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Travel and Tourism

What Is a Travel Visa?

In many countries, a travel visa refers to a particular document that is issued by a country's government and allows persons to travel to and from that country. In the United States, however, a travel visa is actually a passport. Thus, a travel visa is the official stamp or sticker that a person receives at another country's border from their border patrol officials. 

In general, travel visas typically need to be obtained for each country that a traveler plans to enter. If granted, a travel visa will permit a person to enter a certain country and stay there for a specified amount of time. Once this period expires, however, the person will be required to depart from the country and will usually have to return to their home country. 

To learn more about the different types of travel visas that you can apply for to enter the United States, you should speak to an immigration lawyer for further advice. 

Is a Travel Visa the Same as a Tourist Visa?

The terms “travel visa” and “tourist visa” are often confused and used as if they have the same meaning. This is not true and a traveler should take care to remember their differences. Generally speaking, any type of visa document permits a person to travel in or out of a certain county. However, a tourist visa is an extremely specific category of visas under U.S. immigration law.

A tourist visa, also known as a visitor visa or a B visa, is a type of temporary visa that allows a traveler to enter the country for very particular reasons, including for business, pleasure, or to receive medical treatment. For instance, a nonimmigrant traveler would apply for a tourist visa if they needed to settle an estate, wanted to take an extended vacation, or had to get a surgical procedure done in the United States.

On the other hand, a travel visa refers to the stamp or sticker that is placed by a country's border officials on a person's passport upon entering a country. This is a general definition and is subject to frequent changes. This is also the current definition provided in the United States as of March 2021. It should be noted that this may not be true in other countries since many countries provide clear distinctions between a travel visa and a tourist visa.

Is a Travel Visa Always Needed?

As discussed above, the requirements for travel visas will vary widely from country to country. Although there is no overarching category of a travel visa in the United States, there are many specific types of visa that may be used to enter and return to the United States from another country.

In order to find out what type of visa a person needs before entering the United States, they should check with their country's local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is usually the case that the kind of travel visa a person needs will be based on the reason they are visiting the United States. 

If a person fails to obtain a visa before coming to the United States, then they may be subject to serious legal consequences, such as losing their immigrant status or being removed from the U.S.

For persons traveling to other countries aside from the United States, the requirements will be set by the country to which they are traveling. Some countries may issue a visa upon arrival at their border, while other countries may not even require a travel visa at all. 

In most instances, regardless of the country, a person will need either a passport or some sort of government identification document to travel abroad and to return to their country of origin. 

What Are the Requirements for a Travel Visa?

As previously mentioned, the requirements to get a travel visa will vary based on the type of visa that a person is applying for as well as the requirements set by a particular country. Thus, it is very important that persons looking to secure a travel visa research and review the entry requirements of whichever country they plan on visiting. In general, some common travel requirements that may be found in more than one country can include:

Vaccinations and other shots: Some countries require that a person receive certain vaccinations before they travel to a particular country. This will help to immunize them against infectious diseases and reduce the chances of them spreading it to other citizens within that country or to other countries when they depart. Most countries also require that travelers get a flu shot before their trip.

Proof of citizenship: The majority of countries require travelers to show proof of citizenship and/or identification documents. This means that a person will need to have valid government identification documents, such as a passport, before they enter the United States or another country. This is true even for persons who are already citizens of the United States. They will need a passport to return. 

Some countries have guidelines that mandate that a traveler's passport does not expire within six months from the date they depart a country to travel abroad. The United States happens to be one of the countries that has this requirement. Thus, travelers taking a trip outside of the U.S. would be wise to renew their passport before departing if they plan on returning to live or stay in the U.S. Another passport requirement that may be found in some countries is that a person have at least three blank pages left in their current passport before traveling to other countries from the U.S.

Miscellaneous requirements: Countries may implement a number of different requirements, such as fingerprinting visitors upon entry, showing proof of a return airline ticket and hotel reservations, taking a picture of a traveler when they first arrive, demonstrating proof of health and/or travel insurance, giving a reason for why they are traveling to a certain country, showing proof of monetary funds for the trip, and so on. 

