US Visa Requirements For Latin America - 2018 Edition

 

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.

 

 

 Everything you need to know about US visa requirements in latin america

 

Argentina

Argentina does not require a visa for American citizens. After 90 days, you will have to cross the border into a neighbouring country or visit an immigration office to receive another 90 days. If you want to stay longer than 180 days, you will have to cross the border and start the process again upon returning. The good thing about Argentina is that they do not limit how many days an American citizen can stay per year. Essentially this means that you can hop the border every six months and stay in the country indefinitely.  

Argentina does not require a visa for American citizens.

After 90 days, you will have to cross the border into a neighbouring country or visit an immigration office to receive another 90 days. If you want to stay longer than 180 days, you will have to cross the border and start the process again upon returning.

The good thing about Argentina is that they do not limit how many days an American citizen can stay per year. Essentially this means that you can hop the border every six months and stay in the country indefinitely.

 

Bolivia

Bolivia requires a visa for American citizens. You can get this for $160 at a consulate or for $135 at a border crossing or airport. They also charge a $24 exit tax when you leave the country (usually included in the price of a plane ticket). Bolivia is a bit harsher on Americans than on other nationalities - Americans are only permitted to stay 90 days per year, whereas Canadians are allowed to cross the border and reenter after their 90 days are up. This means that you will not be able to live in Bolivia by border hopping on a tourist visa. Not that you'd want to anyway...

Bolivia requires a visa for American citizens. You can get this for $160 at a consulate or for $135 at a border crossing or airport. They also charge a $24 exit tax when you leave the country (usually included in the price of a plane ticket).

Bolivia is a bit harsher on Americans than on other nationalities - Americans are only permitted to stay 90 days per year, whereas Canadians are allowed to cross the border and reenter after their 90 days are up. This means that you will not be able to live in Bolivia by border hopping on a tourist visa.

Not that you'd want to anyway...

 

Brazil

Brazil waived their visa requirements for the 2016 Olympics, but, unfortunately, they have now been reinstated. As an American, you will have to fill out a visa application before arriving and pay $160. Although the process is simple, it may be a struggle to find a Brazilian consulate close to your home city. Luckily, starting on January 15th, 2018, you should be able to complete the visa process online. This visa allows for 90 days, and is extendable at an immigration office or police office for another 90 days if you wish to stay longer. Unfortunately, Brazil only allows you to stay 180 days per year so border hopping to stay in the country is not an option. Even if you are lucky enough to have two passports (like myself), it won't matter - they track your visit by name rather than passport number. You can, however, stay illegally in Brazil by remaining in the country after your visa is up. The punishment for this is something like $8.50 reais per day, and caps out at a total of $850 reais (about $250 USD). You will be required to pay this fee either when you leave the country or upon returning. However, I don't suggest going this route. Although, typically, there are no repercussions, the authorities can technically bar you from ever entering the country again. Worth the risk? That's for you to decide.  

Brazil waived their visa requirements for the 2016 Olympics, but, unfortunately, they have now been reinstated. As an American, you will have to fill out a visa application before arriving and pay $160. Although the process is simple, it may be a struggle to find a Brazilian consulate close to your home city. Luckily, starting on January 15th, 2018, you should be able to complete the visa process online.

This visa allows for 90 days, and is extendable at an immigration office or police office for another 90 days if you wish to stay longer.

Unfortunately, Brazil only allows you to stay 180 days per year so border hopping to stay in the country is not an option. Even if you are lucky enough to have two passports (like myself), it won't matter - they track your visit by name rather than passport number.

You can, however, stay illegally in Brazil by remaining in the country after your visa is up. The punishment for this is something like $8.50 reais per day, and caps out at a total of $850 reais (about $250 USD). You will be required to pay this fee either when you leave the country or upon returning. However, I don't suggest going this route. Although, typically, there are no repercussions, the authorities can technically bar you from ever entering the country again.

Worth the risk? That's for you to decide.

 

Chile

Americans will receive 90 days upon entering the country. If you want to stay in the country for more than 90 days, you will either have to border hop (easy to do here) or visit a police station for a renewal 30 days before your 90 days are up. Like in Argentina, there are no restrictions on how many days you can stay per year in Chile. If you border hop every 90 days, you can technically stay here forever on a tourist visa.  

