Should I Stay Or Should I Go? What to do with your visa if you want to go home early

Cory Mayfield
Updated on
June 10, 2020

Travel is not always the glorious, romanticised and empowering journey that we would all love to believe it is. Sometimes it can end prematurely, whether that is by our hand or that of another, or purely down to circumstances that are beyond our control.

The reality of travelling is that you are always at risk of having to pack up and go home at some point for any number of reasons, most of which is beyond your control. Your visa could be the first or last thing you worry about when you decide whether or not to return home. For those who do feel the stress of cutting their holiday short, or cancelling your visa to return home, here are a few important things to remember before you make that decision.

How much time do you have left on your visa?

If you’re in the last few weeks of your visa then it isn’t worth worrying about your trip if you want to go home early – it’s not worth losing any sleep on this. Simply return home happy that you’ve had a trip away.

However, if you have a considerable length of time left to travel on your visa before it expires, then it may be worthwhile to consider whether you could potentially resume your travels again at some point before you look at cancelling or abandoning your visa altogether.

The extra travel home will undoubtedly incur significant extra expenditure, but if you’ve set your mind to squeeze in some extra travel before that visa of yours expires, we always recommend booking return fights (rather than single, one-way flights) to save you some travel expenses. If your visa has only just begun (and there is still a significant amount of time left on that visa), then you may want to contact the government authority who issued your visa if you don’t want to see it go to waste completely and ask for an extension.

This will only be granted if your reasons for requesting meet acceptable humanitarian or personal reasons beyond your control. Be prepared that your request will likely be rejected if you are travelling on a short term travel visa as unfortunately, your chances of being granted an extended visa are slim!

You will find it extremely difficult to find reimbursement for your visa if you cancel it

Usually, Visa refunds are only given consideration if the Visa application has not yet been approved; otherwise, it is almost impossible to claim a refund for a travel visa, even in the event of a global travel ban. This is written in the agreement that you sign when you submit your application for a visa, so there isn’t much wriggle room there.

The only other option other than extending your visa (which we will cover shortly) is to check whether your travel insurance will either cover the cost of or at least enable you to access some form of reimbursement. This would either be from cancelling your visa outright or finding another means of claiming for the premature ending to your trip.

The likelihood of you receiving anything back from this is very much dependent on the type of insurance you have for your trip and the leniency of your insurer. For instance, even the most comprehensive insurance package is unlikely to pay-out if you had decided to scrap your trip to go home early to attend a dream job interview!

On the flip-side, reimbursement for cancelling or changing flight and accommodation costs is possible for some insurance agreements, particularly in terms of personal injury or bereavement. The likelihood that this will extend to include visa fees is completely down to the insurer and your policy package with them. At the very least, you have some options for claiming money back in other areas if that is your primary concern when cancelling your visa.

Some countries are more flexible with extending visas than others

Many countries will at least review applications that request to have a visa extended but only on terms that they deem suitable for doing so. As mentioned earlier, they can be either on humanitarian, personal or reasons of force majeure (unforeseeable circumstances that otherwise prevent someone from filling out a contract or obligation).

Countries like those of the Schengen Area abide by these principles and can more often then not, be lenient. South-East Asian countries like Thailand will grant you a visa extension for a fee (the amount differs substantially country-to-country) but these are typically only on short-stay visas and only for an equal amount of time to the stay on your current visa.

Trying to work with some countries to get a visa extension that lasts up to a year can be incredibly difficult and expensive. This just isn’t worth doing if you aren’t sure you definitely will come back within that period.

Needless to say, you cannot apply for a visa extension if you have had your visa frozen by the government of the country you are visiting. This can happen if you get on the wrong side of the country you are visiting either through criminal activities, not following the conditions of your visa (working when you’re not allowed to), or expressing opposing political views (freedom of speech is not allowed in some countries) among other actions.

Always remember that you’re a visitor of that country and you must respect and obey the law of each country/foreign land. A visa freeze might sound like the perfect solution to the nightmare of having to cancel one and end your travels or stay prematurely, but it can also be a case of moving from bad to worse with unguaranteed travel and visitors rights!

Think carefully before you make your decision to cancel your visa

It should have become clear by now that you should think very carefully before making the undoubtedly difficult decision about whether or not to cancel your visa. Whilst there are, without doubt, many good reasons for many travellers to wonder whether or not they should end their trip early, and it is natural to try making up some of the considerable cost of travelling, there is one crucial point yet to be made about cancelling visas that is worth remembering above all others.

Never cancel your visa whilst travelling inside the country. This might seem like the most painfully obvious of statements to make about the subject of cancelling visas but it is also the most important. Your visa is much more than a travel agreement. It is a guarantee of protection for a traveller too and from their country of citizenship. Your visa is there to shield you during your travels from any malicious powers that might look to exploit you for money or any other immoral purposes.

If your visa is cancelled whilst travelling in a foreign country then you should immediately return home if you’re able, or seek out embassy or consulate services to make sure you are protected until you can return home. You can find your nearest embassy by visiting our embassies page or sending us a chat on Facebook Messenger and selecting Find an Embassy/Consulate.

Cancelling your visa should be the very last thing you think about doing when it comes to putting an end to your travels. It is perfectly natural and commonplace for travellers to contemplate an early return home. But returning home is the very first thing a traveller should consider, and worry about visa cancellations and refunds once they are back home, safely.

Always look to extend your visa before you think of cancelling it. Even if you’re sure you don’t want to resume your trip at any point, looking at a visa extension is a much better alternative, purely for the sake of flexibility. It is far easier to book a flight back to a destination you left with a visa that’s been extended then it is to plan an entirely new trip and apply for a brand-new visa.

Certain countries will outright refuse to issue you with a new visa if you leave the country and apply for a new one after your previous visa expires. A request to extend your current visa is a much more worthy use of your time, and money, than simply abandoning the one you already had only to change your mind a few months later.

If you have any further questions about how flexible visas are or, what type of visa to apply for and any other travel queries, check out our other resources for more great articles and insights! You may even find answers to questions that haven’t crossed your mind.