The above list is only a bare minimum of the types of travel requirements that an individual country may demand. Thus, if a traveler is unsure of what they must do to travel outside and then return to the United States, then they should speak to an immigration lawyer before they embark on their trip. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Travel Visa Issues?

It is essential that a foreign-born individual have a valid travel visa if they intend to travel to the United States from another country, or alternatively, travel abroad and then return to the United States. Otherwise, they could potentially jeopardize their current immigrant status and may be removed from the United States, depending on the severity of their violations of U.S. immigration regulations.

Thus, if you need assistance with applying for or renewing a travel visa, you should speak to an immigration lawyer for further guidance. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you fill out the necessary legal forms and submit them to the appropriate government agency. Your lawyer can also advise on how to apply for a travel visa on behalf of a family member. 

In addition, if your travel visa issue requires you to appear before an immigration law court, your lawyer will also be able to provide legal representation in court. 

Are Travel Agencies Subject to Specific Laws?

Yes, travel agencies and travel agents are subject to specific laws. A travel agency is a business that makes arrangements for individuals who are traveling, including booking airline tickets and hotel rooms.

Travel agencies and their agents are subject to travel law. Travel law regulates the travel industry. Travel law includes:

  • Federal laws;
  • State laws;
  • Common law; and
  • International laws.

Each state has consumer disclosure and fraud statutes as well as refund policy requirements for businesses that arrange and/or sell travel services. Some states have created specific laws for regulation, registration, and licensing for those who sell travel. The majority of states do not require travel agents to obtain a license. However, California and Florida require travel agents to register with the applicable state agency.

What are the Responsibilities of Travel Agents?

Travel agents have many responsibilities. A travel agent definition is someone who sells and arranges transportation, accommodations, tours, and/or trips for travelers. They are fiduciaries, or representatives, of their customers. They are responsible for general duties in arranging travel plans. A travel agent should:

  • Make and confirm reservations, including itinerary changes and delivery of tickets;
  • Disclose the identity of tour operator and/or the supplier responsible for the services;
  • Vouch for the reliability of the supplier and/or provide a warranty for services;
  • Investigate the availability of travel services, such as cancelled flights and/or overbooked hotels;
  • Convey needed information and provide needed travel documentation;
  • Provide information on health and safety hazards;
  • Advise on the availability of travel insurance; and
  • Inform customers of any restrictions on transportation tickets.

What are the Legal Duties and Obligations of Travel Agents?

According to the state courts, travel agents have a higher standard of care because they have a special relationship with their customers. This includes special duties and obligations owed to their customers. Travel agents duties and obligations include:

  • A duty to warn the customer;
  • A duty to investigate and disclose;
  • A duty to inform;
  • A duty to make reservations; and
  • A duty to confirm reservations.

The duty to warn the customer includes a duty to reveal any negative information they have regarding the destination of the traveler. An example of this is if the traveler is going to a high crime area.

The duty to investigate and disclose includes a duty to investigate travel plans and be knowledgeable about the area to which the traveler is going. This includes knowing if there are certain conditions that would affect the consumers travel plans, such as a community event that may cause travel interference or delays.

The travel agent's duty to inform means the agent has a duty to inform their clients about important travel information. They must inform clients about things such as:

  • Limitations on ticket changes;
  • Documents needed to travel;
  • Whether certain countries have requirements; and
  • The availability of travel insurance.

The travel agent has a duty to make reservations at the request of the customer. The travel agent also has a duty to confirm those reservations and make sure they are ready for the customer.

What is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance reimburses a traveler for costs related to events that may occur during their trip. It is designed to cover those who purchase coverage for financial implications of issues that may arise during their trip. It may include costs incurred prior to travel, such as non-refundable tickets or hotel stays and/or events that occur during a trip, including travel interruptions and medical expenses.

