Burundians, Rwandans, and Zimbabweans may visit the DRC without a visa for up to 90 days. Kenyans, Mauritiusans, and Tanzanians may get a visa on arrival that is only valid for 7 days. Everyone else who wishes to visit the Congo for any reason will need a visa. The Visa Requirements may be found on the Interior Ministry’s website (in French). Getting a visa, like other government services, isn’t simple and may be a tangle of red tape, with various authorities giving you different things in different parts of the nation and at different embassies/consulates across the globe. Then there are immigration officers who are attempting to extort additional money from you for their personal benefit. The criteria listed below seem to be in effect as of June 2012, but you may hear tales to the contrary.
If travelling by plane (Kinshasa or Lubumbashi), you must have a visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccine before to arrival. Visas on arrival are not granted, or at least aren’t issued often enough to put you on the next aircraft back. You should also include one passport-sized picture and proof of adequate money to cover your stay, such as a hotel reservation confirmation. Visa requirements and fees differ per embassy, with some needing a letter of invitation, others an onward plane ticket, evidence of money for travel, and yet others asking nothing more than an application. If you intend to obtain a visa in a third country (for example, an American coming by plane from Ethiopia), make sure you secure a visa first before booking your flight, since several African nations’ DRC embassies only grant visas to nationals or residents of that country.
If your native country (like as Australia or New Zealand) does not have a DRC embassy, you may apply for a visa in one of the neighboring nations without too much difficulty. If your passport is from a nation with a DRC embassy, you may be told that you may only apply for a visa in your place of citizenship or residency by embassies in neighboring countries (Uganda, Rwanda, etc.).
The visa procedure seems to be different for everyone entering the DRC from Uganda or Rwanda (particularly at Goma). For US$50–80, you may apply for a visa at the embassies in Kigali, Kampala, or Nairobi, which will take 1–7 days to process. With a yellow fever certificate and a passport-sized picture, you could apply for a transit visa at the border for US$35 (and perhaps a tiny “tip” for the official, which goes away with perseverance) as late as 2011, but this no longer seems to be feasible. Recently (2012), travellers attempting to get a visa at the border were requested for as much as USD500! The actual cost seems to vary depending on who is working at the post on that particular day, your country, and how persistent you are, with USD100 seeming to be the true price, but many being told USD200–300 as either the “charge” or a fee + “tip” for the authorities (which is what happens in the former situation anyways). These visas are either 7-day “transit” visas or visas that only allow you to visit Goma and the border regions. You definitely shouldn’t go outside of Goma or the national parks anyhow, given the terrible security situation in North/South Kivu. You may obtain a visa for USD50 if you visit Virunga National Park (official site) and apply on-line or via your tour operator. If you can’t obtain a visa in Goma at a fair fee, you may go south and try to cross the lake at Bukavu, then take a boat to Goma (do not go by road…too dangerous). Also, crossing the border to the DRC immigration station means you’ve officially left Uganda or Rwanda, so make sure you have a multiple-entry visa before you leave!
There is a US$50 departure tax that must be paid in cash at the airport when leaving the nation by flight. Traveling by boat from Kinshasa to Brazzaville requires a special departure permission as well as a Congo-Brazzaville visa. Before boarding the boat, you should definitely call your embassy in Kinshasa to save time, money, and worry.