When traveling abroad for business, there are many things to remember – meeting schedules, presentation materials, business cards, dress clothes, etc. While immigration requirements can get lost in the shuffle, immigration documents should be on any business traveler’s pre-trip checklist. Forgetting required documentation can result in experiences that range from slightly inconvenient to potentially disastrous, including:
- Missed flights;
- Refusal of entry;
- Long periods waiting in secondary inspection; and/or
- Canceled trips.
Many of these issues may be prevented by carrying the right documentation. Below is a checklist of recommended documents to carry on every business trip.
What Documents to Pack
- Valid Passport
Most passports are valid for 10 years so it is easy to forget that they ever need renewing. Check your passport expiration date and get a new one if the expiration date is within 6 months of your travel dates as many countries have strict passport validity requirements.
- Invitation Letter
Carry a letter from the company or client you are visiting. This letter, also known as a “comfort letter”, should be short (less than one page) and should explain the reason for your visit, give the duration of stay, and provide information for your in-country contact.
- Onward Travel Confirmation
The immigration officer at the border needs to be satisfied you will leave the country at the end of your visit. A flight itinerary showing return or onward travel provides this proof if required.
- Hotel Booking With Address
Travelers are expected to be able to say where they are staying. It is good to have the address on hand.
- Proof of Employment
This can take the form of an employment verification letter and/or recent pay statements. An employment verification letter should be short and just confirm your hire date, job title, and current salary.
- Any required Visas or Pre-Clearance Approvals
US Citizens do not need visas for most countries in the world when traveling for business meetings, but there are 33 exceptions to this norm (most notably Australia, New Zealand, and India). For these 33 countries, US citizens must get a visa, eVisa, or electronic travel authorization before getting on a plane. Airlines are instructed to refuse boarding to those who do not have this documentation.
How to Pack and Present These Documents
All immigration-related documents should be carried in a carryon and in hard copy rather than in a checked bag or in a digital format. Documents in checked baggage are usually not available until after immigration control, and digital devices are prone to connection and power issues. Having documents in a carry on in hard copy avoids those potential issues.
It is possible that the only documents a border official will ask for are your passport and visa (if required). You should keep the other documents at hand, but only present them if asked. Many travelers go years without being asked for any documentation beyond their passport. However, border officials around the world are increasingly scrutinizing even the most mundane of travelers, and it is best to be prepared.
If you have any questions about business travel best practices, visas for business travelers, trusted traveler programs, or other immigration-related issues, contact our immigration team.