The U.S. passport may not be quite as powerful as those from Germany or Singapore, but it still affords preferential access and reduced visa fees for many countries worldwide. Destinations like China and Russia have long been known for their arduous visa process for Americans, even for short-term visits. What’s often overlooked, however, is the handful of countries making it easy for Americans to stay for extended periods of time. We’ve compiled a list of seven countries offering U.S. citizens the lengthiest terms to visit and reside, from 240 days to eternity. Whether you’re looking to have a longer-than-usual vacation or dreaming of relocating for months or years at a time, these destinations might be for you.
1. Marshall Islands (Indefinite)
Americans can visit this little-known Pacific archipelago visa-free for as long as they choose. The 29 atolls that make up the Marshall Islands lie roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii, and contain thousands of islands. The main port of entry is on Majuro Atoll, which also includes the capital city of Majuro. Though Majuro offers the most amenities and easiest opportunities to mingle with locals, it’s worth venturing to outer lying atolls to escape the pollution from overdevelopment. The Marshallese are expert nautical navigators, so don’t be deterred by the modest outrigger canoes used to travel the country’s 750,000 square miles of ocean between 70 square miles of islands. There are also ample opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, and spearfishing. The Marshall Islands don’t possess any true must-see attractions, but rather present the chance to drop off the grid and experience a lesser-known culture, stroll empty beaches, and see a country that may be submerged by rising ocean levels in the near future. For full transparency, there is a $20 fee to leave the country for anyone between the ages of 13 and 59, but that’s a small price to pay for an unlimited stay in the Pacific.
2. Micronesia (Indefinite)
Another far-flung island nation in the Pacific, the Federated States of Micronesia provides American visitors with the equally alluring offer of an indefinite stay. Micronesia has somewhat more name recognition than the Marshall Islands, though it still only sees roughly 40,000 visitors annually. Micronesia’s main attraction is its extensive coral reefs. Chuuk Lagoon boasts over 50 wrecks at various depths, allowing snorkelers to get a glimpse into colorful reefs teeming with marine life. Micronesia’s landmass is much more substantial than the neighboring Marshall Islands, with the main island Pohnpei reaching an elevation over 2,500 feet. That being said, Pohnpei’s coast and smaller islets are vulnerable to rising sea levels. One such location is the ancient city ruins at Nan Madol. The city is thought to have been built around the 12th century, while the islets were constructed atop coral centuries earlier. Heading inland, Pohnpei features a dense cloud forest and waterfalls heading up the slopes of Mount Nahnalaud. Beyond Pohnpei, Micronesia encompasses roughly 600 islands, with nine distinct languages spoken among the 100,000 inhabitants scattered throughout the archipelago.
3. Svalbard, Norway (Indefinite)
Although the archipelago of Svalbard is part of Norway, it manages its own immigration policy, which grants visa-free entry to residents of all countries. Foreign visitors can also get work permits in Svalbard, but it certainly takes some toughness to stick out the arctic winter (only 3,000 permanent residents do so). Svalbard’s southernmost point sits 76 degrees north of the equator, making the archipelago the northernmost permanently inhabited place on earth (excluding some research stations). The Gulf Stream makes Svalbard more habitable than comparable latitudes elsewhere, which means summers are surprisingly temperate. In fact, the summer is an ideal time to explore the stunningly rugged landscape, which includes fjords, glaciers, mountains, and stark ice fields. There are many options for traversing Svalbard’s wilderness, too. Visitors can go dogsledding and snowmobiling out of the main town, Longyearbyen, and into the remote interior. Considering Svalbard’s harsh terrain and the reality that there are more polar bears than people, it’s advisable to join a professional tour. Other unique experiences include touring the iceberg-filled bays to spot whales and walruses, as well as trekking out to the Russian Pyramiden outpost. Pyramiden showcases the contrast between the wasteland created by Russian mining operations and the backdrop of the magnificent Nordenskjöldbreen glacier. Reaching Svalbard from mainland Norway is fairly inexpensive. The archipelago is far from a luxury destination, but its remoteness makes it pricey for an already notoriously expensive country.
4. Albania (One Year)
Albania, long isolated from most of the world by Stalinist-style Communism, now permits Americans to stay up to one year without a visa. Albania has gradually been gaining attention as a cheap Mediterranean destination since the democratic transition of power in 1992. The transition was far from smooth, with a government collapse in 1997, which explains why Albania has lagged behind nearby tourism hot spots like Greece and Croatia. Today, visitors can enjoy the compact nation’s array of mountain villages, beaches, and the vibrant capital city, Tirana.
