As a freelance tourist or a perpetual tourist many of the problems that face those seeking permanent residency in a country disappear. Other difficulties do arise so compromises may have to be made. Life as a perpetual tourist is an alternative life style or choice compared with living in one country having established legal permanent residency. It is not everyone’s choice. The most immediate difference in traveling to a country as a tourist compared with going to a place where one has residency rights is the financial commitment. As a short term visitor most countries demand that a return or onward ticket is held which must be valid for departure within the period for which admission is granted. The alternative offered by some countries is that the traveler must be able to demonstrate access to sufficient funds for sustenance for the duration of the visit without cost to local social services.
Very often time spent in a country as a tourist will not count towards any qualifying period necessary for application for a permanent residency. There are exceptions to this condition. It is often not possible to obtain an airline ticket or booking for a date of travel beyond a year or so into the future. In Belize continuous presence in the country for a period a year will permit the application for permanent residency. Such a period can be established by periodic renewal of temporary, short term visas. There is a charge made for such visa renewals. The continual proof of access to adequate funds as assessed or judged appropriate by local authorities to ensure self-sufficiency without making claims on social services is the only practical method of ensuring the initial granting and subsequent renewal of a visa. Sometimes a local guarantor for a sum sufficient to cover return, onward or deportation costs is required.
As a freelance tourist a passport is obviously needed. Usually countries insist that it should have an expiry date at least six months after the proposed end of a visit. This may have consequences so far as the next port of call is concerned. This is in spite of the possibility that the next country demands no visa for the passport held. Most countries list on their web sites and at embassies those countries to which visa free entry is permitted. This does not mean that the length of a visit can be indefinite. It must also be remembered that freelance tourists should not seek to obtain visas which are not appropriate for their visit. Working visas or seasonal working (for fruit or crop picking) visas are not intended for freelance tourists.
The holder of a passport of the United States of America can visit over one hundred and sixty countries without requiring a visa. The length of visit may be as long as ninety days for freelance tourists with the possibility of an extension. Some countries have varying times of duration of stays depending on the citizenship of the visitor. The U.S.A. has a “visa waiver” system for citizens of certain countries where the visa is granted automatically with the purchase of an air ticket.
The Schengen visa system allows freelance tourists visits to any of the twenty-six countries which are party to the Schengen agreement. The countries are mostly but not entirely members of the European Union and not all of those in the latter organization are part of the Schengen group. These countries have eliminated the need for border formalities between themselves. There are various kinds of Schengen visas for particular purposes. Details of these and of the application process is specified at this web site.
In general it will be necessary to enquire at the relevant embassy or consulate of the country to which entry is sought for visa information and details. It may be possible to obtain such information at one’s own ministry of foreign affairs (or equivalent department). The internet has a wealth of details on such matters but it must be taken with the caution that some authorities are not always diligent in keeping information current. Checking with the relevant country’s diplomatic representation is prudent before leaving for a visit. Often an airline will not confirm a booking if it has doubts about the possibility of a passenger’s entry at the destination. This cannot be relied upon and there would be no chance of a claim against the carrier if immigration authorities at the destination refused entry. Official detention is a probability if there is no appropriate flight out immediately. Alternatively a new return ticket may have to be bought on a different airline. Clearly life may not be less complicated for a tourist compared with a person seeking a permanent residence visa. That said, however, most countries generally welcome freelance tourists for the economic benefits that they bring.
Many countries deal with the issue or validation of a freelance tourist's visa at the point of entry. Sometimes a fee is payable. A U.S. citizen must pay a fee for entry to, for example, Chile. This is purely because America makes a similar charge for Chilean citizens entering the U.S.A. In many matters reciprocity of arrangements between countries is normal.
If a freelance tourist requires a visa it may have to be obtained before departure at the appropriate embassy or consulate. Such a visa is usually endorsed in the tourist’s passport. It must be understood that the final arbiter of the right of entry is the immigration officer at the point of entry. Many things may have changed between countries after a visa is endorsed in a traveler’s passport. The local official will be the one in possession of the latests facts relevant to the visa. Occasionally the visa is not endorsed in a traveler’s passport but is issued as a separate document. Russia is one country that adopts this practice.
It is important that travelers keep in touch with current affairs and news in order to be aware of political, economic and social developments that can affect projected trips. Some things can seem to be quite trivial but they may affect plans so much that trips have to be delayed or abandoned.
Egypt and Israel now maintain diplomatic relations. Prior to this arrangement Egypt would deny entry to travelers in whose passport there was an Israeli immigration stamp. Israel was aware of this and would give tourists the option of having a stamp endorsed or not having one. If a traveler held two passports then one could be used for entry to Israel and the other for trips to Arab states that followed the same practice as Egypt. Tourists must know of such restrictions to avoid delays or having to abort visits.
During the period of the Rhodesian UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) the Zambian immigration authorities would endorse the passports of those moving between the countries with a stamp that filled completely one page of a normal 30 page passport. Thus a return trip would totally use two pages. A passport must be renewed not just because it reaches its date of expiry but also for other reasons. It may be that the holder’s photograph is no longer a true or recognizable picture. Another reason necessitating passport renewal is that there is no further space for immigration endorsement stamps. Passports are not cheap. The Zambian full page stamp would fill a passport very quickly for frequent travelers between the two countries. It was an example of political “tit for tat” which adversely impinged upon those innocently or necessarily traveling to and from (the then) Rhodesia. This does not occur now that Rhodesia has attained its legal independence as Zimbabwe.
