Travel Visas: What They Are and Where Americans Need Them
Most American travelers know they need a passport to travel internationally. But they’re likely much less sure about whether they need a visa.
What is a visa?
A visa is an official document that allows a person to enter and stay in a foreign country for a specified period of time.
Most popular destinations for American tourists – Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean – don’t require visas for stays of 90 days or less. Longer stays – for students studying abroad, for instance – may require a visa.
The country information at travel.state.gov has the details about visa requirements for your destinations. In general, visa applications have to go through the embassies of the countries you’ll be visiting, have a time limit, and often require a fee.
Sometimes countries let tourists stay for between three and 30 days visa-free, and then require a visa for longer stays.
If your travels take you to a destination that requires a visa, it’s probably a good idea to take along travel insurance, to cover medical emergencies or other unexpected, covered events that can crop up when traveling. Get a quote today.
Note that though they are included in the list below, our travel insurance plans are not able to provide coverage for travel to Myanmar and Russia, in addition to other destinations.
What countries do Americans need a visa for?
While not comprehensive, here is a list of some countries where American citizens need a visa:
Belize: Tourists can stay for 30 days in Belize without a visa. For longer stays, visitors must have their passport restamped and pay an additional fee. The Embassy of Belize to the United States website has details.
Bhutan: One of the world’s most restrictive countries for tourists, Bhutan requires a visa that is only issued to tourists who have booked travel with a local licensed tour operator. Visas are approved in the capital, Thimphu, and take a minimum of seven days to process. Tourists can’t book air travel to Bhutan without this visa clearance. Bhutan also charges a daily tourist tariff. Read the State Department’s rules on travel to Bhutan before considering a trip there.
China: American citizens need a visa to enter China, whether for business or tourism purposes. Visas can be obtained from the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States. Multi-visit visas are available.
India: Travelers must either have a paper visa, valid for 10 years for U.S. citizens, or an e-tourist visa, good for 60 days. Entry rules can change; check with the Indian Embassy before planning travel to India.
Indonesia: American citizens need a visa to enter Indonesia, which can be obtained on arrival in Indonesia. The visa is good for 30 days and can be extended for another 30 days. Non-tourism visas must be obtained from the Indonesian embassy.
Myanmar: The country is currently in level-four (“do not travel”) status with the State Department, but if you decide to travel there anyway, you’ll need a visa. The Myanmar government has an eVisa program; if you’re approved, you must show a copy of the approval letter when you enter the country.
Russia: The State Department really doesn’t want Americans visiting Russia, but if you go, you'll need a visa. American citizens (even those on cruise ships) need a visa for stays of more than 72 hours. Visas can be obtained from the Russian Embassy in the United States, and are good only for the stated time period. Dates are strictly enforced.
Saudi Arabia: Post-COVID, Saudi Arabia has required all visitors to the country to obtain a visa from a Saudi embassy or consulate. Tourist visas generally only cover a 90-day stay.
Senegal: Visitors must obtain a visa upon arrival. The Embassy of Senegal has more details.
South Korea: Visitors need a visa or a K-ETA – a Korean Electronic Travel Authorization. Most U.S. passport holders traveling to South Korea for tourism or business for less than 90 days can get a K-ETA at the K-ETA website. Longer stays require a visa.
Sri Lanka: For stays of 30 days or less, U.S. tourists can get an electronic travel authorization from the country’s ETA system. Longer stays require a visa extension.
Thailand: Thailand lets you stay in-country 30-days visa-free. For longer stays, you need a visa. The Royal Thai Embassy has the details.
Turkey: Visas are good for tourism or commercial travel of up to 90 days within a 180-day period (though Americans on cruise ships can stay in Turkey for 72 hours visa-free). Visas are available from Turkish missions abroad or through the e-Visa application system.
United Arab Emirates: The UAE lets tourists stay 30 days without a visa. For longer stays, consult the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.
Vietnam: Vietnam has different visa categories, as described on the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. If you plan to work in Vietnam, you need a work permit before applying for your visa. Otherwise, check the Vietnamese embassy’s website for more details.