USA Visa Requirements for South Africans
The USA is experiencing a significant shift to the “right” in terms of its views of immigration into the country. Because of the USA government’s changing view of visa provisions, there is a higher than usual possibility that the information on this page has changed. Please check with your closest USA embassy.
Click here to jump to EB-5 Visas for Investors
So you need to get past Donald Trump’s border security, and into the United States, and you face the daunting task of getting a USA visa. The good news is, that if you’re not a Mexican criminal then there’s a chance you could be blessed with a visa. And yes, in case you’re wondering, South Africans do require a visa to visit the USA. And no, you won’t be asked whether your support Trump.
This article assumes you are a South African citizen without dual US citizenship or the right to live in the USA; and that you are wanting a Tourist Visa to the United States. In the lingo of the US Government, Tourist Visas are a subset of of the “Nonimmigrant Visas”.
Click here to navigate to the official application area for a USA visa. The information on this page should be considered to be possibly out of date or incorrect, and in some cases is summary information, so double-check everything on the official application page. This webpage attempt to provide you with guidance on applying.
Who will process your request
The USA has consulates in Cape Town (email@example.com), Durban (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Johannesburg (email@example.com); who will consider and process your tourist visa request. Note that the US Embassy in Pretoria does not offer consulate services.
There are several steps to obtaining a United States visa:
Step 0: Valid Passport
A South African passport with at least 6 months of validity after the date of your travels to the USA.
Tips for when you travel to the US:
Not everybody supports Trump – in fact, the majority don’t.
Don’t tease those with a southern accent.
They don’t use the metric system.
You can purchase chlorinated chicken and beef on antibiotics.
The cars are huge and mostly automatic.
They wont respect you if you bow to their superiority complex.
Get used to the archaic Fahrenheit system, insted of Celsius. Fahrenheit is only used by the US, Cayman Islands, Liberia and the Bahamas.
See the native wild turkeys.
If you do something wrong, you may end up in one of the dreaded “for-profit” prisons.
Step 1: Complete the DS-160 Form
Click here to complete “the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application” form, coded “DS-160” (don’t worry about the complex name). .
First you select the country and city in which you are applying (as opposed to the country for which you have a passport). South Africa has 3 options: Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. Then click on the relevant application button.
You will then be given an “Application ID”, which consists of a combination of letters and numbers. If you do not finish your application in one go, you can use the application ID to return where you left off the previous time. You will be asked to select a security question, e.g. “What is the given name of your father’s father”? The term “given name” is the same as what’s commonly called a “first name” in South Africa. Then click “Continue”.
You’ll then need to enter your Given Names and Full Name. Naturally, this must be exactly the same as in your passport, or else you’ll run into problems later. Enter your gender, marital status, date of birth and place of birth. Then click on “Next: Personal 2”.
Enter your nationality (e.g. South African), whether you’ve held citizenship with another country, whether you’re a permanent resident of another country, your ID number, US Social Security Number (if you have one) and US Taxpayer ID Number (if you have one). Then click on “Next: Address and Phone”.
Then fill in your physical address, postal address, telephone numbers and email address. Then click “Next: Passport”.
Select your passport type and enter your passport number, where it was issued, the date it was issued and the date on which it expires. Then click “Next: Travel”.
If you’re going to the US for a non-business related holiday (tourism/travel) then select “TEMP. BUSINESS PLEASURE VISITOR (B)” and then “TOURISM/MEDICAL TREATMENT (B2)”. Fill in your planned date of arrival into the US, how long you are planning to stay, and who is financing the trip. For your address in the USA, place the physical address of the hostel, hotel or guest house, at which you will be spending your first night. Expect to be quizzed again at immigration as to where you’re staying and for how long. Then click “Next: Travel Companions”.
Fill in the details of who you are travelling with, then click “Next: Previous US Travel”.
Then fill in details of previous trips to the USA, as well as previous visa applications. It’s advantageous if you’ve previously travelled to the US, and didn’t infringe on any of the country’s laws, as it demonstrates a good track record.
Then specify the person who is your contact person in the US, and his/her contact address.
Then detail your mother and father’s names and dates of birth, as well as whether you have any other relatives in the USA.
Fill in your occupation, employer and monthly income.
Fill in whether you were previously employed, whether you attended a secondary educational institution, and its details.
Details of any tribe you may belong to, languages you speak, countries you’ve been to in the last 5 years, charitable/social/professional organisations you’ve belonged to, whether you have skills in chemicals/biologicial/explosives/guns/nuclear, whether you’ve ever served in the military and whether you’ve ever participated in a guerilla group, paramilitary unit, insurgent group, rebel group or vigilante unit.
Input whether you have any communicable disease, or a drug addict/abuser or have a mental/physical disorder which makes you a danger to others or yourself.
Have you ever been arrested, been involved in criminal activity around controlled substances, is your visit prostitution related, have you been involved or plan to be involved in in money laundering, been involved in child trafficking; or related to somebody who has been?
Does your trip involve or have you ever been involved in:
terrorist activity (or do you plan to engage in it)
violations of religious freedom
population control measures against people’s will
“coercive transplantation of human organs or bodily tissue
Are you a member of a terrorist organisation?
Have you “ever sought to obtain or assist others to obtain a visa” into the US by illegal means?
withheld custody of a child who is a US citizen “from a person granted legal custody by a US court”
Renounced USA citizenship to avoid tax.
Then upload your photo – you may not wear eye glasses in the photo. The required specifications of the photo can be found here. Be sure to carefully check the requirements, as with advances in facial recognition software, this has become more important than before.
Then you get a chance to check your info, then sign and submit iT.
Step 2: Arrange a date for an interview
Unfortunately you’re going to have to appear in person for an interrogation interview, unless you qualify for visa renewal. The consulates are heavily secured compounds (you have got to play it safe when you’re the world’s police officer) in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg – pick the one closest to you; and don’t expect to be able park closeby.