Tirana’s days under Communist rule feel far removed among the bustling public squares and brightly-painted buildings lining grand boulevards. The Blloku neighborhood, which was exclusively reserved for government elites during Communist rule, has transformed into the chicest neighborhood in Tirana. Here, you’ll find hip Albanians dining and drinking at trendy bars and cafes, with a sizable group congregating in the public square late into the night. Tirana is home to numerous Communist relics, mosques, and museums, but a less conspicuous attraction awaits below ground at Bunk’Art. This dual gallery and museum sits in a five-story subterranean bunker that was designed for Enver Hoxha, Albania’s former communist leader. There is more to Albania than its capital, though, so ditch the congested city streets and head for the stunning coastline. Notable spots include the city of Sarande, as well as the smaller towns of Dhërmi, Ksamil, and Himara. Many hidden treasures await in Albania’s inland, too, such as the charming Ottoman town of Berat. Albania’s interior is dominated by the Bjeshkët e Namuna (Accursed Mountains in English), which reach elevations well over 8,000 feet. Hiking trails connect to small villages nestled in the valleys of these striking mountains. There are numerous short and multi-day routes leading out of Shkodra.
5. Georgia (One Year)
Not to be confused with the U.S. state of Georgia, the nation of Georgia lies in the Caucasus region at the Eurasian crossroads. Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, boasts rich cultural sites and an active cafe and nightlight scene. Meanwhile, a plethora of outdoor activities await among the lush mountains and valleys outside the capital. Most visitors enter Georgia via Tbilisi, and exploring the city’s maze of cobblestoned streets is a must. The Old Town displays a mix of influences, including Ottoman-style baths, Art Nouveau buildings, and quaint brick churches. The crumbling Narikala Fortress provides a scenic backdrop to the lanes of balconied homes and cafes. Visitors can either ascend on the precarious staircases or admire the scene from above on the aerial tram. Tbilisi’s bustling markets merit some browsing, too, especially the Saturday flea market. Be prepared for some intense haggling and bargaining -- the wine, antiques, and local art are well worth the effort.
Visitors will find a slower pace of life in the mountainous countryside. The Svaneti region, which managed to avoid conquest for centuries, offers excellent hiking trails and extremely well-preserved villages. Svaneti’s peaceful isolation also ensured that many of the historic church paintings and frescoes survived today. Another historic location, Vardzia, did not survive foreign siege, but still maintains its magnificence above the Mtkvari river valley. Vardzia’s system of caves and stairways were built into the mountainside by a Georgian king in the 12th century to serve as a monastery housing approximately 2,000 monks. The cave city contains hundreds of rooms, a dozen churches, and a couple dozen wine cellars. Georgians take their wine seriously, with the finest vintages hailing from the Kakheti region.
6. Palau (One Year)
Palau’s archipelago of over 500 islands lies between the Philippines and Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Like the other Pacific island nations on this list, Palau is sparsely populated and spread over a vast area. One key difference is Palau’s topography of limestone islands covered in forests. The most well-known of these rocky islands is Eil Malk -- not for its name, but for its inner marine lake, which is chock-full of jellyfish. Known as Jellyfish Lake, this is just one of roughly 70 marine lakes throughout the island chain that are connected to the ocean via tunnels and gaps in the limestone. Jellyfish Lake sees millions of golden jellyfish traveling across the lake each day. And since the jellyfish lack stingers, visitors can snorkel among the incredible animals safely. Beyond swimming with the jellies, there are several world-renowned dive sites -- namely, Ulong Channel and Blue Holes.
Despite its size (Palau has a population of 21,500 residents), there are a handful of well-designed museums exhibiting local Palauan culture. The Belau National Museum & Bai features local artwork as well as a traditional thatched-roof meeting house (called bai in Palauan). Palau was also the site of World War II battles, with several aircraft, tanks, and other wreckages littering the landscape. Koror, the main island, has excellent secluded camping and trekking in its interior and outer beaches. Here, you’ll also find the capital, Koror City, a pleasant town with a surprising mix of bars and international cuisine.
7. The Bahamas (240 days)
Unlike many destinations on this list, the Bahamas are no stranger to tourism, receiving about six million visitors annually. Totaling 700 islands, the Bahamas are home to many beautiful beaches, coastal mangrove forests, coral reefs, and a laid-back island culture -- all reasons to take advantage of the favorable visa policy and extend your trip. Most short-term and first-time visitors stick to the main islands of Grand Bahama and New Providence (Nassau). Grand Bahama’s range of resorts and natural attractions at Lucayan National Park make it a family-friendly destination. Nassau’s colonial downtown is a hit for its shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Plus, it’s close to white-sand beaches. A longer stay allows for more time to be spent among some of the outer islands, too. Consider heading to the Bahama’s largest island, Andros, which is home to the third-largest barrier reef in the world. Divers and snorkelers have a wide selection of reefs, blue holes, and underwater grottos to explore. Another option, Bimini, is located closer to Miami than many of its fellow Bahamian islands. Bimini is renowned for its deep-sea fishing. Visitors may want to take a day trip to Big Major Cay, which is home to a troupe of feral pigs who’ve become famous on the internet for their eagerness to swim up to visitors in the calm shallows. A more off-the-beaten-path option is Long Island, located in the southern part of the archipelago. Here, you’ll find fewer crowds and more affordable pink-sand beaches than Harbour Island.
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