Caroline Says…Travel Visas: Know Before You Go

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Immigration is a big-button issue these days, and the discussion repercussions seem to be funneling down the chain to the travel industry. For whatever reasons, several countries have recently announced changes to their long-standing immigration policies for temporary (those staying 90 days or less) visitors from the USA. VISA regulations are changing. Some countries, like Brazil, are rolling out the welcome mat, while others, namely Europe, are requiring that we jump through one more hoop.

The announcement getting the most attention came from Europe, perhaps Americans’ favorite vacation destination. You may have read recently that starting in 2021, we will need a VISA to enter many European countries, but that’s not exactly true. The fact is, effective January 1, 2021, all USA citizens who want to travel to Europe will simply need to REGISTER with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) before departing, or risk being turned away at the border. Basically, you will need to complete an online application, pay a $7 fee, and await approval before being well on your way to that bowl of Bolognese in Bologna. No actual VISA required.

Similarly, and this is new: Beginning October 1, 2019, New Zealand will require visitors to register for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) and pay an International Conservation and Tourism levy, the cost of which will vary depending if applying by phone app or website. Applications will be accepted beginning in July, and the process will take least 72 hours, so don’t wait until the last minute.

While USA passport holders may roam freely in and out of many countries (Canada, Mexico, Iceland), there are places where an official tourist VISA is indeed needed:

Africa

VISA requirements vary by country, but are needed to enter some popular places: Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe among them. They typically can be obtained with a cash payment at the point of entry or acquired in advance via online link. Yellow fever vaccination records are also required in some countries.

Australia

USA passport holders must apply for electronic authorization from the Australian government’s travel authority (ETA). You can purchase an Australian ETA online up to 24 hours in advance of your departure. Electronic tourist visas are valid for one year and permit multiple stays of up to 90 days in Australia.

Bolivia

While U.S. passport holders can obtain visas on arrival, the extensive paperwork and red tape involved makes applying online or at a consulate in advance infinitely more appealing. USA citizens must also provide on arrival a completed application form, a passport-size headshot, evidence of hotel reservations, proof of sufficient funds and departure tickets, a photocopy of passport, yellow fever vaccination certificate, AND a fee of $160, which is only accepted in cash at the border.

Brazil

Three cheers for Brazil! President Jair Bolsonaro just issued an official decree waiving the entry VISAS for tourists from the USA, Canada, Japan, and Australia. The new policy takes effect on June 17, and visitors may stay for 90 days with a 90-day extension if needed. Anyone up for Rio?

China

Leisure travelers with U.S. passports may visit Hong Kong VISA-free for stays of up to 90 days. To enter mainland China, U.S. passport holders must purchase an entry visa through the Chinese embassy no less than one month before their trip.

India

The Indian embassy urges travelers to check its website for updates before planning a trip. Currently, USA citizens can apply online for an electronic travel authorization referred to as an “e-Visa” up to four days before arrival in India, but no more than 30 days before travel. Be prepared to present a printed copy at customs in the international airport.

For an extensive list of VISA requirements around the globe, consult CIBTVISAS.

Caroline Travels the World…So Can You.

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