Visas are always such a pain in the ass.
When I was living in Vietnam, a friend of mine excitedly messaged me telling me that he had a couple weeks free and was thinking about coming to visit me as a spur of the moment trip. Woah! That would have been really cool! So I asked him if he had already made visa arrangements...
The "typing" bubble appeared for a long time, eventually disappearing to be replaced with one short, anti-climactic query.
"Wait, what do you mean?"
Needless to say, that trip never happened. Poor guy had never traveled to a country that required a visa before. Acquiring travel visas is always a huge hassle, and no matter how many times I do it, I never stop feeling uncomfortable surrendering my passport to random embassy/consular workers. Rule #1 of traveling is never trust anybody with your passport that you don't absolutely have to.
However, this time around, I'm traveling to Algeria. They don't do visa-on-arrival, so that means I'll have to send my passport away to the Algerian Consulate to acquire an entry visa ahead of time. Here's everything you need to know to get a tourist visa into Algeria.
How To Get A Tourist Visa To Algeria
🇺🇸 For Americans 🇩🇿
Here's the first question: what state do you live in?
If you live in D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, then all of your correspondence will be with the Algerian Embassy in Washington D.C. For everybody else, the Algerian Consular in New York City will be the main point of contact. I fell into the latter of these two groups, but the following instructions should be the same regardless. There's only one small difference in the visa application form...
Save your visa form as PDF on your desktop, and we'll move forward. If you have any questions, you should feel free to call the embassy or consular directly. I called them once and they were pretty laid back and helpful... but then I called them again a little while later and they never answered the phone... even though I tried at least 20 times over the course of 2 weeks. So it's a crap shoot, but it's always worth a shot!
What You'll Need Before You Apply
Algeria requires a substantial list of materials to be attached to their visa application before they let you into the country. In terms of hassle and unreasonableness, it even gave Burma a run for it's money! I was kind of annoyed as I went through this process, but now that I've come out the other side, I'm here to help you follow in my footsteps. Here's everything that you'll need to pull together in order for you application to be considered...
1. Visa Fee
The visa fee is a whopping 160.00 USD and they only accept USPS money orders. That's the United States Postal Service... so head on down to your local post office, shovel over your money, and get yourself a money order. If you don't know where your nearest USPS branch is, you can find it HERE.
2. Plane Ticket In & Out
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You need to provide the Algerian Consulate / Embassy with printed copies of your plane ticket both into and out of the country. Only then will they *consider* your application. I always thought it was stupid to make people buy these expensive tickets before deciding whether or not to actually let them into the country, but there's a pretty low risk of your application being denied. I've never heard of that happening to anybody... pretty much ever, for any country.
3. Hotel Reservation
To hear it from the Algerian Consulate / Embassy, the exact requirements for this item are a little convoluted, so I'll try to clarify this for them. Other admissible substitutes for a hotel reservation include the following...
A notarized letter of invitation from your host during your stay in Algeria
A notarized letter of invitation from the travel agency bringing you into Algeria
Most people (including me) will choose to keep it simple and just get a hotel reservation. However, if you choose one of the other two available options, you should not be afraid to ask your point-of-contact tough questions about the required notarized letter of invitation. Getting this letter notarized will require them to spend a day at city hall, and many people in the Algerian hospitality industry seem to be unwilling to do this. At least in my experience.
Algiers actually has a ton of awesome Airbnbs. There was one in particular that looked incredible, so there was a time when we were looking into the whole "letter of invitation" thing. Our host-to-be instead offered to photoshop a "hotel reservation" for us to give to the Consulate. In retrospect, that probably would have been fine, but we felt weird about it. We called the Consulate and they told us that they do not recognize Airbnb reservations as hotel reservations. However, our host would still have been able to write us a letter of invitation. We brought this information back to our prospective host, but he just started complaining about going to city hall for the notarization, and (long story short) we ended up just reserving a hotel room. Thanks for nothing Tarik!
4. Proof Of Financial Solvency
On the off chance that you emptied your bank account to set up a trip to Algeria, the Algerian government needs proof that you have the means to dump money into their economy during your stay. For this reason, they require you to attach either a pay stub or a bank statement to your visa application.
You will need attach a copy of your passport photo to each of your applications. (Yes—each. I'll get to that next.) These photos should be 2x2 inches or 51x51 mm. No, they don't need to be actual copies of the photo that's in your passport. They just need to be passport standard photos. You should be able to get these taken at USPS, UPS, or Fedex.
6. An Extra Copy Of Your Visa Application
This is why I said EACH copy of your application. You have to send 2 copies of your application—you know, in case they lose the first copy. So that's 2 copies of your visa application with a passport-style headshot attached to each of them.
7. Copy Of Your Passport's Front Page
You have to scan the front page of your passport and send that to them as well. I can't imagine that this serves any other purpose besides saving them the trouble of doing it themselves, but whatever. Their country, their rules. They're just lucky I'm unflappable. 🐥
How To Submit Your Application
You can apply in person, but unless you live in New York City or Washington D.C., you'll probably have to do it by mail. Put all of the above into an envelope, and mail it to the appropriate office. If you choose to apply by mail, you will also have to send them a prepaid self-addressed return envelope. The mailing addresses of the Consulate and Embassy are below:
Algerian Consulate (New York City)
15 E 47th St, New York, NY 10017
Algerian Embassy (Washington D.C.)
2118 Kalorama Rd NW, Washington, DC 20008
In order to submit your visa application, you have to fill out the visa application by typing directly into the PDF on your computer, printing it off, and then signing it by hand. Both of them, that is.
Once your visa has been sent away for processing, it's all over. You can expect it to take 8 business days.
If you get an Algerian tourist visa, then it will be valid for 30 days. These 30 days will start the day you enter the country—not the day that the visa is issued. And you will be free to enter the country anytime within 3 years of being issued the visa. This means there is no need to hold off on ordering your visa. If you're going to be traveling to Algeria, the sooner you get started on this, the sooner you can stop worrying about it!
So I did the stuff, I paid the money, I waited the 8 business days, and finally, I got my self-addressed envelope back in the mail. At long last, my visa had arrived. There are few things more satisfying than seeing a brand new visa in your passport.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!
🇩🇿 My Algerian Visa 🎉
Whew! That took a LOT of time and effort. I think this might actually be the most difficult visa I've ever had to get. So I think I speak for everybody who's ever had to obtain an Algerian visa when I say...