Travel insurance usually covers 5 main categories, including:

  • Trip cancellations;
  • Travel medical coverage;
  • Major medical coverage;
  • Emergency medical evacuation; and/or
  • Accidental death/flight accident.

Travel insurance is an optional coverage that the traveler can purchase when they book their trip. Should they wish, a lawyer can review the terms and conditions of any travel insurance.

Is Trip Insurance Required?

As noted above, trip or travel insurance is an optional coverage a traveler may purchase prior to taking a trip. In most cases, an individual's homeowner’s insurance and/or health insurance policies will cover any medical costs or lost property, while at home or traveling. An individual's life insurance policy will usually cover the individual and their family members while traveling. Additionally, airlines must reimburse a passenger if they lose their baggage.

A traveler can also purchase trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance, which will cover any losses that are not covered by other insurance. This can be helpful to protect the cost of the trip, especially if it must be cut short due to unforeseen circumstances.

Travel can be extremely expensive, especially abroad. Trip insurance may assist with costs of travel delay and/or lost or damaged luggage if the airline fails to fully compensate the traveler. It may also protect a traveler from costly medical bills in the event they are injured or become ill during their trip. Trip insurance may cover extreme unforeseen circumstances such as emergency medical evacuation, accidental death and/or flight accidents.

Can My Travel Agent Be Liable for Problems I Encounter on My Trip?

There are times when travel agents may be liable for problems a customer encounters. Travel agents may be liable to their customers for:

  • Violations of general duties;
  • Fraudulent misrepresentations; and/or
  • Violations of applicable state regulations.

Some common issues travelers may encounter include:

  • An injury;
  • A delay;
  • A cancellation;
  • Discrimination;
  • Lost, stolen and/or damaged baggage;
  • A violation of consumer protection laws; and/or
  • A deceptive port charge.

Sometimes, when an individual books a vacation, they may have to sign a travel agency contract. These contracts are signed at the time the traveler books their trip. They may include:

  • Baggage fees;
  • Travel agent obligations;
  • Cancellations;
  • Payment terms;
  • Additional fees;
  • Travel documents;
  • Confirmations;
  • Governing laws; and/or
  • Any other necessary clauses.

Do Travel Agents Need Insurance?

Yes, similar to other commercial businesses, travel agents benefit from obtaining business insurance to protect them from liability. Travel agent or travel agency insurance often comes in 2 forms: professional liability insurance and general liability insurance.

Travel agent liability insurance, or professional liability insurance, protects a travel agent for any errors that occur in business activities. It also assists when the travel agent is sued by a customer for not providing the service that the customer was due to receive per their contract.

General liability insurance protects travel agents and travel agencies in their officers where they meet with clients. This is generally for protection in case a claim related to an injury, such as a slip and fall accident, occurs.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have a Claim against My Travel Agent?

Yes, travel laws can be complex and vary by jurisdiction. An experienced business lawyer will be able to assist you with any aspects of travel law. Every state has specific regulations regarding travel sellers. Travel law includes domestic and international laws. For these reasons, it is important to obtain the services of a lawyer to help navigate any claims.

A lawyer can assist with reviewing any contracts and/or documentation and determine if a claim exists. A lawyer can also represent you during any court proceedings or alternative dispute resolution processes, if necessary. A lawyer can also assist you with any issues that arise from travel insurance.

What Are Telemarketing Travel Scams?

Telemarketing travel scams are a specific type of fraud that individuals use to illegally take money from other people. The distinguishing aspect of travel fraud would be the importance of finding new recruits to participate. In order to facilitate this scheme, individuals call potential travelers and tell them that they have won a free trip.

However, inherent in these free packages are upfront costs, as well as other telemarketing pitches which require consumers to purchase products before receiving the free offer. The vast majority of participants never receive the free trip, or face enormous costs associated with paying for hotel rooms, products, and/or hidden expenses.

These organizations and scams are generally successful because many potential buyers are enticed by the great deal that is being promised. However, as previously mentioned, the promised trip always involves high costs that are not disclosed to the winner. Many willing participants may become victims by writing checks on the promise that they will receive a free trip that never occurs, which keeps these scams going.

