Where Can Americans Visit With No Visa?

What’s a Visa?

I’m not talking about the plastic card in your wallet, used for faking like you’ve got money. Americans are GREAT with those! No, I’m talking about the little slip of paper or stamp that comes after a little paperwork, a fee and a follow-up visit to your local embassy or airport. And that’s just tourist visas, not a business one. In short, a hassle.

Why Getting a Visa Sucks

If you think getting a tourist visa is a hassle, you’re not alone. It takes paperwork, spending money ($30-$300) and maybe even a visit to a nearby embassy or consulate. In other words, it’s easier to book a flight around the world, than to arrange permission to walk off the plane. But if you’re American, well, lucky for you! Americans, with their US passports, can visit pretty much every country on the planet, visa-free. Out of nearly 200 countries, Americans can visit 172 of them without a visa. Yes, you can stay up to 90 days in almost every country, without any hassle. Just book your flight and Go.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit that Country?

Continue reading Where Can Americans Visit With No Visa?

Going For Citizenship in Canada: Counting the Days

Today is June 21st, 2014

It was 2 years ago I got the letter. Two years ago, CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) said I was awarded Permanent Residency in Canada. The letter was dated June 11th and I received it on the 21st – exactly 2 years ago today. That’s kinda cool to me. :)

Two Years – My Last Qualification

To apply for citizenship, I have to be a permanent resident of Canada for (at least) two years before. My final interview was June 27th, 2012. I had the interview about a week after my letter came June 21st, 2012. Note: if you want to learn all about the PR final interview, read here. That post is at 300 comments and growing!

So, here I am in June 2014, meeting that 2-year requirement. (Yea!)

The 2-year thing is just one condition. What other requirements are there?

Here are all of them to be eligible for citizenship:

  • You lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 4 years. (1095 days) Check!
  • You’re able to communicate well in either English, French or both. Check! (just English for me.)
  • Know about Canada – be able to pass a citizenship test. I’m a fast learner, so… Check!
  • Lastly, be a permanent resident for at least 2 years before applying. Check!

What does all this mean for me? Well, it means I will be….

Applying For Canadian Citizenship – Yea!

Okay, to be totally safe, I’ll probably wait a month or so before applying. The reason is I haven’t spent 1095 continuous days in Canada. Over the past 3 years, I’ve visited the US for a few weeks and Prague for a week. So, I’ll wait until mid-July to apply.

If you need to be sure, CIC offers a calculator here. But be aware you have to (first register and) log in to get the “results.”

If you don’ t want to go through registering with the CIC, you can do it yourself.

Here is how the math works:

1. Figure out when you arrived in Canada.

2. What day did you get Canadian Permanent Residence status?

3. What day do you want to fill in the application for Canadian citizenship?

Count It Up

[(How many days between #1 & #2) / 2] + [How many days between #2 & #3]

If that number is 1095 or more, then you can apply for citizenship.  (1095 = 3 years worth of days)

Ah, but what if you had some vacation time, outside the country? Excellent question — and here’s my answer to that….

How to Vacation Out of Canada – And Apply For Citizenship Faster

Have you wanted to vacation out of Canada, but you’re afraid that every day you’re outside Canada, that’s another day longer you can’t apply for citizenship?

Not really. It actually depends on when you vacation.

Let’s look again at the number facts

Fact #1: You need 3 years worth of days (1095 exactly) of physical presence in Canada.

Fact #2: Each day you lived in Canada before you became a permanent resident counts as half a day.

Fact #3: Each day you lived in Canada after you became a permanent resident counts as a whole day.

Let’s look at 2 examples, using “Alice” and “Bob” again to find out when is the best time to take an extended vacations outside Canada.

Vacation Example #1:

Alice is a Permanent Resident and has been for nearly 2 years. She is planning a 3-month trip back to India. Soon after her return, Alice plans to apply for citizenship.

Vacation Example #2:

Bob is a landed immigrant, but not yet a Permanent Resident. He submitted his PR application a few months ago and noticed online that processing just started. With all his free time, Bob is considering a 3-month visit to family in the Philippines. He expects to get back long before a letter arrives that his PR application was approved.

Who’s Vacation Counts Most Against Citizenship?

If you’re paying attention, you know the answer already. Yup, Alice. Her 3-months away means she must wait another 3 months longer before she can apply for citizenship.