Click here to register a profile with the U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment and Information system. You’ll register it with your email address and (optionally) your smartphone number. You will need to fill in your DS-160 number, to connect step 1 with step 2; as well as the DS-160 confirmation for every other person travelling with you.
“Complete the courier document return process
Pay the Nonimmigrant Visa application fee – this is non-refundable. Keep the paymet receipt to take with you to your interview.
Schedule a Consular Section appointment” and attend said appointment with your printed out DS-160 and all the other documentation required. During peak times you may wait up to a month, roughly, to schedule an appointment, but it’s usually much shorter.
Then follow the instructions given to you at the consulate, checking regularly on the website to see updates.
The USA are terrified of people visiting and never wanting to leave; so you should present compelling evidence that you are so tied to SA that you will definitely return home – e.g. property you own in SA, a signed rental agreement for a property in SA, family members in SA, evidence of your pension (if you’re a pensioner), a return flight ticket, employment in SA, letter from school’s registrar if you’re a student, etc.
To prove employment you can obtain a letter from your employer on a company letterhead, stating that you are empoyed there, what you earn, your position, and the dates of leave. If you’re self-employed then get a similar letter from your accountant.
return plane ticket (if you’ve booked already).
Also present evidence that there are sufficient finances at your disposal that you’ll be able to get through the holiday.
Be clear about how long you’re going and the purpose of your visit.
Also take along your passport, previous passports, payment receipt, printed D-160 form, a paper copy of your appointment confirmation and any other documents mentioned on their website or emails. Having said that, you may arrive for the interview with a box full of evidence, and not be asked to produce some of it. If you’ve been arrested before then provide all information related to the case, and your police clearance certificate.
On getting to the consulate, you’ll need to clear a security checkpoint, and will be asked to leave all your electronic equipment in a tiny locker – e.g. your cellphone and car keys. Leave your firearms with you. Bottled drinks can be problematic. It’s also at this point that they’ll have a first look at whether you brought along all your required documents – e.g. a printed DS-160 form.
Follow some basic rules:
Be respectful and polite.
Only ask questions posed to you – don’t volunteer information not asked of you.
You’ll be asked questions including why you’re visiting the USA, and perhaps to produce the required documentation.
Pick up Passport
A few days later you’ll be told whether or not your application was approved, and that you can go and pick up your passport or have it delivered.
Whilst it is a mission getting the visa, what’s great is that they often make it valid for 10 years, unlike for instance a Schengen visa which is only valid for the period of your visit. And you can also stay for longer – up to 6 months (and can apply for an extension).
Cape Town consulate
The Cape Town consulate is at number 2 Reddam Avenu, Steenberg e in Westlake. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and their landline is 021-702-7300. We suggest parking at Steenberg Village shopping centre and walking to the consulate.
The Durban consulate is situated at 303 Dr. Pixley KaSeme Str, 31st Floor, Delta Towers in Durban Central (next to Thunderpeak Spur). You can get hold of them at email@example.com or 031-305-7600.
The Johannesburg consultate is situated at 1 Sandton Dr, Sandhurst in Sandton (look for the US flag flying on its post). You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 011-290-3000.
Although there are some horror stories of people being refused visas, the statistics for 2016 indicate that only 7% of South Africans who applied for B visas, were refused. This is a better performance than Australia (15%) and far better than Cuba, which has the highest refusal rate of 82%.
Out of the BRICS South Africa has the lowest refusal rate:
South Africa : 7%
Diversity Immigrant Visa Program
Commonly called “DV” or “DV lottery”, this is the program which Donald Trump wants to stop. It involves a computer randomly choosing 50,000 people a year from applicants with certain countries which don’t have high emigration levels into the USA, and giving them permanent residence in the United States. Act 203(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act sets out the process. You need to have worked for 2 years or have passed high school. South Africa is eligible for the DV-2019 lottery.
You will need a student visa to study in the USA. There are 3 types:
A J-1 visa; for research scholars. exchange visitors and professors.
A M-1 visa; if you want to attend a vocational or technical course, or some other non-academic institution (but excluding language courses).
A F-1 visa; if you want to attend a college, university, elementary school, high school, conservatory, seminary, other academic institution or language training course.
You’ll need to apply for and be accepted into your course before you can apply for a student visa; which is proven by obtaining a document coded I-20 from the university or other educational institution which is admitting you. The institution must be authorised to admit foreign students under the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVP), which is used to track foreign students, and was set up after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Click here to see the list of authorised academic institutions for M-1 and F-1 students.
Some 1 in 20 students in the USA are foreigners. According to the Open Doors 2017 study the most popular university for foreign students was New York University, followed by:
the University of Southern California.
Arizona State University.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Note that undergraduate courses in the USA are usually 4 years, one more year than the typical degree in South Africa.
It rarely happens, but in December 2017 the ACCT (American College of Commerce & Technology) was found not to be qualified to be a university, and was given notice to close down on the 30th Dec 2017. Students at the university with F-1 visas were given 60 days within which they had to be accepted at another licensed institution.
Be careful to avoid the “visa mills“, institutions which are more focused on earning tuition fees than in offering a quality education.
Most foreign students come from China followed by India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada.
Working whilst Studying
Those on an M1 visa may not work until they have finished their their studies.
Those on an F1 visa:
May do on-campus work, with restrictions.
After the first year of studies, they may do certain types of practical training related to their course.
Post study work opportunities
Once you’ve completed your studies you may:
apply to work for a year in the USA, putting into practice what you have learnt (Optional Practical Training – OPT). The student would work with a “designated school official” who will be in contact with the US Citizenship & Immigration Service to obtain an “employment authorisation document”. And there’s a nice tax benefit for US companies employing OPT students, in that they don’t have to pay Medicare and Social Security on their wages (on the other hand, if the company had to employ American graduates, they would not enjoy the tax break).
this may be extended by a further 24 months (originally 17) if you studied a course from the list of STEM subjects, and you be placed into the E-Verify system;
if after that you’d still like to work more in the USA, it’s a lot harder than getting permission for OPT; you’d need to apply for an H1-B visa with all its requirements.
