DEFINITION of Exit Visa

An exit visa is a government-issued document granting an individual permission to leave a country. When people talk about visas, they usually refer to entrance visas. Many countries do not require exit visas; a few that do include Russia, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Cuba previously required exit visas but eliminated the practice in 2013. Travelers should be thoroughly familiar with a foreign country's entry and exit requirements before attempting a visit.

Generally, business visitors with commercial visas are required to obtain an exit visa before leaving so that the local government can verify that all taxes were paid on income earned in the country.

BREAKING DOWN Exit Visa

A traveler with an expired, lost or stolen visa may face not only the problem of being unable to leave the country but also problems securing lodging and moving throughout the country. Waits of three to 20 business days to obtain an exit visa after overstaying one's visa are common. Travelers overstaying their visas could also be fined, jailed, or deported.

How Exit Visas Are Used

The nature and use of exit visa can vary by county. In Russia, for example, visitors who overstay their scheduled trip must request an exit visa that includes an explanation of the reason for their prolonged presence in the country.

In Saudi Arabia, an exit visa is part of a visitor’s – specifically an expatriate's – final exit from the country. Individuals who move to Saudi Arabia for a job may only remain in that country for the duration of a work contract, for example. As the end of that duration approaches, the expatriate must prepare to return to their home country. Part of the process includes securing the exit visa, which is reliant on the employer. The worker typically files a resignation from their position and then awaits the employer to submit the documentation for the final exit visa. This process, however, could be delayed by an employer, forcing the worker to remain in the country longer.

Problems with Exit Visas

The practice of requiring exit visas, in particular in relation to workers needing employers’ approval to leave the country, has raised questions about human rights and the exploitation of migrant workers. If a worker has a dispute with an employer over salary or treatment and they take legal action, it is possible that the employer might withhold the exit visa as leverage to end the litigation. Furthermore, the process might require multiple signatures from different sponsors and related parties before the exit visa is approved and released.