But Bob’s 3-month vacation will only take away 1.5 months from his citizenship application date. Because Bob took vacation before he got his Permanent Resident status, his days in Canada count as only half-days. And thus, his vacation days out of the country only forfeit away half the time.

Sure, it’s “glass is half-full” versus “half-empty” thinking, but in terms of “opportunity lost” the logic is sound.

Something I thought you should be aware of, in case you’re planning around your PR interview date.

How to Get Into Canada Using New Federal Skilled Worker Program

Yesterday Canada announced it is re-opening the Federal Skilled Worker and Skilled Trades Program.

If you want to get into Canada, this is great news for you.

Getting Into Canada as a Federal Skilled Worker

This is very exciting news for people who wanted to immigrate into Canada, but didn’t want to marry a Canadian to do it.  LOL Continue reading How to Get Into Canada Using New Federal Skilled Worker Program

What’s It Like to Drop Everything and Just Go?

We didn’t drop exactly everything. We kept our 11-month old daughter. :-)

But we did drop 2 high-paying jobs, a new home and our former lives in the US. For that, we become expats (sight-unseen) in Prague, Czech Republic. There we lived for 4 years. We bought there a new home (flat), had our 2nd child and made many great memories and friends.

After 4 years in Prague, we did the same, moving to the Canadian eastern seaboard. Been here now 3 years.

I’d say, to “drop everything” and move somewhere is like jumping into a colder-than-expected pool. It’s shocking and reinvigorating at the same time. And while you might regret the first second after the “jump,” you soon realize you would have regretted it much more if you hadn’t jumped in the first place.


Don’t continue on the path of eventual regret.

Jump. If by no other way, just jump.

If you need help, Jeff’s here.

Making That First Step Towards Living Abroad

So you know you want a change – you want to experience life in another country – but before going anywhere it is important to do your research and choose the best country for you. This will of course depend on many different factors: whether you have a family, what type of work you’d potentially be looking for, how long you intend on staying there for and what youíre looking for in the chosen country. Here are the first things that you should consider before making any rushed decisions:

Continue reading Making That First Step Towards Living Abroad

The Visa Book- a Review

Christine Gilbert of Almostfearless.com published a guide book and I got the privilege to review it. Consider yourself lucky, too, since by getting to hear about it from me, you can make a more informed decision to buy it.

Too little time to read all below?  Read my 20 word review:

“The Visa Book” is a great reference for the traveler on the go.  Simple, single-purpose structure.  Comprehensive coverage.  Worth the $10.


A Full Review of “The Visa Book”

Here is Christine’s skinny on her newest book:

  • 253 pages
  • pdf instant download
  • covers over 200 countries and territories
  • Only for US citizens (although there may be Australian and European versions in the future)
  • New editions will be produced every year
  • Does not cover long term residency visas, work visas or education visas (in other words, this is for tourist visas only)
  • Cost is $10


And My Feedback:

  • pages are well laid out; 1 page = 1 country/territory
  • a single-purpose, no frills structure
  • little of Christine’s fun personality – the “Visa Book” is all business
  • can’t imagine a place in the world that’s not covered here
  • greatest value: for tourists en-route wanting to quickly compare, offline


Who the Visa Book is Not For

I believe the newbie American tourist traveling to their first country in their life would simply google for needed information on the US State Department.

That said, most anyone would at least verify what “The Visa Book” says, but Christine makes that ultra easy with direct links to do so.

Also, the book isn’t for people looking to answer “How do I work in XYZ country?”  This is for tourist visas, not work permits or residency visas.


Where the Visa Book Shines

Where this book really shines is as a quick, comparative reference that’s already handily on the traveler’s laptop, smartphone or any e-reader for PDFs.

For travellers already on the go, perhaps in between destinations, this book provides fast “how about XYZ country?” answers.  It’s a sweet no-frills reference book that way.

I randomly picked a few countries for the tourist visa information.  I picked Canada, Chile and Croatia.  Sure enough, Christine lays out the essential information, then provides easy links to verify it.

Not only could I read up on these 3 countries on their respective, dedicated full info page, but in an earlier section “The Quick Country-by-Country Guide”, I see and compare my trifecta and all other countries together.  It’s beautiful.