Companies in the US are allowed to hire foreign workers under an H1-B visa, if they cannot find an American to do the job; and the visa holder is then only allowed to work for that company. The visa is typically issued for 3 to 6 years. Rules are getting stricter, with the Department of Homeland Security planning by February 2018 to reduce the eligible occupations “to increase focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest foreign nationals”. There are 85 000 H1-B visas which could be issued in 2018, but many more applications are usually filed than the spots available. Priority will be given to those earning more and those who are more skilled.
Reports are that applications for H1-B visas for those who won the lottery are being delayed as well as for those who are requesting an extension to their existing H1-B visa; and an increasing number of “requests for evidence” are being sent. Under a request for evidence companies need to show documents proving that the applicant has special skills, and that the salary being paid to the visa-holder is fair. The denial rate for H1-B petitions has similarly increased. The administrative burden of the requests for evidence is likely to deter some companies from hiring foreigners. According to the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000, an extension of 1 year or 3 years may be offered to H1-B visa holders. The denials and requests for information appear to revolve around (a) if a Level 1 wage is being paid, does the job really meet the criteria for a ‘specialty position’, and (b) Is a bachelors degree really required to do the job.
The children and spouse of an H1-B visa holder may enter the US under an H-4 visa as long as the H1-B visa holder still holds the visa.
Up until 25 May 2015 holders of H-4 visas were not allowed to work in the USA, but then it was changed under Obama so that if the holder of the H-4 visa was in the queue to get a green card, they could obtain an H-4 EAD Employment Authorisation Document and work (being in the queue meant that they either had to have their permanent residence petition approved or the H1-B visa’s status had been extended beyond 6 years pending approval of the petition). Form I-765 must be submitted to request an EAD. Along with the form you’ll need to submit inter alia a copy of your passport’s biometric page, your last EAD (if there is one), your visa and your birth certificate with your photo ID, 2 photos in the required format, proof of arrests & convictions,
In December 2017 rules were reported to be changing so that H-4 EADs would no longer be issued. Of course, there’s nothing stopping holders of H-4 visas from pursuing other methods of getting work visas, such as getting their own H1-B visa, if they qualify; or if they have an extraordinary ability in a field they could even apply for an O-1A or an O-1B Visa. Once children holding H-4 visas turn 21, they must return to their home country if they have not obtained permanent residency or a different visa allowing them to stay in the USA (e.g. an H-1B visa or a student visa), proof that spouse/parent has applied for or been granted employment authorisation, proof of nonimmigrant status and proof of your relationship with the principal beneficiary.
For those using the H1-B Visa to stay in the USA whilst wanting a green card, note that over the last decade it’s averaged about 6 years from getting an H1-B visa to getting a green card.
Unfortunately there are some criminals who offer visas for purchase, where the purchasers typically are “working” for shell businesses. Avoid them.
H-2B Visa Temporary Foreign Workers
The H-2B Visa allows workers to come to the US on a temporary basis, working in the non-agricultural sectors, typically on low wages.
L1 Visa | Intracompany transfers
L1 visas allow employees of companies with offices both internationally as well as in the US, to work in the US divisions. The visa could be for anything from 3 months to 5 years. Spouses of those with L1 visas may also work in the US with a L2 visa.
Under the L-1A and L-1B visas, the visa applicant must have worked for the company for at least 12 months over the last 3 years.
This typically allows one to work in the USA for up to a year, with 4 multiple entries into the country being allowed.
O-1 Visa | Extraordinary Ability
If you can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in your field you may be able to get an O-1 Visa, which is a nonimmigrant visa. The O-1A visa may be applied for if your ability is in athletics, business, education or the sciences. The O-1B Visa may be applied for if your ability lies in the arts, television or motion picture fields. If your children or spouse are accompanying you, they would apply for an O-3 Visa. If you have an assistant accompanying you, that person would apply for an O-2 visa.
The O visa allows you to stay initially up to 3 years, thereafter USCIS will decide how much to extend the stay in maximum increments of a year.
International Entrepeneur Rule / Startup Visa
Foreigners who want to emigrate to the USA and start a business there run into problems, as the H1-B visa wasn’t intended for this scenario. This is a program to allow Foreign entrepeneurs to remain in the USA if they have built a business which has the potential inter alia to produce sufficient jobs and grow quickly, which was meant to begin in July 2017 but was postponed to March 2018 by the new administration (Trump in charge), with it being suspected that the program will be abandoned completely.
E-2 Investor Visa
Under this visa you can enter the USA and work if you make a significant investment in the country. Unfortunately South Africa is not a Treaty Country, it does not have a treaty of friendship and navigtion with the US, South Africans cannot apply for this visa.
Green Card (aka Permanent Residence)
A green card provides you with permanent residence in the USA; including being allowed to work. There are number of avenues through which one may appy for a green card:
Employment (form I-140)
Relatives (form I-130)
Victims of Abuse
Refugee/Asylee (form I-730)
Victims of Crime & Human Trafficking (form I-918 and I-929 for qualifying family)
Special Imigrants (form I-360)
There are 5 categories:
EB-1. Priority workers.
EB-4. Special work – e.g. religious workers
On an annual basis US companies can collectively hire 5000 unskilled foreigners; which allows US companies which can’t find US workers to hire unskilled immigrants.
EB-5 Visa for Investors
This is the fastest way to get a US green card, and involves investing $1 000 000 or more in US projects which qualify; but if investing in a rural area or an area with high unemployment then $500,000 or more is required.
To qualify, the project must plan to create ten direct or indirect full time jobs for USA citizens, or at least to retain the jobs, In December 2017 it was voted to extend the EB-5 Visa program until the 19th January 2018. It’s possible that on this date the minimum investment is increased from $500 000 to $920 000.