It is knowledge of details such as the above examples that can avoid major problems when traveling. Keeping in touch with what is happening in countries to which a visit is planned can ensure that things go smoothly at border crossings and other points of entry.
It is impossible to specify just what documents are necessary to support an application for a visitor’s visa in every situation. There will be variations according to the country concerned. It is possible to list a basic set of documents that a traveler should have available at all times for safety, security and identification purposes.
There is no point in obtaining police clearance certificates in advance. Most countries accord such documents a “life” of only six months. Usually these are not required for tourist visas.
Medical examinations are also not normally required of the freelance tourist visa applicant. In any event examinations are usually accorded a “life”, at best, of one year.
Vaccinations are needed less currently than was the case a few years ago. Smallpox has officially been eradicated and no prophylactic vaccination against it is now necessary. Some vaccinations have a currency of many years. A certificate prepared by a doctor specifying the date of administration may be useful to prevent repeated and unnecessary injections. A tetanus vaccination, for example, lasts for up to four years. Proof that an injection is still current may be helpful to avoid repeat doses if one experiences an adverse or painful local reaction. Protection against yellow fever and cholera are often examples of these two situations. Most vaccinations are country specific and may also be seasonal in the need for them. In some cases the current medical situation in a country may require a vaccination. Unexpected or unusual epidemic outbreaks of a disease may necessitate the need for a vaccination. Exposure to malaria requires preventative medication, usually orally, before and while there is a risk of contracting the disease.
In all of the above respects the traveler should obtain the latest advice from official sources. Most often this would be from the appropriate embassy or consulate. Authorities in the “home” country may be reliable. In America the Centre for Disease Control may provide advice as may the World Health Organization more generally.
As with documents there is no universal procedure for obtaining a tourist visa. The only safe recommendation is always to obtain up to date information from the from the most authoritative source. Reliance on “hearsay” or “gossip” is to invite a disaster. Advice from an embassy or consulate is best. At the very least reference to a country’s official web site should be made. If the local language is likely to present a problem then the employment of an attorney may be the best course of action. Only care and meticulous planning can ensure a successful visit.
Life as a freelance tourist may not be attractive to everyone. Living continuously from a suitcase and without a “firm” base is not for all. Although one may be free of government rules and regulations compared with anyone living as a permanent resident life may not be less complicated. The following list, which is not exhaustive, specifies matters with which it is useful or necessary to have at least a “nodding” acquaintance.
The point of some of the above matters is clear. So far as banking arrangements are concerned there may be complications for Americans (citizens or residents) desiring a bank account for local purposes owing to “FATCA” - the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. This United States law has caused some banks to refuse to open or maintain accounts for Americans.
Taxation matters are of interest, again, to Americans in particular because the U.S.A. taxes on a residential and citizenship status not on a territorial basis. As was stated above most countries welcome tourists. The myth that a freelance tourist is just a tax avoider is just that – a myth. The tourist pays his fair share of local government taxes via, inter alia, hotel taxes, national taxes by way of sales tax/VAT(value added tax)/GST(goods and services tax) and visa fees while making little if any demands on locally provided government services. In a tourist’s home country prolonged absences also mitigate the calls on “home” services. Those which are made, such as for passport or driving license renewals, are paid for – heavily usually.
Different legal systems accord varying rights to accused persons. This can be a shock if what is a misdemeanor offense at home lands one in detention. A different burden of proof of innocence or guilt can also be a surprise. Dual systems of civil and religious law and separate enforcement bodies for each can be difficult to understand.
Language problems are not insuperable. One exacerbation of linguistic difficulties is where a language uses a different written script from the traveler’s natural one. This may be true the cases of Greece, China, many Arabic speaking nations and some Asian countries such as India. In these countries little guidance or information can be gleaned by visitors from street signs, advertising hoardings, public transport destination/direction indicators and timetables.
Non-residents are often prohibited from owning land or property in general although condominiums can often be purchased. It may be useful to buy a condominium if a country is visited regularly. It does represent a continuous expense and legal responsibilities must be fully understood.
Intestacy regulations differ from place to place. If it is intended to remain in a country for the full allowed extent as a freelance tourist or on a regular basis it would be as well to know such rules. Keeping someone, perhaps a relative, aware of plans and moves would be wise in the event of something unfortunate happening. There may be limited time before a country acquires the rights in a deceased estate. Swift action may be necessary to give effect to a last will and testament. It may be useful to lodge a copy of such a document with a local attorney who has instructions to act appropriately if necessary.
As mentioned this list is not exhaustive and personal circumstances may give rise to other imperatives. Living out of a suitcase is not as fearsome as it might seem. With planning only four moves a year need be made where advantage is taken of 90 day stays. Toting heavy bags need not be a burden after a while. With the help of friends much can be left at regular “stops” so that “traveling light” can become the norm.
The Freedom Confidential organization is dedicated to those who aspire to a life as a freelance tourist. At its web site is a wealth of information to assist those preferring life with less government intervention. The membership subscription is not exorbitant and there are frequent “special offers”.
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