Americans will receive 90 days upon entering the country. If you want to stay in the country for more than 90 days, you will either have to border hop (easy to do here) or visit a police station for a renewal 30 days before your 90 days are up.

Like in Argentina, there are no restrictions on how many days you can stay per year in Chile. If you border hop every 90 days, you can technically stay here forever on a tourist visa.

 

Colombia

Colombia allows you to stay a total of 180 days per calendar year. After 90 days, you will have to get a renewal at an immigration office. This means that you will not be able to border hop and stay in the country indefinitely as a tourist. If you do overstay, you will be charged a fee. This is largely at the discretion of the customs official and ranges from about $80 USD to $1000 USD. From what I've heard, it will normally be no more than $100. However, like Brazil, it is worth remembering that officials do technically have the power to bar you from the country if you break their laws so seriously consider if overstaying is worth the risk. If you do plan on overstaying in Colombia, make sure it's only for a couple of months and you're unlikely to have any serious issues.  

Colombia allows you to stay a total of 180 days per calendar year. After 90 days, you will have to get a renewal at an immigration office. This means that you will not be able to border hop and stay in the country indefinitely as a tourist.

If you do overstay, you will be charged a fee. This is largely at the discretion of the customs official and ranges from about $80 USD to $1000 USD. From what I've heard, it will normally be no more than $100.

However, like Brazil, it is worth remembering that officials do technically have the power to bar you from the country if you break their laws so seriously consider if overstaying is worth the risk. If you do plan on overstaying in Colombia, make sure it's only for a couple of months and you're unlikely to have any serious issues.

 

 

Costa Rica

Costa Rica grants 90 days to Americans, after which time you will have to border hop to a neighbouring country for a renewal or go to an immigration office. Luckily, there are no yearly restrictions meaning that you can border hop every 90 days and stay in the country as long as you like.  

Costa Rica grants 90 days to Americans, after which time you will have to border hop to a neighbouring country for a renewal or go to an immigration office.

Luckily, there are no yearly restrictions meaning that you can border hop every 90 days and stay in the country as long as you like.

 

Cuba

Americans must purchase a $25 tourist card that is valid for 30 days. You will not be able to stay here by border hopping every 30 days. President Trump has announced new travel restrictions, so you will have to travel to Cuba through via country (usually Canada or Mexico).  

Americans must purchase a $25 tourist card that is valid for 30 days. You will not be able to stay here by border hopping every 30 days. President Trump has announced new travel restrictions, so you will have to travel to Cuba through via country (usually Canada or Mexico).

 

Dominican Republic

Americans are granted 30 days on arrival, which is extendable to 90 days. I believe you can border hop to Haiti and get an extension that way as well - they do not seem to limit the number of days an American can stay per year, so you should be able to stay in the country indefinitely by border hopping. However, the laws surrounding this are vague. Many people just opt to overstay and pay the nominal fee when they want to leave (probably a couple hundred bucks a year).  

Americans are granted 30 days on arrival, which is extendable to 90 days. I believe you can border hop to Haiti and get an extension that way as well - they do not seem to limit the number of days an American can stay per year, so you should be able to stay in the country indefinitely by border hopping. However, the laws surrounding this are vague.

Many people just opt to overstay and pay the nominal fee when they want to leave (probably a couple hundred bucks a year).

 

Ecuador

Americans are allowed 90 days here and can extend it for another 90. You only get 180 days per year in the country so you will not be able to stay indefinitely by border hopping. Ecuador is quite strict about this stuff. People who have overstayed have reported being temporarily banned from entering the country after they leave. This isn't the best place in Latin America to mess around with overstaying a visa.  

Americans are allowed 90 days here and can extend it for another 90. You only get 180 days per year in the country so you will not be able to stay indefinitely by border hopping.

Ecuador is quite strict about this stuff. People who have overstayed have reported being temporarily banned from entering the country after they leave. This isn't the best place in Latin America to mess around with overstaying a visa.

 

El Salvador

El Salvador is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico or Belize, or Costa Rica if you are further south. I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.  