An application is done through filing a form I-526 petition, and you will supply a mailing address as part of the the petition (make sure it’s your address, not your lawyer’s address – your lawyer can submit his/her address in a form G-28 Notice of Appearance, and will receive copies of relevant documents). After USCIS have received and accepted the I-526 petition, an I-797 Notice of Action should be received by yourself (and your lawyer) which provides you with a tracking number, through which you can track where in the process your I-526 petition is. When applying expect it to take around 12 months for USCIS to process the application. The applicant rejection rate is relatively high as a result of projects which don’t qualify and problems with the documentation. If the application is approved then a temporary green card (called a “conditional permanent residence status”) is issued for 24 months. Ninety days before 24 months have passed an I-829 petition may be submitted which involves demonstrating that the 10 jobs have been created/saved, and then the green card is made permanent. The I-829 petition must be submitted before the conditional (temporary) green card expires after 2 years.
Various project opportunities come with significantly different risk profiles, so it’s advisable to research this thoroughly. There are various entities which specialise in identifying projects for EB-5 applications:
LD Capital Bridge to USA (commercial property development – their main business is lending, and they work together with property developers)
It’s worthwhile reading the EB5 Investors quarterly magazines, which provide a wealth of contemporary information for investors and other industry professionals.
Green card holders may bring their spouses and unmarried children younger than 21 with them to the US. Complete the I-130 form in order to petition for a visa; if this is approved you will then be requested to submit the required documentation including sponsorship commitments.
The time spent with the conditional green card counts towards the 5 year permanent residency required to apply for US Citizenship.
Naturalisation (Form N-400) aka Full US Citizenship
Once you have legally been in the USA for 5 years continuously as a permanent resident with a green card, or more, you can apply for naturalisation as a USA citizen if:
You’re 18 years old or older.
Been physically present in the USA for at least 30 months (minimum may be less if you’re married to a US citizen).
Have lived for at least 3 months in the USCIS district or state from which you are applying.
Can read, write and speak English.
You’re willing to take the “Oath of Allegiance”.
Understand USA history and government.
Note that being able to apply doesn’t necessarily mean your application will be accepted – other factors like your criminal record, will also be taken into acount.
Click here to create a profile and file your N-400 application online. Once it’s submitted you will receive a receipt an tracking number, which you can use to keep track of where in the process your application is. You may be required to get biometricss (photo, fingerprints, etc. ) taken. There’s a fee chargeable to make the application (at the time of writing, January 2018, it was $725), but this fee may be waived if you have a short-term financial problem, are receiving public benefits on a means-tested basis or your household earnings is less than 150% of federal poverty guidelines.
Attend your interview.
You will be required to write a citizenship/civics test, which involves being asked 10 questions chosen from a list of 100, and you must get at least 6 correct.
At this stage USCIS will will either deny your application, grant your application, or request that you continue your application but provide correct information or rewrite citizenship test or something else.
If your application is granted by USCIS, then take the oath pledging to be an outstanding American.
If, when you turned 18, one or both of your parents was a US Citizen, then you may claim US citizenship via form N-600.
Your Definitive Guide to South America Visas: What Do You Need For Your Trip?
Perhaps the most daunting thing about travelling (except for finding good travel insurance), is understanding the entry requirements of each country. Visas can be tricky, with some nationalities requiring them in advance and others being able to get them at the border.
Visa requirements are prone to change which means what is true one minute may not be so the next. As such, it is always important to research what visas you need and make sure that you double-check this information a few days before you travel (just in case).
We here at South America Backpacker know how confusing this can all be and in an attempt to make it easier for you, we’ve compiled this South America visa guide!
Disclaimer: All of the above information is the result of hours of research and internet trawling for the most up to date information out there. Please bear in mind that whilst we always try to keep our articles up to date, this is a mammoth task for a small team like ours! If you do find anything that needs updating, please let us know so that we can continue to provide the most current and useful information.
However, please bear in mind that visa requirements are subject to change often. Always do your own research and contact the relevant embassy if you have any queries about the visa requirements. After all, there is nothing worse than arriving at a border only to be sent straight home again!
Visa Guide to South American Countries A-Z
Visa information for Argentina:
If you are travelling as a tourist and do not require a visa, you will usually be granted a 90 day stay on a multiple entry basis. This allows you to enter the country numerous times within the period granted. 90 days is the maximum that can be given.
The nationalities that don’t require a visa to enter Argentina include all South American countries, USA, UAE, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most western European countries.
For those of you who do require a visa to enter the country, these will be charged at $50USD each.
Contrary to what you may read online, as of August 2018, Australians, Americans and Canadians no longer need to pay a reciprocity fee.
Passports must be valid for the entirety of the stay granted in Argentina. For example, if you plan to stay for 30 days, the passport must have at least 30 days of validity left.
Onward travel required: Those flying to Argentina are legally required to have proof of onward travel.
Staying longer in Argentina?
Renewal of your visa: An extension to your visa can be given at the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (Buenos Aires Immigration Office) however, you can only extend once for the current trip that you are on. Needless to say, you should go to extend your visa before it runs out.
The visa extension given will never be more than the length of the original stay granted. For example, if you enter Argentina and are granted a 90-day stay, the maximum you could extend for is another 90 days. For nationals not from Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the cost to extend your visa is around $15USD.
Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: If you are from a nation that doesn’t require a visa, it is possible to travel to one of Argentina’s neighbouring countries and then re-enter to get a new entry pass into the country.
Limits on the number of border runs/visa extensions: According to the Consulate website, the number of times that a traveller can re-enter the country in this way cannot be determined in advance. It is solely based on whether the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones are satisfied that you are not hiding your immigration purpose.
Overstay penalties: The fee for overstaying your visa is AR$600 (around $15USD) which must be paid at the airport upon your departure. Police can demand identification at any point which could cause lots of problems if your visa is no longer valid!
