“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 You Stay in a Country on a Tourist Visa?
Most countries will allow you to stay on a tourist visa for the maximum legally permitted time period. A tourist visa comes in a stamp in your passport that you get on entry in most countries. However, some countries require you to apply to their consulate in advance for a tourist visa and/or 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 only allows 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 visa 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.
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 laws, you have to leave the country for the rest of the year and return the next year.
Canadians can also lose certain services like Medicare if they stay abroad for more than 180 days.
Staying Longer than Legally Permitted
While it is rare for most tourists to care about how long their tourist visas allow them to stay in another 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 can obtain residency in these countries.
However, 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 for a period 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 most 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).
I spent between two and four months a year in Canada (usually leaving and entering several times a year) as a perpetual tourist. 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 be prepared for such interrogations. You also should show them evidence of when you are leaving the country like a bus or plane itinerary).
A Few Other Issues that Can Cause Problems Entering a Country
You may also be denied entrance to another country if you have:
- A criminal record in your home country (or the country you are visiting). For example, US citizens with a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) conviction may be refused entrance to Canada, etc.
- Visited a country in the past that the country does not like or recognize. Until recently this was a significant problem for people visiting countries in the Middle East with an Israeli stamp in their passport. (Fortunately, most citizens of developed countries will be able to visit most Middle East countries, most notably the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, with an Israeli stamp in their passport).
- No proof of your relationship to your children and/or have no evidence of consent from any non-accompanying parent(s).
How Long Can You Stay in Countries with Multi-Entry Visas?
Several countries (like India) will issue you a valid visa for more than one year from the date of issue. 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. This 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. This may cause problems for people who planned to travel outside of their home country for more than three months before their trip to Vietnam.
Some Additional About Travel Requirements
- Tourist Visas: How the US and Canadians Citizens Can Avoid Problems Entering and Staying For a Long-Time in a Foreign CountryHow 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 problems that might cause problems when you try to enter another country?
- An Easy Guide to Tourist Visas: What to Do If You Have to Apply In Advance For Tourist VisasApplying 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.
- Electronic Travel Authorizations and Tourist Visas: Answers to 3 Typical QuestionsFind 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.
- Passport 101: Easy Answers to Frequently Asked QuestionsA series of tips about how to apply, replace, or renew your USA or Canadian Passport.
- Airport 101: Avoid Immigration, Customs, Airline Check-In, and Security ProblemsWithout 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.