Do snowbirds need a visa? The law in simple terms

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In this blog post, I will discuss the visa requirement of US, Canadian and European snowbirds.  If you are a US resident then you can travel to any of the southern US states without a visa, tourist card, letter of authorization, any permission or proof. I have also mentioned 18 different cities/countries for which the US residents may or may not need a visa.

Do Canadian snowbirds need a visa?

The Canadian snowbird act also called the Canadian snowbird visa act allows Canadian retirees aged above 50 to stay in the USA for 8 months which was previously 6 months without any visa, just a valid passport. “The Canadian retiree snowbirds are critically important to our North Country’s tourism industry and its entire economy,” said Rep. Stefanik. “We are fortunate enough to share the St. Lawrence River, and our neighbors to the North frequently cross the border in the snowbird season to boat, hike, and visit one of our many historical places.

Offering them an additional 2 months to enjoy these activities will promote small businesses, create jobs, and foster our relationship with one of our closest financial allies,” he added. “Tourism is a crucial part of Florida’s booming economy, creating and promoting thousands of jobs all across our Sunshine State,” said Sen. Rubio. “This bill will be a great boost to the state’s economy by allowing the millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit Florida each year to stay for 2 months longer.”

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Do European snowbirds need a visa?

As of 7th January 2020, the British passport ranked 8th in the world in terms of travel freedom tied with the US passport, the passport of Belgium, the passport of Norway and the passport of Greece. British snowbirds get a visa-free entry or visa on arrival entry into 184 different countries of the world. On 15th January 2016, the British passport was the first,  in terms of travel freedom tied with the passports of Singapore,  Luxembourg,  Finland,  Denmark, Italy, and Germany.

British snowbirds enjoy the freedom of movement without the necessity of visa in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. 

British snowbirds do not require a visa to visit Kuwait,  United Arab Emirates,  Zimbabwe,  Mali,  Ethiopia,  China,  Mongolia, Andorra, Belize, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City, Trinidad, and Tobago. For up to 3 months the British snowbirds enjoy a visa-free stay in Costa Rica,  El Salvador, Guyana, Honduras, Israel, Malaysia, Tunisia, Namibia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Gambia, Guatemala, Japan, Marshall Islands, Haiti, Mauritius, Morocco, Moldova, Nicaragua, North Macedonia, Paraguay, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, South Africa, Venezuela, Ukraine, Singapore, and Uruguay.  

For up to 6 months the British snowbirds can enjoy a visa-free stay in Armenia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Canada, Barbados, Antigua, and Barbuda. For up to 1 month the British snowbirds do not require a visa to stay in Belarus, Dominican Republic, Cape Verde, Eswatini, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kiribati, Micronesia, Philippines, Qatar, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vanuatu.

British snowbirds must obtain a visa before visiting Afghanistan, Algeria, Bhutan, Burundi,  Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Iran, Ghana, Iraq, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan.

Snowbird locations around the world

Belize

American snowbirds must enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program while visiting Belize. If you are planning to stay only for 30 days then you don't need a visa,  but your passport must be valid beyond your planned departure date if you are planning to go by air. Proof of sufficient funds and a return ticket will be required.

If you are planning to stay longer than 30 days then you need a visa. Snowbirds departing Belize will have to pay exit fees of $40 which will be included in your airline ticket. No vaccinations are required to visit Belize.

If you have little children with you then you will have to provide the US established birth certificates for them. If you are planning to go to Belize by a cruise line then you will have to show a US established birth certificate and a government-issued photo ID.  For every extended period of 30 days, the visa fees will be BZ$ 25, after 1 year of continuous renewal of legal visas you can apply for permanent residence which will cost you BZ$ 100.

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Thailand / Bangkok

American snowbirds must enroll in the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (STEP)  to ease their entry into Thailand and to get access in the case of an emergency.  If you are planning to stay for one month then you don't need a visa. It is recommended that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months at the date of your entry.

You must get immunization for yellow fever. The airline staff will check your return ticket as proof of your temporary stay. Your passport must have a couple of blank pages for the stamp of entrance and exit.

There are 3 different options to get a visa for a longer stay in Thailand: i) Standard: it will be processed in 6 working days, it costs 35 USD. ii) Rush:  it will be processed in 4 working days, it costs $50. iii) Super Rush: it will be processed within 48 hours, it costs $70.

 Cuba

American snowbirds need a Cuban visa or a tourist card to visit Cuba which will cost you $39.00. It takes four weeks to process this visa. Its duration is 30 days (valid for one entry within six months from the date of the issue) and it will be extended for 30 additional days in Cuba.

If you will be taking your pet along with you then it must have distemper and rabies vaccination not more than 30 days before entry. "If you speak Spanish, then you do not need a tour guide,” said John McAuliff, Executive Director of Fund for Reconciliation and Development Coordinator. “You can plan it fully on your own with one of the best guidebooks.

You cannot tell I interacted with the Cuban who sold me a sandwich,” says McAuliffe. But with a private guide, “you do all the same things the different tour groups can do.” McAuliffe says that a private guide costs usually about $100 and can be hired through TripAdvisor message boards.

But be advised that the Cuban government looks at individual guides as a "legal grey area" says McAuliff, as “they have not figured out a licensing system for individual guides. It is tolerated.”

“We are continually searching for the new programs so you can get authentic exchanges and not just checking off a box for OFAC,” says Claire Kelly, Founder, and Director of Educational Experiences Abroad.

 Ecuador

American snowbirds do not need a visa to stay in Ecuador for 90 days but if you overstay you will have to pay fines. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the time of your planned departure date. Ecuador is a coastal area with the risk of Zika, Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and TB so you must have immunization for all of these diseases.