Visa information for Bolivia:
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most countries in South America and western Europe (including the UK) do not need a visa to enter Bolivia.
If you do not require a visa to enter Bolivia, you will be given a free 30-day entry stamp on arrival.
Visas are required for citizens of the UAE, China, Russia and the USA. There is no cost for the first three countries however, travellers from the USA will be required to pay $160USD for 90 days entry (valid for 10 years). Be aware that damaged or torn bills will not be accepted.
Although it is theoretically possible to get a visa on arrival, some airlines are reluctant to fly passengers who do not already have a visa if required. Therefore, we recommend getting them in advance.
To obtain a Bolivian tourist visa, you must:
- Fill in an application form
- Provide proof of flights or travel itinerary
- Provide a hotel reservation or invitation letter
- Hold a certificate of yellow fever vaccine
- Provide 2 passport photos
- Hold a passport with at least 6 months validity
- Show proof of funds if necessary
- Citizens from the USA also require a police certificate
- Cash for fee (if required)
If you are visiting Bolivia, you are required to have at least 6 months validity on your passport after your length of intended stay in the country. You should also ensure that you have at least one empty page in your passport for stamps before you travel.
Entry vaccinations required: Visitors to Bolivia could be refused entry if they do not hold a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. This applies if you are flying from a country with risk of the disease.
Onward travel required: You could be asked to show proof of this at borders.
Staying longer in Bolivia?
Renewal of your visa: Renewing your tourist visa in Bolivia is thankfully, very simple. Simply head to the Immigration Office in a major city. You can renew for another 60 days, free of charge.
However, you will need to do this on two separate occasions, a maximum of three days before your current visa expires. Visa extensions are only granted for 30 days at a time and can only be extended to 90 days in total (per year). You will need your passport and immigration card plus photocopies of these and your Bolivian entry stamp.
Overstay penalties: You will be charged a set fee per day (20 bolivianos at time of writing) if you overstay your Bolivian visa. Bear in mind that travellers who overstay longer than a couple of weeks may attract the attention of immigration and could be banned from re-entering. It is also possible that Bolivian border officials may ask for a bribe if you have overstayed.
Bus company Bolivia Hop has lots of good and easy to understand information on its website regarding visa requirements and details.
Visa information for Brazil:
Nationals of all EU and South American countries, as well as New Zealand, are allowed to enter Brazil for up to 90 days, visa -free.
Citizens from USA*, Australia*, Canada* and China all require visas.
- The following countries can apply for an electronic visa before their visit.
For more information on whether your country needs a visa for Brazil, check out the UK consulate website.
Visa fees are generally based on reciprocity which means that costs are determined by what a Brazilian National would have to pay to enter the other country. At the time of writing, the fees are as follows:
These fees can be paid by debit card or postal order. You cannot pay for a visa on arrival at the airport.
To obtain a Brazilian tourist visa, you must:
- Book an appointment with the Consulate
- Complete the visa application form online
You must provide the following original documents when required:
- Valid passport (with at least two blank pages)
- One passport photo
- Copy of your return travel and itinerary (can be an e-ticket or a booking reservation from a travel agent)
- Proof of sufficient funds for your trip. You must provide one of the following:
- Bank statements and three months transactions
- International credit card statements and three months transactions
- Your most recent three payslips
The visitor visa (VIVIS) will allow you to stay for up to 90 days in the country. This is counted from the date you enter the country and allows for multiple entries.
Visitors to Brazil must have at least 6 months on their passport, starting from their date of entry.
Onward travel required: This is mandatory for travellers visiting Brazil, as is being able to show proof of sufficient funds for your trip. Bank statements can be used to show this. Generally, the accepted budget is $150USD per person each day of your trip.
Staying longer in Brazil?
Renewal of your visa: You can extend your Brazilian visa for up to the same period which was originally granted to you when you entered the country. You must request a visa extension whilst your current visa is still in date with the Federal Police.
Please note: Schengen Area member state passport holders, (except Liechtenstein, Iceland, Poland, Norway and Portugal) are only permitted to remain in Brazil for 90 days every 180 days. This means these citizens are not eligible for a visa extension.
Overstay penalties: The penalty for overstaying your Brazilian visa is a fine of 8 reais (around $2USD) a day. It is possible to pay this fine when you leave Brazil or when you return. You will not be allowed to re-enter the country until you have paid this fine.
If authorities catch you with an out of date visa, you will be given 7 days in which to leave the country, as well as receiving the standard overstay penalties and a six-month ban.
It is worth bearing in mind that overstay is one of the most common reasons to refuse a Brazilian e-visa in the future.
Visa information for Chile:
A visa is not required for citizens of the following countries, the UK and most other EU countries*, USA, Australia*, Canada, New Zealand and South American countries.
Upon entry, you will be granted 90 days entry into the country. You will also be given a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo’ (Tourist Card) which you must keep safe and present to immigration when you want to leave the country.
*Travellers from Greece are only permitted 60-day entry on arrival.
* Australians are required to pay a $117USD reciprocity fee.
Visas are required for Chinese and Indian citizens. Once approved, they will be granted 90 days entry.
The following documents are required for a tourist visa application:
- Valid passport
- Criminal background check issued by police
- Health certificates pertaining to infectious/contagious diseases
- A clear description of your financial situation (e.g. payslips or bank statements)
- Contact person in Chile (name and address)
- 3 passport photos
- Application letter to Consul detailing visit motivation and length of stay
- Applicant telephone number and proposed dates of travel
Travellers entering Chile are only required to have a valid passport for the duration of their stay.
Onward travel required: You may be asked for proof of onward travel.
Staying longer in Chile?
Renewal of your visa: It is possible to renew your tourist card for an additional 90 days at the Departamento de Extranjería. To do this you will require copies of your passport and tourist card. The cost is around $100USD.
Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: It is possible to travel to a neighbouring country and then re-enter to get a new entry pass into Chile.
