“It’s been said that a pretty face is a passport. But it’s not, it’s a visa, and it runs out fast.”
How Long Can US Citizens Stay in a Foreign Country?
Most countries will allow you to stay on a tourist visa for the maximum legally permitted time. A tourist visa comes in a stamp in your passport that you get on entry in most countries. However, you must apply in advance for a tourist visa to visit some countries. Other countries require you to pay a fee for the visa on entry. (I have written a detailed post about this topic)
Occasionally immigration officials will change the maximum stay permitted on arrival. (95% of the time, they will not change this maximum period).
If the official changes the number of days, they will indicate the revised number of days in your passport or entry form. (Note in some countries, like Mexico, you have to keep a receipt of the entry form to exit the country. This receipt will indicate the maximum stay limit).
Most countries that do not require a tourist visa in advance will allow US and Canadian citizens a maximum tourist stay of three months or 90 days. (This is not true for all countries, Thailand and Indonesia only allow the US and Canadian citizens a thirty-day visit. If you need more time, you will need a visa).
The most notable exceptions to this rule are Mexico and Canada. Mexico allows US and Canadian citizens to stay as tourists for 180 days. After 180 days, most of the time, travelers to Mexico can leave Mexico for three days and restart their tourist visas for another 180 days. Note: However, Mexican officials can (and occasionally have) forbidden tourists to enter Mexico after the three-day stay in another country. In addition, in 2021 Mexican officials decided to try to discourage Americans from staying more than a short time unless they had pre-booked, long-term accommodations in Mexico.
The US and Canada allow citizens from each other’s countries to visit for a maximum of 180 days a year. If you stay more than 180 days, you violate the immigration laws. To comply with the regulations, you have to leave the country for the rest of the year and return the following year.
Canadians can also lose certain services like Medicare if they stay abroad for more than 180 days.
How Long Can US Citizens Stay in a Foreign Country? Staying Longer than Legally Permitted
While it is rare for most people to care about how long can US citizens stay in a foreign country, many Fifty-Plus Nomads will at some point think about a long-term visit or even living abroad. The requirements for legal residency are challenging for most US and Canadian citizens to meet in most countries. Some such as Mexico and Costa Rica are more lenient, and many Americans obtain residency in these countries.
The easiest way to become a resident or even a citizen of another country is through marriage. Often you can obtain citizenship or residency right after marriage to a citizen of most third world countries (sometimes it may take six months to a year). However, getting residency or citizenship through marriage in most developed countries (US, Canada, Europe, Australia, etc.) is not that easy.
Some people also get citizenship in European countries through their ancestry. Some countries like Britain, France, and Germany, grant citizenship to people with parents from their country. A few countries grant citizenship based on having grandparents or even further generations back ancestors from their country. Many Americans have Irish and Italian citizenship through these provisions. It is not an easy process to get citizenship this way; however, it is worth exploring.
If you are only thinking about staying in another country for a few months, you may want to consider being a perpetual tourist instead. A perpetual tourist stays in the country close to the maximum permitted and returns after staying in another country. (I would recommend that you leave the country at least one week before your tourist visa expires to avoid potential problems).
US and Canadian citizens staying in many Third World (Emerging) Countries can leave the country for a few days (usually three days) and reenter the country again as a tourist.
Many Americans live in Mexico and Costa Rica, for example, as perpetual tourists. They stay in Mexico or Costa Rica for six or three months, respectively, and then leave for three days. Then they reenter Mexico or Costa Rica for another six or three months. As a whole, both countries are trying to make it more difficult for perpetual tourists to live in their country. You should apply for temporary or permanent residency in Mexico and Costa Rica whenever possible.
Developed countries (and all member states in the Schengen, European Union community) will only allow you to reenter the country after leaving the country for THREE or six months (in the case of the US and Canada).
US and Canadian citizens are only allowed to be tourists in the ENTIRE Schengen community for three months. We must leave for three months before we can reenter the Schengen community as a tourist. (In other words, we cannot stay for three months in Italy and three months in France because both countries are part of the Schengen community).
As a perpetual tourist, I spent between two and four months a year in Canada (usually leaving and entering several times a year) for eight years. Usually, I was able to come and go relatively easily.
However, one time the immigration officials asked me dozens of highly intrusive questions to ensure that I wasn’t spending more than six months a year in Canada. In my experience, the best thing to do is keep a list of when you entered and left the country and show it to officials if needed. (If you are a long-term, perpetual tourist, you should anticipate such interrogations in any country. You also should always be prepared to show immigration officials evidence of when you are leaving the country like a bus or plane ticket).
How Long Can US Citizens Stay in a Foreign Country on a Multi-Entry Visas?
Several countries (like India) will issue you a valid visa for more than one year from the issue date. These visas will allow you to visit the country multiple times without getting a new visa. The visa will indicate the number of days that you are permitted to stay in the country at one time. If you overstay the days shown on the visa, you may invalidate the visa.
One potential problem with some visas is that some are only valid for a limited period from the date of issuance, which can be a problem if you are planning a long trip, particularly if you have to apply by mail. For example, Vietnam used to issue visas in the applicant’s home country that were only valid for three months from the date of issuance, which caused problems for people who planned to travel outside of their home country for more than three months before their trip to Vietnam.
Want More Information About How Long Can US Citizens Stay in a Foreign Country?
Check out this article from USA Today.
Read Nomadic Matt’s suggestions on how to stay in Europe for more than 90 days.
Some Additional Information About Travel Requirements
- A Short Guide to Electronic Travel Authorizations (ETAs) for the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe (Schengen)In recent years, many developed countries have required citizens from other developed countries to get ¨electronic travel authorizations¨ (ETA) before entering their country. Here is more information to help Fifty Plus Nomads get their ETAs.
- How Long Can US Citizens Stay in a Foreign Country Without Becoming Either an Illegal Alien or a Perpetual Tourist?How long do USA and Canadian citizens usually have permission to travel in another country? What can you do if you want to stay longer? What are some other issues that might cause problems when you try to enter another country?
- An Easy Guide to International Tourist Visas: What to Do If You Have to Apply In AdvanceApplying for a tourist visa in advance is usually not a big problem unless you need it in a hurry. Here are some tips to avoid potential problems for US and Canadian citizens if they need to get a visa in advance.
- International Travel Visas: How to Enter Another Country Hassle FreeFind out when you will be required to get a visa before traveling to another country. (Most are issued on arrival). Also, learn about electronic travel authorizations.
- Easy Answers to Frequently Asked US Passport Questions: How to Apply, Replace, or Renew Your US PassportA series of tips about how to apply, replace, or renew your USA or Canadian Passport.
- 5 Easy, Secret Airline Check-In TipsWithout a doubt, one of the most frustrating parts of living as a fifty-plus nomad is dealing with airports. In my five years traveling around the world, I encountered several issues I did not anticipate including finding the right terminal, not having proof of onward passage, and unexpected fees. This post helps you avoid some of my mistakes.
- 3 Top Little-Known Airport Immigration and Customs TipsMy idea of travel hell is airport immigration and security. In this post, I present three useful tips that hopefully will help fellow Fifty-Plus Nomads avoid some of the problems I’ve had.
- 10 Hassle-Free Airport Security TipsFollowing these 12 airport security tips will reduce the long lines and hassle.