All told, this guide is handy.  At $10, it’s also cheaply priced.  Granted, there’s not a lot of information per country, but that’s not its purpose. This guide answers only a few questions (for every country in the world):

  1. Do I need a visa?
  2. How many days am I allowed to stay?
  3. Any cost to visiting?

Yeah, the guide is well, well worth it.  Even if you don’t travel, if you want a fast PDF-portal to every country’s visa information, pick this guide up at Christine’s site. (book will be released April 5th 2011, but sign up for an alert)


Note: Christine offers other bloggers an “affiliate” commission for reviewing and linking to this book.  However, I turned it down, since she so clearly deserves the entire but meagre $10 sale.



Immigration: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

If you’re a first time reader, a quick, 50-word preface:

I’m an American married to an Canadian.  We moved to Halifax, Canada this summer from our last home in Prague, Czech Republic.  So, we come here as new residents: one citizen and one on “visitor status.”

So, Here I Am, an American in Canada

Against common myth, Americans are not freely welcome in Canada.   Continue reading Immigration: If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Visa Process – Timelines

In a prior post, I mentioned how most countries do not require a visa just to visit. But some do. Some examples include Bolivia, India, Russia (& most of the former Soviet Republics), Cambodia, Vietnam. This post will set your expectations about getting a tourist visa for those countries.
Filling out Paperwork, Paperwork, Paperwork
Needing a visa doesn’t mean someone does it for you. You’ll need to fill out a visa application.

Yes, every country has its own visa application form. The form could be available online or you must visit the nearest embassy. Nothing is standard across all forms. And you’d better fill it out as it’s expected.

What Does The Visa Application Ask?
Just “name, rank & serial number” would be nice, but don’t count on it.

Generalizing here, but as a minimum, you will provide:
Name, nationality, birthday, passport number, address (both yours and where you’ll stay) and contact information like phone number/fax/e-mail (both yours and where you’ll stay), why and for how long you expect to stay

You may also be asked your marital status, your occupation and employment history. Some countries even ask you to write a short, personal essay explaining why you want to see their country!

After finishing the form, it is also common to provide:
Bank statement or proof of financial support, a copy of HIV vaccinations, confirmation or invitation from a local hotel or friend (both cases sometimes called your “sponsor” and copies of your hotel confirmation & return flight.
Tack on 1 or 2 passport photos and you’re all set!

Continue reading Visa Process – Timelines

Visa Process – the Basics

Rather than dive into filling out forms, let’s be sure we’re all starting on the same page.
Read the below Q&A. Once you know & understand them, you’re ahead of most. :)

What’s a Visa?

    Not the credit card. Here, we’re talking about permission to visit a country. Consider it like your personal “green light” to go.

When I traveled around Europe, I got lots of stamps in my passport – are they visas?

    No. A passport stamp just acknowledges you’re “in” or “out.” You get those when crossing a border. A visa is something you must apply for ahead of time.

How do I tell if I need a visa?

    Two things determine if you need a visa: your citizenship and where you’re going.
    If you intend to stay a while, that might affect things, too, but more on that later.
    US citizens can check on this page to see if your destination country wants you to get a visa first.

If I’m American, do I need a visa to visit ABC country?

    For most countries, no. US citizens need visas for only about 20% of the world’s countries. Bottom line reason why you need a visa is reciprocity. It’s a tit-for-tat thing. If the US requires a visa for that country’s citizens, then often that country will enforce the same on Americans. What breaks the “visa mini-cold-war” is a strong desire between countries to be friends. Example: To visit Mongolia, Americans don’t need a visa, but citizens from all European and most Asian countries do. Interesting, huh?
    Combine those two facts and you’ll see Americans travel very freely. In fact, only folks from Denmark and Germany travel more freely than Americans:
    (see graph)

Citizens needing Visas

Does it matter why I’m going to that country?

    Yes, sort of. When filling out the visa application, it matters whether you’re a tourist or someone visiting on business. However, in general, the requirements -and more importantly- the wait for your visa to get approved is the same.
    A business person visiting a country is very different from someone needing a work visa.


Do I pay for it? How much?

    Yes, visas cost. My rough experience and sample research says this: you’re going to pay between $20 and $100 for the permission to fly to that country.
    Sure, it’s not much when compared to the flight or accommodations, but paying for permission to come over (plus the added paperwork) isn’t exactly welcoming either.

How long does it take to get a visa?