Overstay penalties: Fines are issued to travellers who overstay their visas.
Visa information for Colombia:
You do not need a visa to enter Colombia if you are from most South American countries, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada* and most western EU countries including the UK.
*Entrance fees for Canadians were abolished on May 1st, 2019.
Upon arrival, you will be given a 90-day multiple entries stay in the country.
Citizens from China and India require a visa. To check whether you need a visa, head to the consulate website.
The easiest way to obtain a Colombian visa is online. Complete your application online here.
In terms of cost for a Colombian visa, these are the current fees:
Colombia & Rest of World Europe & Cuba First payment $52USD €40EUR Second payment (if visa is granted) $82USD €63EUR
To enter Colombia, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Onward travel required: This is a requirement although it is rarely enforced. The same is the case with showing adequate funds for your trip. A recent bank statement showing upwards of $1200USD is generally sufficient.
Staying longer in Colombia?
Renewal of your visa: It is possible to extend your stay in Colombia by an extra 120 days. The maximum you can stay in Colombia is 180 days in a calendar year. Previously, it was a requirement to go to Migracion Colombia office to extend your visa. However, this can now be done online here.
It is advised that you renew your visa no later than 5 days before your current one expires. All of the supporting documents can be uploaded in PDF format at the end of the form. You will need the following:
- Copy of your passport (the page with your photo and personal details)
- Copy of your Colombia tourist entry stamp
- Proof of onward travel
The cost to renew your visa is 99,000 pesos ($144USD) unless you are from a Schengen country in Europe, in which case it is free.
If you prefer not to use the online service, you can still go to your local Migracion Colombia office. These are located in most major Colombian cities. Be aware that some offices may require you to arrange an appointment in advance.
Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: You can leave the country and then return with a new 90-day entry stamp.
Overstay penalties: If you overstay your Colombian visa, you will be required to pay a fine. To avoid any delays when you fly, it is worth paying this fine a few days in advance (after you have booked your flight) at the Migracion office. The starting point for fines is around 380,000 pesos (around $118USD), although this changes depending on how long you have overstayed.
If you overstay by less than 6 months, you will simply be required to pay the fine. You can re-enter Colombia with a new visa in the same year (provided it is still under the 180 day in any year rule).
However, if you overstay by more than 6 months, you will need to pay the fine and leave immediately. If you have overstayed, you will need to visit the Migration office and ask for a ‘salvoconducto’ no more than 15 days before your departure. This is a temporary permit that allows you to stay in the country until your departure date, even though your visa has expired. You will need to present this to the airport staff when you leave.
To obtain a ‘salvoconducto’ you will need to present the following:
- Copy of your passport (photo and personal data page)
- Copy of your most recent Colombia visa stamp
- Credit/debit card to pay the fine and also for the ‘salvoconducto’
A ‘salvoconducto’ costs 60,000 pesos (around $19USD) and you will still need to pay the fine which could rise as high as 5 million pesos ($1558USD)! Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Visa information for Ecuador:
Most people travelling to Ecuador will not require a visa, including those from South America, the UK and most of Europe, USA, Canada and Australia. On arrival, you will usually be granted 90 days entry (in a 12-month period). This allows for multiple entries.
You will be presented with an embarkation/disembarkation form when you enter the country which will be stamped with your entry date. This will need to be kept safe with your passport as it will be required when you exit the country.
A handful of nationalities will require a visa to enter, including Ethiopia and Kenya. Please check the official Consulate website to see whether you require one.
For travellers to Ecuador, you must have a passport valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates.
Onward travel required: This is a legal requirement so you could be asked to show proof of your return ticket. Officially, you could be asked to prove evidence of sufficient funds, however, this is rarely enforced.
Please note: It is also an official requirement that travellers to Ecuador hold relevant health insurance to cover their stay.
Staying longer in Ecuador?
Renewal of your visa: You are allowed to extend your Ecuadorian visa only once before your current 90 day period is up. The maximum that you can extend for is another 90 days and you can only do this if you pay the accompanying visa extension fee. It is surprisingly challenging to find the up to date cost for extending your Ecuadorian visa. From what we found, it looks like it is currently around $131USD. This was the price in Jan 2019.
To extend your visa, you must visit the Migration Office with these three things:
- A completed application form
- A photocopy of your passport
- A photocopy of your entrance stamp
Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: Unlike in other countries, you cannot do visa runs in Ecuador to extend your legal time allowance in the country. The only way to extend your stay is to go through the official channels.
Overstay penalties: If you overstay your allocated time allowed in Ecuador, you will receive a fine. If you do not pay this penalty, you will be banned from returning to Ecuador for two years and your name will remain on immigration watch lists. Assuming that you pay the fine, you will be allowed to return on an official visa issued by your nearest Ecuadorian Embassy abroad.
Visa information for Guyana:
Citizens from North and South America, Western Europe including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan do not require a visa to enter Guyana.
If you are from a country which is entitled to visa-free entry, you will usually be granted 30 days on arrival.
Citizens from Eastern Europe (including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia), China, UAE and India will need a visa.
To obtain a visa you must present the following documents:
- Completed application form
- Valid passport
- 3 recent passport size photos
- Evidence of sufficient funs
Tourist visas cost $30USD.
For all travellers to Guyana, you must have a passport with at least six months validity, from the date that you enter the country.
For more information on visas in Guyana, check out this website.
Staying longer in Guyana?
Renewal of your visa: To extend your visa you will be required to visit the Ministry of Home Affairs in Georgetown.
Overstay penalties: Unlike some other countries in South America, overstay penalties are very severe in Guyana. As well as being charged a fine of up to G$50,000 ($240USD) you will also face up to one year imprisonment and deportation (at your own expense).
Visa information for Paraguay:
Citizens from the UK and most of Europe can enter Paraguay without a visa. Upon arrival, you will be granted a 90-day stay.
