Visas are a pain in the ass.
Fees, restrictions and local bureaucracy can make planning a headache. If you're not prepared, you may end up paying more than you have to, find yourself in trouble with local authorities or even barred from the country.
The good news is that Latin America isn't as harsh as some regions when it comes to allowing Americans to stay for extended periods of time.
That being said, there are many nuances that you MUST be aware of before heading south, especially if your plan is to stay longterm.
Lately, my focus has been geared more toward living in Latin American countries as opposed to doing flash backpacker trips.
Been there done that. It's not my style.
Unfortunately, visa requirements in Latin America can be a make or break factor when it comes to deciding on a country to live.
In fact, it was one of the major reasons I initially chose to live in Mexico instead of Colombia or Brazil.
Below, I've outlined the visa requirements for Americans of 18 Latin American countries. I've tried to be as through as possible, but keep in mind these things change with time.
Here's what you need to know about US visa requirements for 2018.
US Visa Requirements in Latin America
Who requires Americans to have a visa or a tourist card?
1) Bolivia (Visa, 90 days)
2) Brazil (Visa, 90 days extendable to 180)
2) Cuba (Visa, 30 days)
3) Dominican Republic (Tourist Card, 30 days but extendable to 90)
4) Venezuela (Visa, 90 days)
Where Can Americans Live Year-Round by Border Hopping?
3) Costa Rica
4) Dominican Republic (I think)
8) Peru (in practice, but not on paper)
A Quick Note on Overstaying Visas
Generally, there is not much punishment associated with overstaying your visa in Latin American countries. However, you may run into problems with future travel.
When you overstay a visa, your passport will usually be stamped with something denoting the fact. As you might imagine, some countries don't look fondly on this when you attempt to enter their borders.
So, although you'll surely be able to leave the country in which you've overstayed without problems, keep in mind that it may make your future customs experience in other countries a bit more awkward and time consuming.
The Best Way to Arrange your Latin Life
Let's say you want to live full-time in a country that only allows Americans 180 days or less out of every calendar year.
What are you supposed to do with the other 6 months before you are eligible to return?
One option of course is to split your time between the USA and your desired Latin American country. This will give you the best of both worlds: the comfort, service and infrastructure of the States for six months and the excitement, low cost of living and sexy Latinas for the other six.
If you'd rather not return to the Land of the Free, here are some possible living arrangements to consider within Latin America.
1) Six months in Brazil/ six months in Argentina
Since Brazil only offers tourists a maximum of 6 months per year, you'll have no choice but to get outta town after 180 days. Buenos Aires is only a 3 hour flight from Rio de Janeiro and also allows tourists a 6 month stint. Splitting time between Brazil and Argentina is a good option for a number of reasons: the opportunity to learn two languages, the chance to enjoy a lower cost of living in Buenos Aires and, last but not least, Brazil and Argentina have some of the most beautiful women on the continent.
Definitely could be worse.
I would suggest spending the off season (May-October) in Rio to avoid the tourists, and spending the rest of the year enjoying the urban life of Buenos Aires.
2) Six months in Colombia/ six months in Peru
Both Colombia and Peru offer tourists a maximum of 6 months per calendar year (on paper..in reality, Peru is more flexible on this). Why not do 6 months in each? Flights between Bogota and Lima are cheap and only take 3 hours.
Think about it.
You can enjoy gorgeous women in Colombia for 6 months and delicious food for the other 6.
The two countries also have a comparable cost of living (Peru is a bit more expensive), so your wallet isn't going to take a hit by trading time between these two lovely countries.
3) Six months in Colombia/ six months in Panama
Another excellent option. If you just can't get enough of Colombia, 6 months in Panama should prove to be an easy transition - there are tons of Colombians living here. Panama City is impressively modern, and just over an hour flight from Bogota.
Panama City is safe, has quality nightlife and hot women. Better still, it's cheaper than neighbouring Costa Rica.
A very underrated country.
4) Six months in Peru/ six months in Chile
If you like a mix between chaos and spontaneity and order and safety, I'd suggest doing 6 months in Peru and 6 months in Chile. As one of the more developed Latin American countries, Chile is safer, cleaner and more organized than its neighbours.
If life in Lima is grinding you down, consider spending half the year in Santiago - it's only a 3 1/2 hour flight away after all.
5) Six Months in Mexico/ six months in Colombia
Finally, and my personal favourite, 6 months in Mexico and 6 months in Colombia. Flights between the two countries are short and cheap ($200 or so, all year round. 4 hour flight time between Mexico City and Bogota), cost of living in both countries is low ($2000 a month will afford you a good life in each) and the quality of life is hard to beat (both countries have fantastic beaches, beautiful women, dynamic cities, modern infrastructure and gorgeous landscapes).
This would probably be my ideal split.
And there you have it!
This should be just about all you need to know about visa requirements for US citizens planning on travelling or living in Latin America.
Let me know if you have any questions, updates that I've missed or if I've left anything out.
Until next time,
Want More Information About Latin America? Check Out My City Guides