A strong travel history is an important factor when applying for visas. While it is not a mandatory requirement, it can significantly improve your chances of a successful application. If you hold a travel document (passport) that is considered weak (like the Nigerian passport), then a strong travel history can help strengthen it when you apply for visas or travel to your dream destinations.
In this article, I will highlight steps you can take as a new traveller to build your travel history and make your (tourist) visa application process a little less painless. I also have another article detailing some useful tips to help improve your chances for a successful application.
Trip Planning Resources
Book your accommodation: Find accommodation options for any budget on Booking.com
Purchase Travel Insurance: I use SafetyWing for both my travel and visa application needs
Activities: Find fun activities and tours in your destination via Get Your Guide, Viator or Klook Travel
Please note that it is ultimately up to the visa officer to determine whether or not your application is successful. These are only tips to help increase your chances of that happening. They cannot guarantee whether or not you get a visa. That being said, let’s jump right in!
What is Travel History?
Travel history (for visa application purposes) refers to the countries you have visited in the past outside your home country. Several countries request applicants to name places they have been to in the last 5 – 10 years, including the date of entry and exit.
I am not a visa officer, but I believe this information provides an indicator of your track record with previous visas and stays in the countries listed, what countries you are visiting, and to confirm whether or not you are a genuine traveller.
Let me explain better:
Confirming your track record via your travel history
Scenario 1: Your previous tourist visa to the United States was successful. However, in your application, you had stated that you would be there for a 2-week holiday, but your travel history shows that stayed there for 6 months.
What this could say about you: Technically, you haven’t breached the terms of your visa. After all, the Point of Entry (POE) officer does stamp your passport for a stay of up to 6 months. However, if you do not have a substantial reason for this extension, it could indicate that your reason for the trip was not genuine in the first place.
It might also indicate that you breached your visa conditions by working in the US or that you do not have steady employment if you have claimed that you do. It is rare to find a company that gives that much paid time off to employees. This in turn then speaks about your financial situation and could lead to more scrutiny of your application at best.
Confirming the countries you are travelling to
Did you truthfully state all the places you have been to and how long you have stayed there? Have you recently been to a country with an epidemic or conflict? Do you often visit such countries? What was the purpose of your visit to these places? These are some of the questions that a travel history could help provide answers to.
Confirming the genuineness of your application
Scenario 2: In the last 3 months, you went from having a new passport with no travel history to visiting 3 visa-free and visa on arrival countries in West and East Africa for tourism. In month 4, you apply for a visa to the UK.
What this could say about you: This could indicate that you visited these countries to build a travel history for the sole purpose of applying for a UK visa.
This one is a bit tricky because one of my tips for building a strong travel history is to visit countries like these. However, I advise that you take the approach of genuinely visiting these places for the experiences and spreading out your travels.
Now that we have talked in detail about what travel history is and what they represent, let’s talk more about how to build a strong one. Here are 7 tips to help you do so:
1. Visit visa-free countries or those that offer evisas or a visa on arrival
A good first step to building a strong travel history is to invest in travel to visa-free countries or those that give you a visa on arrival or an evisa. It is even better when the country places a visa sticker in your passport booklet, but stamps could help too.
Now, you have to be intentional about the places you choose to go. For example, if you live in Nigeria and visit Benin, Togo, or Ghana for holiday, then immediately apply for a fairly difficult visa thereafter, your visa application may get denied, especially if other parts of your application are not very strong.
What you can do instead is to visit nearby countries, visa-free, countries with evisas and visas on arrival and then apply to a country with a fairly easy application process.
PS: I am not saying that you cannot get a visa to a “big name” country if the only places you have travelled to are neighbouring countries. All I am saying is that application processes tend to get easier if you build your travel history well.
2. Apply to countries with fairly easy visa application processes
“All visa applications are equal, but some applications are more equal than others”– Not George Orwell
Provided you meet all the application requirements and can prove strong home ties, the visa application processes for some countries are fairly easy. Some of these places include South Africa, India, Morocco, a few countries in Europe, etc.
Remember, the more visa approvals you get, the stronger your travel history.
