Exit Visa: What it Is, How it Works, Examples


An exit visa, also known as an exit permit or departure permit, is a document issued by a government authority that grants permission for an individual to leave a country legally. Here’s a detailed overview of what exit visas are, how they work, and examples of countries where they have been historically required:

What is an Exit Visa?

An exit visa is a formal authorization issued by a government to allow an individual to depart the country. It is typically required in countries where the government exercises strict control over its citizens’ movements, often for political, security, or administrative reasons. The issuance of an exit visa ensures that individuals comply with legal requirements and procedures when leaving the country.

How It Works

  1. Application Process: Individuals seeking to leave a country where exit visas are required must apply for the visa through designated government agencies, such as immigration departments or ministries of internal affairs.
  2. Approval Process: The application is reviewed by government authorities who assess whether the individual meets the criteria for departure, which may include checking for outstanding legal or financial obligations.
  3. Issuance: Upon approval, the exit visa is issued, often in the form of a stamp or endorsement in the individual’s passport, indicating permission to leave the country.
  4. Validity: Exit visas are typically valid for a specific period and may have conditions attached, such as a requirement to depart by a certain date or to comply with specified travel restrictions.

Examples of Countries Where Exit Visas Have Been Required

  1. Soviet Union (Historical Example): During the Soviet era, exit visas (known as “propiska” in Russian) were required for citizens to leave the country. This restriction was a means of controlling emigration and limiting the movement of citizens.
  2. Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia historically required exit visas for foreign workers (expatriates) to leave the country. This policy has been gradually relaxed in recent years but may still apply to certain categories of residents.
  3. North Korea: North Korea requires both its citizens and foreign residents to obtain exit visas for leaving the country. The process is tightly controlled and subject to government approval.
  4. Qatar: Qatar has historically required exit permits for foreign workers (specifically under the “kafala” sponsorship system) to leave the country. However, recent reforms have aimed to abolish the exit permit requirement for most workers.

Current Status and Considerations

  • Changes in Policy: Some countries have relaxed or abolished exit visa requirements in recent years as part of broader reforms aimed at liberalizing travel and migration policies.
  • Human Rights Concerns: The use of exit visas has been criticized by human rights organizations for restricting freedom of movement and imposing administrative barriers on individuals seeking to leave a country.
  • Legal Compliance: Travelers should always check with the embassy or consulate of the country they plan to visit or leave to understand current visa requirements and any specific exit visa regulations that may apply.


Exit visas serve as a regulatory tool for governments to manage and control the movement of individuals across national borders. While their prevalence has decreased in many parts of the world, it remains essential for travelers to be aware of visa requirements and comply with legal procedures to ensure smooth and lawful travel.

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