Monthly Archives: March 2015

Do I Need a Travel Visa?

Visas are a thorn in the side of frequent travelers. Determining whether or not you need a visa for your holiday abroad isn’t always simple and sometimes the visa process isn’t clear-cut; the requirements for a given country may differ according to how you enter (by land, sea, air) or how long you will stay. But there’s good news: US Passport holders can travel visa-free on short holidays to most of our world’s countries. This page can help you decide whether or not you need a tourist visa as a US passport holder headed to common destinations.

Visit Our Neighbors Visa-Free

When you are travelling to Mexico or Canada with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of up to 180 days. You will need to fill out an immigration card on arrival to Mexico.

Visa-Free Europe

Fortunately for US passport holders, visiting Europe is simple and unless you have specific restrictions placed on your individual passport, you can visit Europe for extensive periods visa-free* and achieving free access for long periods if you move around different visa jurisdictions.

Schengen Travel

The following countries are in what is called the Schengen Area which is seen as one jurisdiction without border control and one visa policy: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway (excluding Svalbard), Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Schengen Area includes most of the EU, except for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, and Romania. Non-EU members Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are a part of the Schengen Area.

*The Schengen Visa is a tourist and business visa but you do not need to formally apply for anything. The”visa” is automatically issued to US Passport holders when they arrive in a Schengen country but is not a visa-on-arrival. If you’re planning to visit say France for 2 weeks (or two months) and you read something about a “Schengen Visa”don’t panic, you don’t need to do anything. The Schengen Visa grants travel to member countries for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. It DOES NOT allow you to become a resident or get a job.

UK Travel

When you are traveling to United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) with a U.S. Passport, no visa required for a stay of up to six months.

Ireland

When you are traveling to Ireland with a U.S. Passport, no visa required for a stay of up to three months.

The Caribbean

When you are traveling to Dominican Republic or  Belize with a U.S. Passport, no visa required for a stay of up to 30 days. Jamaica is visa-free for up to 90 days. No Visa is required to visit The Bahamas.

Other Commonly Visited Countries

Argentina

When you are traveling to Argentina with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 90 days. Be aware that there is a reciprocity fee charged upon entering the country, and a departure tax when leaving the country by air (normally included in your plane ticket).

Australia

When you are traveling to Australia a visa or Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) is REQUIRED. Most U.S. passport holders traveling to Australia for tourism or business purposes for less than 90 days can obtain an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) for a  fee. Airlines and many travel agencies are also able to apply for ETAs on behalf of travelers.

Brazil

When you are traveling to Brazil a visa is REQUIRED and must be  obtained before you visit. Apply for an electronic visitor’s visa here. For more information visit he Brazil Consular website.

China

When you are traveling to China a visa is REQUIRED. Apply for a ten-year multiple entry visa, useful for repeated travel or trips to Hong Kong or Macau with returns to China. Visit the website of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for current visa information.

Colombia

When you are traveling to Colombia with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.

Costa Rica

When you are traveling to Costa Rica with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 90 days.

Japan

When you are traveling to Japan with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 90 days.

India

When you are traveling to India a visa is REQUIRED U.S. citizens seeking to enter India solely for tourist purposes, and who plan to stay no longer than 60 days, may apply for an electronic travel authorization at least four days prior to their arrival in lieu of applying for a tourist visa at an Indian embassy or consulate.  Please visit the Indian government’s website for electronic travel authorization.

Morocco

When you are traveling to Morocco with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 90 days.

New Zealand

When you are traveling to New Zealand with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under three months.

Philippines

When you are traveling to the Philippines with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 30 days.

Russia

Goodness, yes, you need a visa! The tourist visa process for Russia is notoriously long. Please begin your research and work on the visa 4-6 months before you intend to visit. Don’t be discouraged though. Just remain organized during the process.

South Korea

When you are traveling to South Korea with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 90 days.

Taiwan

When you are traveling to Taiwan with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 90 days.

Thailand

When you are traveling to Thailand  with a U.S. Passport, no visa is required for a stay of under 30 days. You may leave Thailand and do a “border run” and return one day later to extend your stay but may only visit for a total of 90 days in a 6 month period. I  did this and it is a common strategy for backpackers wishing to stay in Thailand for longer than 30 days or who are starting and ending a long trip to SE Asia in Thailand (usually flying to/from Bangkok).


Whether you need a visa or not, please note that to enter most countries you need a passport valid for six months after your arrival date and two (or more) blank passport pages. Also many countries require proof of an outbound journey. Specifics will vary and some countries require as many as six blank passport pages (when I was bouncing around Asia in 2018, I filled up five pages in three months so plan ahead if space is tight). Check specific requirements before visiting any country and don’t try going abroad if your passport expires within 90 days or you have less than two blank pages remaining. You could be refused entry to your destination. That’s a sign it’s time for a new passport.

Renewing a US Passport

There are many reasons why you may want to renew a passport: it’s expired, you have filled the passport book pages, your appearance has drastically changed or maybe you will be undertaking long-term travel. You don’t have to wait until your passport is expired for renewal and if you travel often it is smart to renew it before you HAVE to. Here is a quick step-by-step guide to renewing your passport while in the USA.

1. Figure out if you can renew via mail or must renew in person. Mail is easier 🙂

You can renew by mail using Form DS-82 if your most recent passport meets the following criteria (ALL FIVE).

  1. The passport can be submitted with your application
  2. The passport is undamaged (can have normal “wear and tear”)
  3. It was issued when you were age 16 or older
  4. It was issued within the last 15 years
  5. It was issued in your current name (or you can document your name change with an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, divorce decree, or court order).

If all five criteria cannot be met, you must renew in person using a DS-11 form.

2. Download, print and complete the DS-82 form.

If you are renewing because you filled your passport pages, you may wish to request a larger passport book with 52 pages this time around. This is at no additional cost. Just check the ’52 page’ box at the top of the DS-82 form.

You must submit your most recent passport with your application and it WILL BE RETURNED to you.

If the name you are currently using is different from the name on your most recent U.S. passport, you must provide a certified copy of the legal name change document.

3. Get a quality passport photo taken.

Pictures must be 2″ x 2″ show your full face with a neutral expression (no smiling) and eyes open and be taken against a white background. Specific US Passport guidelines are here. Attach one photograph to the application by stapling the photo to the application. Use four staples vertically in the corners as close to the outer edges as possible and do not bend the photo.

4. Budget for your passport fee.

The renewal fee is $110 and can be paid with check or money orders payable to “U.S. Department of State” and included in the application packet. Print the full name and date of birth of the applicant on the front of the check or money order. Do not send cash.

5. Mail completed application INCLUDING your most recent passport.

Mail your application packet to one of the addresses below. Only the United States Postal Service (USPS) can deliver to a Post Office Box. I recommend using a trackable option.

If you live in CA, FL, IL, MN, NY, or TX:
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 640155
Irving, TX 75064-0155

If you live in any other state or Canada:
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90155
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0155

Expedited Service (additional fee applies):
Write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the mailing envelope.
National Passport Processing Center
Post Office Box 90955
Philadelphia, PA 19190-0955

7. Patiently wait for your passport.

The routine renewal time is 4-6 weeks and expedited process time is 2-3 weeks.