What Is an Exit Visa? (Updated 2018)


The name of this visa is pretty self-explanatory. Unlike the standard visa, this visa is granting its holder the possibility of exiting the country. But why would anybody need a visa to leave? To answer that question, firstly we need to cover some historical background on this visa.


Short History of the Exit Visa


Not that long ago, receiving an exit visa was something extraordinary and represented a way to new life and freedom. Exit visas were compulsory travel documents during the fascist times in Italy, Nazism in Germany and during the Soviet Union. They were almost impossible to obtain and the ones who did get them were considered the luckiest.


While the Gestapo supervised the applications for exit visas in Nazi Germany, the KGB was responsible for the same process in the Soviet Union. In case somebody was granted a USSR exit visa, they could permanently leave the Soviet Union. But, at the same time, their Soviet citizenship was abolished.


It was particularly hard for Soviet Jewish citizens to be granted this visa. The mere act of applying for an exit visa was perceived by authorities as a betrayal of the Soviet Union. Many people lost their jobs and suffered from all forms of antisemitism in their own country. The ones whose applications were dismissed were called refusenik, a word originating from “refusal”.



Exit Visas Today


The USSR is long gone, but one of its ex-states still maintains its tradition when it comes to visas. Uzbekistan still issues a two-year valid exit visa to its own citizens and this practice was strongly condemned by the UN (article 12) as an act against human rights.


North Korea is also another example of a country that is still issuing real exit visas. Travellers need to state their destination and how long they are going to be abroad.


Nepal issues to its citizens emigrating to the US a work permit which needs to be shown to the border officials in order to leave the country.


China, on the other hand, issues something called a Two-way Permit. Chinese citizens need this document only if they wish to visit Hong Kong or Macau.


Guatemala is issuing multiple 5-year exit visa to foreigners who are Guatemalan permanent residents. A similar situation is in the US where green card holders need to obtain a departure permit before leaving the States.


Exit Visas for Visitors


Rest of the world doesn’t issue these visas, but there are some countries that are issuing visas for visitors. For example, Russia gives exit visas to tourists who overstay their initial visa. They also need to have a strong valid reason that prevented them from leaving, like missed flight, lost passport, illness and so on.


Saudi Arabia and Qatar have an exit visa for foreign workers. To receive this visa, a person needs to receive a note from their employer that they fulfilled their working obligations.


Role of the Exit Visas


The key role of the exit visas and similar documents is to stop criminals from fleeing the country and to prevent the brain drain. Exit visas are also seen as a way of controlling the refugees and overpopulation. Anyway, this practice is judged as some organisations feel that it is against the human right – the freedom of movement.