Those travelling who are from the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia will be required to obtain a visa. Generally, visas will need to be arranged in advance for most nationalities but citizens from the countries listed above can get them at immigration upon arrival. You will be granted up to 90 days within the country.
To apply for a visa for Paraguay in advance you must provide:
- A completed application form
- A passport (valid for at least 6 months)
- Return air ticket
- Proof of sufficient funds
- Visa fee: single entry $72USD, multiple entry $110.
These are the prices for the countries which can get a visa upon arrival:
Country Single entry/ Multiple entries Australia $147 Canada $164 New Zealand $153 Russia $175 USA $175
The cost for single/multiple entries is the same for those who are able to arrange visas on arrival.
To enter Paraguay, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months.
Onward travel required: This is a requirement of entering Paraguay. You could also be asked to show proof of sufficient funds for your stay.
Staying longer in Paraguay?
Renewal of your visa: Your visa can be extended for an additional 90 days at the National Immigration Office. However, you can only stay for a maximum of 180 days in a one year period.
Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: It is possible to leave Paraguay and re-enter at one of its many land borders. You will receive another 90-day entry upon arrival provided this will not push you over 180 days in a year period.
Visa information for Peru:
Travellers from the USA, Canada, Europe including UK, Australia, New Zealand and all South American countries do not require a visa to enter Peru.
Citizens from China will be required to get a visa. For the full list of countries which require a visa, see this list.
The maximum amount of time that you can spend in Peru in any one year is 183 days. Upon entry, you could be granted a 90-day or 183-day visa. If you require the latter, simply ask for this when you arrive at immigration. This will be granted at the discretion of the immigration worker.
Those who require a visa to enter the country will need to provide the following:
- Completed application form
- Valid passport
- Proof of onward travel
- Accommodation reservation
- *Proof of sufficient funds (a bank statement displaying a minimum $1255USD)
- Passport photos
- Application fee
*This only applies if you are applying for a visa.
A tourist visa costs $30USD.
Travellers to Peru must enter the country with a passport valid for at least six months. It must also have at least two blank pages.
Onward travel required: This is a legal requirement for travellers entering Peru. Although it is rarely enforced, your airline could ask you for this and refuse you to board if you fail to provide proof.
Staying longer in Peru?
Renewal of your visa: Tourists can no longer apply for a visa extension whilst in Peru. Those who have entered on the Tarjeta Andina de Migración (TAM, a form completed and handed over at the border) you will need to exit and re-enter Peru.
Border Runs or ‘Visa Runs’: If you were given a 90-day entry upon arrival, you should have no problem obtaining a new one if you cross a border. However, if you have already spent the maximum of 183 days in a year, you may be refused entry. However, this seems largely dependent on luck and the disposition of the immigration officer. There is no clear rule here.
Overstay penalties: If you overstay your Peruvian visa, you will be fined at $1USD per day. It is possible that the fine could be less hassle and actually cheaper than leaving and reentering Peru (although we certainly don’t recommend this)!
Not all border points accept fine payments so make sure you check this prior to trying to leave the country.
Visa information for Suriname:
The USA, Canada and most of Europe including the UK, will require a visa to enter the country. Alternatively, you can apply for a tourist card for stays of less than 90 days. It is now possible to apply for an e-visa or e-tourist card before travel, although it is still possible to obtain these at airports.
Visas and tourist cards are not available at land borders.
The difference between the two is that visas can be used for multiple entries whereas the tourist card will cover you for single entry only.
To obtain a tourist card you must:
- Submit a valid passport (with at least 6 months validity)
- Present a round trip ticket and a trip itinerary
The Tourist Card Fee (single entry only) costs $40USD or €35.
Several countries are exempt from visa requirements. For a full list of visa-exempt countries, please see the Suriname Embassy page.
To enter Suriname, your passport will need to be valid for at least 6 months.
Staying longer in Suriname?
Overstay penalties: You can receive a one year ban from re-entering the country if you overstay. This will be marked in your passport.
Visa information for Uruguay:
Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders and those from Europe including the UK and the USA do not require a visa to enter Uruguay.
If you do not require a visa to enter, you will be granted a stay of up to 90 days.
Citizens from China and India will require a visa.
The following documents are required to apply for a visa:
- Visa application
- Round-trip flight itinerary
- Covering letter which explains the purpose of your visit and itinerary
- Bank statements covering the last three months. You will need a few thousand US dollars.
- Copy of credit/debit cards
- Accommodation reservation
- Police clearance (could be requested)
- Travel history (not necessary but appreciated)
The cost of a visa is $42USD. This fee will only be payable if a visa is granted. An interview is usually required.
To enter Uruguay, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. No additional period of validity is required.
Onward travel required: This is something that you could be asked for, as well as proof of sufficient funds for your trip. There is information online to suggest that you could also be asked to present documents which show proof of your trip’s purpose e.g. tourism. A hotel reservation or something similar should suffice if called on.
Staying longer in Uruguay?
Renewal of your visa: To extend your visa for an additional 90 days you will need to contact the Dirección Nacional de Migración. This extension will come with a fee.
Visa information for Venezuela:
Canadian, Australian, European and British citizens do not need a visa to enter Venezuela. Citizens of these nationalities can enter the country for 90 days upon arrival with a tourist entry card, provided on aircraft or at borders.
Please note: Nationals arriving by boat will need to arrange a visa in advance of travel.
However, those from China and the USA will require a visa for their stay. This must be obtained in advance and costs $30USD. They are multi-entry and are not available on arrival.
To apply for a Venezuelan visa, you will need to submit the following:
- Original passport and two copies of the photo and information page
- Visa application form
- 2 recent passport photos
- Proof of travel arrangements (including onward travel)
- Proof of sufficient funds
- Letter of employment – This letter must state that you are in good standing with your current employer. They must also detail the dates of your annual leave (for this trip) and your expected return date. It must also specify your length of employment, salary and position.
Everyone entering Venezuela must hold a passport which is valid for at least six months with at least one blank page.
