What if you don’t want to leave? Maybe it’s been a few weeks and you’ve found the right place with the right people, and the thought of leaving is horrifying. You have options … but those options are going to vary a lot depending on where you are and, believe it or not, your age.
Things to know about extending your travels:
Visa, needed everywhere you want to be. Nearly every country in the world has a time limit for how long you can stay. Most countries will either give you a visa (small “v”) when you arrive, if you need one at all. Other countries require you to obtain one in advance, either online or by visiting an embassy. On one end of that spectrum are countries like Georgia and Palau that offer one-year stays for United States citizens. At the other end are countries like Togo, which offers only seven-days, though there are ways that can be extended. If you’re traveling through Europe, a short stay visit in the Schengen Area entitles you to 90 days every six months.
Tourist visas are relatively easy to obtain, and for most people it’s all you’ll need. If you want to stay longer than that visa allows, you’ll need a different visa, if that country offers one. Most tourist visas don’t allow you to get a real job.
Work holidays. Some countries offer a working holiday visa, which allows some hours or days of work and a longer length visa. These usually have an age cap at around 30, as they’re meant for younger people. Some also have limits to how many people are accepted. Options for Americans are more limited than those for citizens of many other countries, but there are programs in, for example, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal and South Korea.
Work for accommodation. If your trip is limited more by budget than visa, or you’re able to get a visa for longer than you can really afford, working at a hostel in exchange for accommodation is a common way to stay longer for even less expense. You’ll work for a few hours, usually cleaning or filling in on a shift, and get a night’s stay out of it.
Go Back to school. There might be opportunities to get a degree in the country you’re interested in traveling to. While many universities have such programs, availability and eligibility varies greatly. Getting a visa to attend school probably allows you to work a certain number of hours per week, but that will vary depending on the country.
Run for the border (actually, don’t). I’ve met several people living in countries well past what was legally allowed. Often this is achieved by making a “visa run” where they left the country briefly, then returned, “refreshing” their visa for that country. This is, at best, dubiously legal. Some countries don’t care. Others very much do. I met one couple – she was a resident and he was not – who were trying this. On the third visa run the border guard told him that he knew what was going on and while the guard would let him pass this time, the next guard might not. On the other hand, in some countries, visa runs were advertised at multiple tourist bus companies. This isn’t something I’d try, especially when the punishment is often not being allowed back into the country, or worse, having trouble visiting any country in the future. For instance, here’s what happens if you overstay in Europe.
Sponsorship. If you’ve decided that this is the new spot for the new you, finding a company to sponsor you is a sort of fast-track towards residency and perhaps citizenship. While on a temporary visa a friend of mine found work as a photographer, and the company liked her so much they brought her on full time and sponsored her. She just got her permanent resident card.
So if you want to stay, it’s potentially doable, especially if you’re young. Generally though countries don’t want you treating their temporary visas like a back door to citizenship. Don’t risk your future ability to travel by ignoring how long you’re allowed in a country. It’s best to do it legally. Worst case, you can always go back next year!