What Are Some Of The Most Common Travel Scams In General?

Although not every travel scam involves telemarketing scams, it is helpful to be aware of common travel scams. As of 2021, some of the most common examples of travel scams include:

  • An Overbooked or Closed Hotel: This common travel scam is largely associated with cab drivers. While on the way to your hotel, the taxi driver will tell you that your hotel is either closed or overbooked. They may then bring you to a more expensive hotel where they receive a commission for doing so. Cab drivers can also attempt this scam by saying that the original hotel is bad or unsafe in some way;
  • Fake Police Officers: The fake police officer scam is generally more popular in large cities. An example of this scam would be how a person will approach a tourist and offer illicit items, such as illegal drugs. While talking, one or two other people will approach the victim while appearing to be police officers and providing their “badges.” They then insist that the unknowing traveler forfeit their passport and wallet for legal purposes. However, these people are not police officers; and/or
  • Fake WiFi Hubs: Some of those free, unlocked connections could be dangerous and lead to another scam. Hackers will set up unsecured wifi hotspots in public locations, giving the thief access to your computer, passwords, and online accounts.

What Should I Do If I Am A Victim Of A Telemarketing Travel Scam Or Fraud?

Travel telemarketing frauds are against the law; as such, it is a criminal offense to knowingly engage in an act of telemarketing travel fraud. Some steps victims can take include contacting the police. These fraudulent telemarketers target naive consumers, which could constitute consumer fraud. Contacting your local law enforcement officials may be the best way to track down the creators of the scheme, as well as to return money to the rightful owners.

Additionally, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission. The Federal Trade Commission was established by the Federal Trade Commission Act in 1914. The Act is intended to protect consumers, as well as to prevent specific business practices which take advantage of consumers and push other businesses out.

An example of this would be how the FTC regulates companies from forming monopolies, or dominating the market, which is also known as antitrust regulation. The FTC does this in an effort to protect both consumers and businesses. Some examples of the activities that the FTC undertakes include, but may not be limited to:

  • Protecting consumers from false advertising;
  • Protecting consumers from other types of fraud;
  • Enforcing a variety of laws involving consumer credit;
  • Regulating business marketing and warranty practices;
  • Enforcing laws and trade regulation rules; and
  • Developing new rules intended to protect the marketplace.

The FTC's larger goal is to ensure that the markets are vigorous, efficient, and free of restrictions. As such, the FTC enforces consumer protection laws preventing fraud, deception, and unfair business practices. Additionally, the FTC regularly assists the Justice Department in prosecuting travel scams and fraud. If travel scams have crossed state lines, the federal government has the jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The FTC may decide to take action when receiving:

  • Letters from consumers or businesses;
  • Pre-merger notification filings;
  • Congressional inquiries; and/or
  • Articles on consumer or economic subjects.

The FTC's investigations are usually non-public, as this protects the investigation as well as the companies that are involved.

If the FTC believes that a company has violated the law, they may attempt to obtain voluntary compliance by entering into a consent order with the company. What this means is that the company agrees to cease its practices; if the FTC cannot reach an agreement, they may issue an administrative complaint or seek injunctive relief from the courts.

When violations are found, the responsible company may be ordered to cease and desist. Additionally, the FTC may issue Trade Regulation Rules. During this portion of the proceedings, the public can attend hearings and file written comments on a proposed rule.

It is important to remember that travel fraud can extend to a variety of areas. Because of this, you should ask questions regarding the terms of the trip. Consider whether the trip sounds too good to be true, and learn as much as you can before agreeing to anything or providing money.

Do I Need An Attorney For Telemarketing Travel Scams?

If you are involved in a telemarketing travel scam, you should consult with an experienced and local fraud lawyer. An attorney can advise you regarding your legal rights and options according to your state's specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.

If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to travel or trip insurance, an insurance attorney can assist you. Call our office today at 212-994-7777 or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.