El Salvador is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico or Belize, or Costa Rica if you are further south.

I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.

 

Guatemala

Guatemala is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica if you are further south. I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.  

Guatemala is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica if you are further south.

I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.

 

Honduras

Honduras is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica if you are further south. I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.  

Honduras is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica if you are further south.

I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.

 

Mexico

Americans get 180 days in Mexico. There is no yearly limit on how many days you can stay, so you can border hop every six months and stay forever. If you do overstay in Mexico, you will have to pay a fine at an airport booth. It is at the discretion of the agent, supposedly calculated based on the numbers of days you've overstayed. The maximum fine for overstaying will be $6000 pesos (about $320 USD). In most circumstances, you won't be charged more than $100 USD.  

Americans get 180 days in Mexico. There is no yearly limit on how many days you can stay, so you can border hop every six months and stay forever.

If you do overstay in Mexico, you will have to pay a fine at an airport booth. It is at the discretion of the agent, supposedly calculated based on the numbers of days you've overstayed. The maximum fine for overstaying will be $6000 pesos (about $320 USD). In most circumstances, you won't be charged more than $100 USD.

 

Nicaragua

Nicaragua is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica if you are further south. I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.  

Nicaragua is part of something called the CA-4, which also includes Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. This means that you are granted 90 days total to explore these countries. In other words, you cannot simply renew your visa by border hopping between these 4 nations. If you want to stay for more than 3 months in any of these places, you will need to cross into either Mexico, Belize or Costa Rica if you are further south.

I'm not clear on how strict they are about this. I suspect that, if you do overstay, you won't face much more than a fine.

 

Panama

Americans are granted 180 days in Panama upon arrival. There is no limit on how many days American citizens can stay each year. This means that you can border hop every six months and stay indefinitely.  

Americans are granted 180 days in Panama upon arrival. There is no limit on how many days American citizens can stay each year. This means that you can border hop every six months and stay indefinitely.

 

Peru

Peru grants Americans 183 days maximum upon arrival. Unfortunately, this is 183 days per calendar year. This means that you cannot stay in Peru indefinitely simply by border hopping. You can only stay 6 months per year. This is a relatively new law.  The good news is that the law isn't being enforced. You can still border hop and re-enter Peru without any issues. They are, however, getting stingier about giving out 183 days on arrival - they usually only grant 90, even if you request the former. If you do overstay, it'll be a $1 USD fine per day.  

Peru grants Americans 183 days maximum upon arrival. Unfortunately, this is 183 days per calendar year. This means that you cannot stay in Peru indefinitely simply by border hopping. You can only stay 6 months per year. This is a relatively new law. 

The good news is that the law isn't being enforced. You can still border hop and re-enter Peru without any issues. They are, however, getting stingier about giving out 183 days on arrival - they usually only grant 90, even if you request the former.

If you do overstay, it'll be a $1 USD fine per day.

 

Uruguay 

After 3 months, Americans will either have to leave Uruguay or request another 3 month extension at an immigration office. After 6 months, you will have to leave the country and re-enter to receive another tourist visa. There are no restrictions on how many days you can stay per calendar year. This means that you can border hop and stay indefinitely.  

After 3 months, Americans will either have to leave Uruguay or request another 3 month extension at an immigration office. After 6 months, you will have to leave the country and re-enter to receive another tourist visa. There are no restrictions on how many days you can stay per calendar year. This means that you can border hop and stay indefinitely.

 

Venezuela

A visa is required for American citizens travelling to Venezuela. It is good for 90 days. You may need to provide proof of property in the US, a return ticket and proof of means. You will not be able to stay here as a tourist by border hopping.

A visa is required for American citizens travelling to Venezuela. It is good for 90 days. You may need to provide proof of property in the US, a return ticket and proof of means. You will not be able to stay here as a tourist by border hopping.

 

 

Let's Recap:

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Which countries require American citizens 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 in Latin America Can Americans Live Year-Round by Border Hopping?

 

1) Argentina

2) Chile

3) Costa Rica

4) Dominican Republic (I think)

5) Mexico 

6) Panama

7) Uruguay

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.

 

BUT...

 

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,

Vance.

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