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Arrival cards guide: Essential information for travelers
6 min read
Updated on May 14, 2024

Let's chat about an essential part of most international trips: arrival cards. Not exactly the highlight of traveling, but definitely a box to tick. Think of these cards as your first 'hello' to a new country!

These short forms are often distributed during your flight, upon arrival, or, increasingly common, online before departure. While they might seem like just another formality, arrivals cards are vital in ensuring safe and regulated travel.

man working laptop

What is an arrival card, and why are they important?

Traveling across borders is an adventure, and arrival cards are an integral part of this journey.

These seemingly mundane pieces of paper are, in fact, key players in the world of international travel. They are forms that international travelers must fill out upon entering another country.

They generally ask for basic information – who you are, where you're going, and why you're visiting.

Types of arrival cards

When it comes to arrival cards, not all are created equal. Different countries have different systems, and in our digital age, the format of these cards is evolving. Here's a look at the various types you might encounter on your travels.

Paper arrival cards: The traditional way

The classic arrival card is a paper form. You've probably seen these handed out on flights or at immigration desks.

They typically require personal details, travel information, and sometimes health and customs declarations.

Example: Thailand's TM6 card is a well-known paper-based arrival card, asking for basic travel information and a section for customs declaration.

Electronic arrival cards: The digital shift

Some countries are moving towards electronic systems, where you fill out your arrival card online, via an app, or at a kiosk before departure.

These are often quicker to process and can reduce wait times at immigration.

Example: Singapore introduced the Electronic Arrival Card to replace the traditional paper cards, allowing travelers to submit their information online before their trip.

Best of both

In some cases, countries offer both paper and electronic options, catering to different traveler preferences and technological access.

The extent of digital integration can vary, with some countries slowly transitioning to fully electronic systems.

Example: Australia uses a hybrid system where travelers have the option to fill out an Incoming Passenger Card in paper form upon arrival or submit their details through the Australia ETA application.

Country-specific and specialized arrival cards

Some countries have arrival cards that focus on specific information, like health or agricultural concerns.

These are typically a reflection of the country's priorities and challenges, like protecting local agriculture or preventing the spread of diseases.

Example: The Philippines’ eArrival Card includes detailed questions about your vaccinations, current health, and specific symptoms, reflecting its focus on health and safety.

How to fill out an arrival card: A step-by-step guide

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate through the common fields found on most arrival cards, whether online or on paper.

Step 1: Get personal

Fill out the requested info as completely as possible. Always write your full name as it appears in your passport.

Are you traveling for tourism, business, or something else? Mark the appropriate box.

Also include the length of your stay and the address where you'll be staying, whether it's a hotel or a residential address.

Step 2: Anything to declare?

Most arrival cards also include a section to cover customs. It varies by country but generally asks about cash, food, plants, or expensive equipment you’ve brought on your trip.

Be honest and thorough, as not declaring certain items can lead to high fines.

Step 3: Health information

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, countries increasingly ask about recent travel to certain countries or your current health status.

Step 4: Review and signature

Make sure all the details are correct and legible. Your signature is often required to validate the information.

Upon arrival, present your completed card along with your passport and any other required documents, and you’re ready to go!

Electronic arrival cards: Why fill out your arrival card online?

Electronic arrival cards are the new cool kids on the travel block, making our trips smoother and more digital. Let’s break down what they’re all about and why they’re a game-changer.

The benefits of online arrival cards

Discover the ease of completing all travel requirements before you go!

Electronic arrival card Paper arrival card
Convenience Get all paperwork done before arrival. Wait for airline crew to hand out forms or find them at the airport.
Time Get a head start and avoid the post-flight rush at immigration. Slower immigration process to fill out and hand in the form.
Peace of mind Sort it out early, and you've got one less thing to worry about. One last thing to do before you can enjoy your trip.
Paperwork Eco-friendly, no paper forms. Physical form and manual entry.

Let's talk about the legal bits and privacy worries that come with filling out arrival cards.

Legal implications: Dos and don'ts

Filling out an arrival card isn't just a formality; it's a legal requirement in many countries. Think of it like signing a mini-contract with the country you're visiting.

Providing false information can lead to some real headaches, like fines or even being denied entry.

Privacy concerns: Your info on paper and screens

It's natural to wonder about where your personal info will end up. Remember, your details are for immigration and security purposes – it's about keeping everyone safe, including you.

Countries usually have strict rules about how this data is handled. But if you're unsure, it doesn't hurt to ask or do a quick check on how your destination country manages this info.

In short, when filling out these cards, you're playing by the rules of your host country. It's all about staying on the right side of the law and understanding that your privacy is important but balanced with national security needs.

Tips for smooth international travel: Beyond arrival cards

Traveling internationally is exciting, but a bit of planning goes a long way. Here are some top tips to ensure your trip is as smooth as possible:

Get a visa: Make sure you understand the visa requirements for your destination well in advance. Some countries offer visas on arrival, while others require visa applications beforehand.

Keep important documents handy: Carry copies of your passport, visa, travel insurance, and itinerary – both digital and physical. It's your safety net if anything goes astray.

Manage your money wisely: Research the local currency and have a mix of cash and cards. Inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid card issues.

Health and safety: Carry essential medications and be aware of any necessary vaccinations. Always keep an eye on your belongings and be mindful of your surroundings.

Remember, the key to smooth travel is being informed and prepared. With these priorities in check, you’re all set for an amazing journey!

Why choose iVisa for your electronic arrival cards?

Choosing iVisa for all your travel document needs is a smart move, and here's why:

Super easy to use We make entry rules a breeze to navigate, especially through our app. You won't get lost in a maze of paperwork.

Saves you time Get your arrival card sorted with iVisa before packing your bags. More time for daydreaming about your trip!

Expert support Got questions? iVisa's team knows their stuff, and they're there to help you out.

Global reach iVisa covers a ton of countries, as well as visas, arrival cards, and passport renewal, making it a one-stop shop for many of your travel needs.

iVisa is your ticket to stress-free travel, so you can focus on the fun part: enjoying your trip!

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