If you are planning to stay for longer than 90 days then you will have to process a visa application that must include the following documents: a valid passport, 2 passport size photograph, a Police certificate or certificate from FBI to prove that you can support your finances and a return ticket.

New Zealand

American snowbirds do not need a visa to visit New Zealand for 90 days. If you are planning to stay for more than 90 days then you will have to apply for ETA which is Electronic Travel Authority and it will give you stay for 2 years. You will get a visitor visa for $211 per person and you will get a working holiday visa for $245 per person.

The ETA will be processed within 30 minutes and it costs only $25 and you will have multiple entries to New Zealand. 

Dubai

American snowbirds must have a return ticket and a passport valid for at least six months after your planned exit date while visiting Dubai. If you are planning to stay for less than 30 days then you will get a visit visa at the entry point which will be free of cost. If you are planning to stay for longer than 30 days then you will have to pay the visa fee which is $93.

For three months the visit visa will cost $193 with a single entry. For a multiple entry 3 months visit visa, the cost will be $470. $30 will be cancellation fees.

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 Mauritius

American snowbirds don't need a visa to stay in Mauritius for 60 days. The passport will be simply stamped on your arrival at Mauritius airport. You cannot stay in Mauritius for more than 180 days per year.  You must have proof of your financial support which is at least $100 per day.

 Malaysia

American snowbirds do not need to obtain a Malaysian visa if they want to stay there for only 90 days. Your passport must be valid at least for 6 months at the date of your entry into Malaysia. Your stay in Malaysia can be extended by up to 2 months.

If you stay there for more than 5 months then you will have to pay fine. You will have to show the following documents: digital photograph of yourself, photograph ID in your passport, last page of your passport, hotel bookings, proof of at least $1000 in cash, your confirmed return ticket and last visited country exit and entrance stamp.

Malaysian e-visa is processed within 2 working days. You will have to pay three different fees: i)  convenience fee which is $25 ii) Visa fee is $15 and iii) service charge is $1.5. You will have to pay $41.5 in total.

 Egypt

American snowbird needs to obtain an Egyptian visa before your arrival at Cairo international airport for $25 which will be valid for 30 days. The most convenient method to obtain this visa is through iVisa with the service charge of only $30 which will get processed within 4 working days. You cannot use a credit card for payment of your visa fee, on arrival you must have $25 in US currency and in cash.

Your passport must have at least one blank page and it must be valid for the next 6 months. You will be fined if you overstay your visit visa for more than 30 days. It will be valid for entrance for 90 days from the date of issue.

 Hong Kong

American snowbirds visiting Hong Kong will not need a visa if they are planning to stay for 90 days. They will not be allowed to study or to work during these three months. If you are planning to stay for more than 3 months then you must visit your Chinese Embassy to obtain a visa.

American citizens will have to pay fees of $140 to get a tourist visa and Canadian citizens will have to pay $142 dollars regardless of the number of entries. They will not accept cash, you can pay only with your visa card/MasterCard/credit card/ATM card, cheque or money order.

 Tokyo

American snowbirds do not need a visa to stay in Japan for 90 days. Your passport must be valid for the entire time you will stay in the country. You cannot work during this time period.

If you are planning to stay for more than 90 days, then you will have to pay fees of 3000 yen for a single entry visa and 6000 yen for a multiple entry visa. The fee of Transit Visa is 700 yen. The processing fee will be $160 for business, exchange, tourist and student visa and it will be 190 US dollars for a work visa.

Mexico

American snowbirds can stay in Mexico as long as six months without a visa if they are planning only tourism and not study or work. Canadian snowbirds can also stay in Mexico for as long as 6 months if they are planning tourism only. The entrance fee will be included in your airline ticket but if you are traveling by your own vehicle then you will have to pay some money.

Upon applying for a visa you will have to show the proof of a medical examination, a valid passport, its photocopies, a Police certificate, and your birth certificate.

Turkey

American snowbirds do need a visa to visit Turkey for 90 days, the validity of which is 180 days from the date of the issue. Your passport must be valid for at least 60 days beyond the date of your stay in Turkey. There are three different ways to apply for a Turkish visa.

i) Standard processing needs 24 hours and its total fees are 45.7 US dollars.

ii) Rush processing needs 4 hours and its total fees are 65.7 US dollars.

iii)  super rush processing needs only half an hour and its total fee is 85.7 US dollars.

Nicaragua

American snowbirds do not need a visa to stay here for 90 days. You will have to pay a fee of $23 per additional month up to 90 additional days. If you overstay this visa then you will have to pay a fine of $20 per day of your illegal stay.

The documents that are required include a valid passport, its photocopies, two digital passport size photographs, Travel Health Insurance and a benefits letter/ budget letter/  letter of income/ proof of award letter.

Singapore

American snowbirds do not need a visa to visit Singapore if you are planning to stay for 14 to 30 days. It can be extended. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of stay.

 Indonesia

American snowbirds do not need a visa if they are planning to stay in Indonesia for 30 days only.

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 Maldives

As an American snowbird, you will get free of cost tourist visa upon your arrival when entering the Maldives, with a duration of 30 days of stay. You will have to show a valid passport, return ticket, and sufficient funds.

Seychelles

American snowbirds do not need a visa to visit Seychelles for 30 days. Upon arrival, you have to show a return ticket, confirmed accommodation, proof of sufficient funds or an invitation letter.

In order to conclude this blog post, I would say that the snowbird season is not just about packing your luggage and escaping the snowfall. There are always some legal documentations with different laws for the location that you are planning to visit which you have to follow carefully.

Disclaimer: always check again

Situations can differ from individual to individual, and also depend on what country you are from. Also, rules can change. So it is important to always check again before starting your trip how the rules are at that time.