Americans traveling abroad - Surprising countries that require US citizens to have travel visas

Avalon Harris-Trussell, 19.12.19
Alternative Travel Tips

Are you a US citizen wondering whether a visa will be required for your international trip?

When planning an adventure abroad, considering whether a visa will be required is often at the bottom of the ‘To Do’ list. But it is an important consideration.

The good news is that holders of a United States passport can currently travel to 106 sovereign countries without requiring a travel visa. Awesome. This currently places the US passport 6th in terms of travel freedom (tied with the passports of Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK), according to the Henley Passport Index.

However, did you know that there are a number of foreign countries that do require Americans to obtain a visa in order to be allowed to enter? These countries are predominantly in Asia, Africa or the Middle East, and include a number of popular tourist hotspots such as Cambodia, Egypt, Kenya and Laos.

In some cases, obtaining a travel visa is a manual and time consuming process, involving sending information—or even travelling to—a local consulate and then waiting for your visa to be sent to you. Those heading to China, for example, will need to apply for a visa approximately a month in advance of flying, to allow for the time it takes to process.

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E-Visas - Making travel easier than ever

Most visa requiring countries provide the option to obtain one once you have landed - known as a ‘visa on arrival’. But most nations encourage travellers to complete a visa or pre-visa application online before travelling. For example, those heading to Australia and New Zealand are strongly encouraged by their respective governments to apply for ETA’s online. Applying online can drastically reduce your time at the airport after you land, and reassures you that you’ll have approval to enter.

Top tip: You can use the interactive map below to discover which countries provide American tourists with the option to apply for visas/ETAs online.

Made with Flourish

What is an eVisa/ETA? An eVisa or ETA is an electronic replacement of the traditional paper Visa. You’ll apply online and get electronic authorisation rather than a physical visa to put in your passport. For more information, check out our complete guide to eVisas.

What is a pre-visa? A pre-visa is an online application whereby travellers will be sent digital confirmation of approval, enabling a physical visa to then be issued upon arrival.

Countries that require US citizens to have travel visas

India

Requirement: Visa

Application options: Online or embassy application

There is so much to see, do and experience in one of the most vibrant, diverse, colourful and wonderful countries on Earth. US citizens are encouraged to apply for their eVisa at least four days prior to arrival in India, in lieu of applying for a tourist visa at an Indian embassy or consulate.

American tourists to India will need to arrive at one of 26 designated airports, or three designated seaports. Those with an American passport can enter India multiple times using the same eVisa, and stay for up to 180 days each time.

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Australia

Requirement: ETA

Application options: Online

From the Kalbarri in the West, where ancient rugged outback meets white sand beaches, to the cultural hub of Melbourne in the South, Australia is a vast and diverse country. But before heading Down Under, US citizens are required to apply online for an ETA from the Australian government. The ETA can be purchased up to (but no later than) 24 hours before departure, will be valid for one year and permits multiple stays of up to 90 days in Australia.

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China

Requirement: Visa

Application options: Embassy application

A visa will need to be obtained before arrival in China - note that visas are not granted upon arrival. This can be done by applying through a Chinese embassy. Note that travellers will need to apply about a month before departure. Citizens of the US are permitted to stay in Běijīng, as well as a number of other popular cities in mainland China, for 72 hours without a visa as long as they are in transit to other destinations outside China. U.S. citizens can apply for a ten-year multiple-entry visa, ideal for repeated travel.

Vietnam

Requirement: Visa

Application options: Online or on arrival

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country on the South China Sea, known for its lush landscape, great rivers, Buddhist temples and bustling cities. Vietnam is also an increasingly popular tourist destination for those after adventure and a rich cultural experience.

To visit, an American citizen will need to pre-apply for a travel visa. There is the option to obtain a visa on arrival, but the US Department of State has issued advice that some US citizens have reported being charged unexpectedly high fees and additional charges upon landing in Vietnam. This can be done online, if flying to one of Vietnam's international airports in Hanoi (HAN), Ho Chi Minh City (SGN), or Da Nang (DAD). The eVisa grants one entry into the country and allows tourists to stay for a maximum of 30 days.

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Egypt

Requirement: Visa

Application options: Online or on arrival

With its ancient wonders, such as the colossal Pyramids and Great Sphinx, as well as numerous millennia-old monuments, Egypt is full of wonders. To visit the infamous Pyramids, most fly to the capital, Cairo, which is also home to Ottoman landmarks like Muhammad Ali Mosque and the Egyptian Museum. But to do so, Americans will need to apply for tourist visas.

EVisas can be applied for online or a visa obtained on arrival. Either grants a US citizen 30 days entry. Note that tourists arriving at Sharm El Sheikh (SSH), Saint Catherine (SKV) or Taba (TCP) airports and staying in the Sinai resorts are excluded and do not require a visa for up to 15 days.

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New Zealand

Requirement: ETA

Application options: Online

New Zealand has two main landmasses, the North and South Islands, as well as around 600 smaller islands. If you plan on heading to New Zealand, get ready for world-class surfing and skiing and action packed adventures.

A New Zealand visa for US citizens is not required for visits up to 90 days. However, since octubre 2019, Americans—along with citizens of 60 visa-exempt countries—are required to obtain eTAs to enter the country. The eTA is an is an obligatory requirement, an alternative to the traditional visa, and needs to be applied for online.

Kenya

Requirement: Visa

Application options: Online or on arrival (online advised)

If you’re after a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience, Kenya is the destination you’ve been dreaming of. The country encompasses savannah and lakelands, as well as the dramatic Great Rift Valley and great mountain highlands. The Serengeti needs to be on your bucket-list: a vast geographical area where you can witness the second largest mammal migration on Earth and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Kenya has strict immigration and has instituted a strict visa policy, and all visitors are strongly encouraged by the Kenyan government to obtain their visas online. An eVisa permits American citizens one entry for up to 90 days. All visitors are also fingerprinted on arrival and departure.

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Turkey

Requirement: Visa

Application options: Online or embassy application

Turkey has a rich history and is often dubbed ‘the land of a thousand cultures’. The country is located at the crossroads of multiple civilisations and has cultural connections to the ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Istanbul, one of the major cities in Turkey, straddles both Asia and Europe and is a cosmopolitan hub. The city is home to the iconic Hagia Sophia, with a soaring dome and Christian mosaics, as well as Egyptian obelisks and Roman-era Hippodrome, which was used for chariot races for centuries.

If you intend on visiting Turkey for a vacation from the US, you’ll need to apply for an eVisa before traveling. A Turkish eVisa will allow travellers to enter the country multiple times and stay for a maximum stay of 90 days per visit.

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Where can US citizens travel without a Visa?

Americans travelling to Europe

Citizens of the United States with a valid US passport are able to fly from the US to 26 European member countries of the Schengen Area without having to obtain a tourist visa for short-term stay (up to 90 days). American citizens are permitted to enter and travel throughout the entire territory of the Schengen Zone, to countries including the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain.

Note: Even though the European Union is to remain visa-free for Americans, from enero 2021 US travelers to Europe’s Schengen countries will require a ETIAS, which will need to be obtained online - in a process similar to obtaining an eVsa.


Page updated: noviembre 2019

Please note: the information on the page is accurate at the time of writing. But visa requirements change regularly and it is worth checking with the consulate of your arrival country before you fly.