3. Join a group tour
Another way to build a good travel history is to join group tours by reputable companies that have packages that are inclusive of visa processing. I have seen packaged trips from tour companies in Nigeria to South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, to name a few.
Take advantage of this but be careful to only go with reputable companies to avoid getting scammed.
4. Save the big names for later
Some countries are dream destinations for many Nigerians, but these countries have the toughest visa application processes. To avoid multiple visa denials from these places, it is important to strengthen your application as much as you can.
This involves having good finances and a steady income, strong home ties, crime-free records and of course, a strong travel history.
It may make more sense to defer your visit to these places until such a time when you check all the boxes for a successful application. Refer to the first 3 tips if in doubt.
5. Make use of your visas
Once you do get a visa from a “big name” country, be sure to use it properly if you have the means to. For example, did you know that a valid US visa can help you get into over 20 more countries as a Nigerian passport holder? Or that a valid Schengen, UK, Irish, Canadian, or Japanese visa can take you to more places as well?
If you’re looking to expand your travel history, this is a great way to do so.
6. Solidify your application and home ties
As I have stated earlier, more visa approvals equal stronger travel history. When you apply for a tourist visa, the visa application officer wants to know four main things:
- Is the purpose of your trip genuine?
- Would you return to your home country once your trip is over?
- Do you have enough funds to cover your trip? Are your finances in order?
- Would you pose a security threat if you are allowed to enter the said country?
It is your job as the applicant to supply all necessary documentation to help the visa officer come to a positive conclusion.
Here are ways to do that:
Prove that your trip is genuine
- Submit your travel itinerary, inclusive of your hotel and return flight reservations
- Submit complete stated requirements for your visa type
- If you are invited for an interview, be sure to communicate precisely and concisely what your travel plans are.
- Present photocopies of other visas that you have received.
Prove that you would return to your home country (home ties)
- Employed? Submit a copy of your employment and promotion letters (on official company paper, with stamp, signature and date)
- Submit an introduction letter from your company detailing your position, salary and the length of your employment, confirming that you have been given time off work and your position will be kept until your return, and state whether this time off is paid or unpaid.
- Also, present a self-introduction letter or a cover letter
- Submit your admission letter or letter from your school department if you are a student
- For retirees: present a copy of the retirement certificate
- Marriage certificates and photos of family are also good to present
- Details of community involvement and activities
- For self-employed applicants: Present your business documents e.g., Permit, Memorandum & Certificate of Incorporation, Certificate of Registration, certified bank statements
- Details of your properties and businesses in your home country
- Tax certificates, etc.
Prove that you are in good financial standing
- Submit a bank statement showing a healthy inflow, outflow and balance to cover your trip.
- Avoid unexplained lump sum payments into your account when you print your statement. This is a huge red flag and is often the basis for denial. If this is unavoidable, you should provide a letter explaining the source of the funds.
- Submit your pay stubs if you are employed
- If you are self-employed, it is good practice to separate your business account from your personal one and pay yourself a consistent figure monthly.
- If you are retired and you receive a pension, submit a letter to show that
- Lastly, if you have other savings or investment accounts, you should also submit statements showing that.
Prove that you would not pose a security threat
- A few embassies do ask for a police report. So, if you are asked for that, you should submit one showing a crime-free record
7. Keep an eye on your finances
Finally, in building a good travel history, you would need to travel more. For Nigerians, most countries that place a sticker on your passport cost fairly more than say neighbouring countries or those that don’t. This means you might have to make some financial adjustments to be able to afford your trips.
It is always a good idea to live within or even below your means, cut costs where you can and have a separate travel fund. Of course, none of these applies if you’re Richie Rich! 🙂
Anyway, I hope these tips help and wish you success in your quest to strengthen your passports, build a strong travel history and visit your dream destinations!
Have I missed anything? Please share your best tips for building a strong travel history with me and other readers. Also, I would love to hear about your visa application journey.
- What is the easiest visa you have applied for to date?
- What is the cheapest visa you have applied for to date?
- What is the toughest visa you have applied for to date?
- Your funniest/weirdest/most annoying visa application denial (if any)
- The visa application process you’re dreading
- Finally, the one you are most looking forward to.
I’ll go first in the comment section and will love to hear from you too!