Entry vaccinations required: Travellers who enter Venezuela from certain countries (please contact the Venezuelan Ministry of Health for more information) could be asked to show proof of a yellow fever vaccine upon entry.
Onward travel required: Proof of onward travel could be asked for and if not shown, this could prevent you from being given a tourist entry card. However, this is not always enforced.
Staying longer in Venezuela?
Renewal of your visa: You must extend your visa before your current one expires. To do this, you will need to contact the Immigration service (SAIME) and pay a fee for the extension. You can extend for another 90 days.
Overstay penalties: If you overstay your given time in Venezuela, you could be fined or even arrested.
Got more up to date visa information for us? Let us know in our Facebook Community!
Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South America Backpacker + Winging The World
Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind wingingtheworld.com, a travel blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks.
Do I need a visa to travel to Colombia?
Famed for its warm and welcoming atmosphere and its plethora of jaw-dropping national parks, sun-soaked beaches and dynamic cities, Colombia is fast becoming one of South America’s most popular travel destinations, drawing footloose backpackers and family vacationers in droves.
Adding to the appeal, visa requirements for Colombia are fairly straightforward, with visa-free travel available for a large number of countries, plus a simple online visa application process for other nationalities.
As anywhere, requirements can change without warning, so it’s always important to double-check the latest guidance from your local Colombian embassy, but here are the most important things you need to know about visas for Colombia.
Who needs a visa to go to Colombia?
Travelers from 102 countries and territories, including the USA, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Australia and most countries in the EU and EEA, can enter Colombia visa-free as tourists. Upon arrival, visitors from countries on the approved list receive a passport stamp granting a stay of up to 90 days.
There are a few conditions. You’ll need a minimum of six months left on your passport before it expires and you may be asked to show proof of an onward ticket for travel out of Colombia at the end of your stay. Officials may also request evidence of a yellow fever vaccination certificate if you’re entering from another South American country.
As part of current Covid-19 travel requirements, you must also complete the Check-Mig immigration form on the Migración Colombia website. It’s available in English, Spanish and French, and the form must be filled out between 24 hours and one hour before departure for Colombia.
When leaving Colombia, there’s a chance you may be charged an exit tax of COP130,000 (US$35) at the airport. This tax is normally included in the cost of flight tickets, but you should confirm this when checking in for your inbound flight.
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There isn’t too much red tape standing in the way of relaxing on Colombia’s beaches or hiking on its majestic volcanoes © Guillermo Ossa / Shutterstock
Which countries need a visa for Colombia?
Citizens of most nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East (plus some other countries) are not eligible for visa-free access and must apply in advance for a visitor visa to enter the country. There’s a full list of countries and territories whose citizens require a visa on Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Applications for tourist visas should be filed online and the cost varies depending upon your nationality and the country where you are located when applying. Expect to pay around COP310,000 (US$82) for the visa, which is usually valid for a stay of up to 180 days. Make sure you have all of your documents ready before you begin the application process online – the website times out after 30 minutes, deleting any progress you’ve made up until that point.
Citizens of Cambodia, China, India, Macau, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam can enter Colombia visa-free for up to 90 days if they have an existing short-stay visa or residency permit issued by the USA or any Schengen Area country. This document must be valid for at least 180 days beyond the date of your arrival in Colombia.
Some nationalities can stay in Colombia up to 180 days, exploring everywhere from Medellín and Bogotá to the Caribbean coast © sunsinger / Shutterstock
Can I extend my Colombian tourist visa?
If you’re a citizen of a country that has visa-free access to Colombia, you can extend your stay by an additional 90 days by applying for an extension online (in Spanish) or at the offices of Migracíon Colombia (including in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Cartagena). If you have a 180-day visa, this cannot be extended, as this is already the maximum stay allowed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays to the processing of visa applications, so the process of extending your entry stamp must be completed at least two weeks before your existing stamp expires. You will need to provide photocopies of the information page of your passport and your Colombian entry stamp and proof of a booking for onward travel within the next 90 days to support your application.
Extending your tourist stamp allows you to spend a maximum of 180 days in total in Colombia in any 12-month period. Extending costs COP103,000 (US$27) for most nationalities, but it’s free for citizens from a Schengen Area country.
You may want to extend your initial entry stamp to maximize the time spent on Colombia’s gorgeous beaches © DC_Colombia / Getty Images
Visa requirements for working in Colombia
A temporary worker’s visa, known as a migrant (M) visa or M-5 is available for travelers who can prove they have a job lined up with a Colombian employer. This class of visa has a duration of up to three years, and your Colombian employer will need to provide several financial documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the process, including bank statements and proof of tax payments.
You can apply for this class of visa from abroad or while you are in the country on a tourist visit, making it easier to attend interviews with a local employer. While you can leave and enter the country on a working visa, it will expire if you leave Colombia for longer than six consecutive months.
It’s not a cheap process, however. Expect to pay COP196,000 (US$52) for the application process, and a further COP670,000 (US$230) once it has been approved. You can apply online, although you may be required to show documents in person at your local consulate or embassy – there’s a full list on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
If your application is successful, you’ll receive an electronic visa via email, which can be shown to border officials upon arrival and exit from Colombia. There is no legal requirement to have the visa printed in your passport unless you’re staying in Colombia for more than three months; however, it’s highly recommended that you get a copy printed at your local consulate as there’s always the possibility that passport officials may demand to see a physical copy.
Buy the latest edition of The Travel Book
Get ready for a journey through every country in the world. This fourth edition of The Travel Book features incredible photography that illustrates each country, accompanied by a profile that includes details of when to visit, what to see and do and how to learn more about the country’s culture.
Buy the latest edition of The Travel Book
Get ready for a journey through every country in the world. This fourth edition of The Travel Book features incredible photography that illustrates each country, accompanied by a profile that includes details of when to visit, what to see and do and how to learn more about the country’s culture.