What Visa-Free Entry Really Means

BY Wade Shepard TIMEOctober 29, 2014 PRINT

One of the biggest misnomers in travel is the term “visa free entry.” Visa free entry only rarely exists, but this term is thrown around like it’s a widespread and common phenomenon. It’s only visa free entry when you can enter a country without having your passport stamped. Some examples:

1. Americans and Canadians don’t need visas to visit each other’s countries.
2. Western Europeans can travel around the EU visa-free.
3. Australians and New Zealanders can freely travel and live in each other’s countries.

There are actually very few examples of visa-free entry in the world of immigration, but you would not know this by how often this term is used. More often than not, what visa-free really means is visa on arrival. It’s not visa free entry if you need to have you’re passport stamped. That stamp that the immigration official puts in your passport IS A VISA.

What is a visa?


An endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a specified period of time in a country.

“Do you need a visa to go there?”

This is a common question of world travel. The answer is simple:

More often than not, when you hear or read the phrase “visa-free entry” it’s a lie. Unless you’re visiting a country that has a true visa-free arrangement with your country of citizenship, you need a visa. Whether you need to apply for it in advance or not is the question.

There are two ways of receiving a visa:

1. You apply for it at a consulate in advance.
2. You show up at the border and get the visa on arrival.

But, in the end, both of these visas are the same: they both tell you how long you’re permitted to stay in a country.

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Copyright © 2014 by Vagabond Journey Travel. This article was written by Wade Shepard and originally published on

*Image of visa immigration stamps via Shutterstock

Wade Shepard
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