family emergencies like accidents/sickness/death of close relatives, etc.), in rare cases a good reason consists already of a well-planned journey. I know of a guy who made it to obtain a Chinese visa in Korea after explaining his travel plans to the authorities there.

In general there is only one rule that applies to any case: The competent authority is the only contact point for reliable information - unfortunately even they can be wrong sometimes. I had the case of a visa of mine for China which was actually not possible to extend anymore but some local authority did - caused me quite some trouble when leaving the country...

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If I understand correctly, you are a citizen of a country A, living in a country B and want to apply for a visa of a country C.

In this case all you need is to contact the embassy or consulate of a country C and it does not matter where do you reside.

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    This is not correct in all cases: quite a few embassies in country C will only accept visa applications from people living in country C. – jpatokal Sep 8 '14 at 4:40
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    @pnuts Arg, thanks for the heads-up. Meant "...living in country B", obviously, but too late to edit the comment. – jpatokal Sep 8 '14 at 6:27
  • jPat - you can't edit comments, but just click the small "X" to delete them, and then, write the comment again anew. – Fattie Sep 8 '14 at 10:11
  • Not quite, I'm citizen of country A, travelling through country B, want to apply for a visa of country C. – blackbird Sep 8 '14 at 12:07
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As @jpatokal explained, there is no general rule (+1) but often you cannot chose where you apply. Some countries (e.g. the UK and Schengen countries) have rather strict rules and do enforce them (e.g. by demanding you produce the right kind of visa or residence permit and a proof of address for each application).

Incidentally, in those cases, country and citizenship technically do not matter as such but being a resident in the area covered by a specific consulate is what matters. If you want to go to France and your address is in one US state, then you have to apply at the relevant consulate and cannot do it elsewhere, even at another French consulate in the US. Conversely, if you reside in a small country, the consulate covering the area might very well be in another country.

Unfortunately, if you want to travel flexibly, you might be out of luck, the regulations simply aren't tailored for that.

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