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Do You Need a Visa to Move to Another Country?

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Modern media has done a rather terrible job at showing what it takes to move abroad.

Cue trailer:
After a blunder of failed relationships and a sinking career, a desperate Hollywood main character says, "I'll move to France," and 20 minutes later... they're in France.

In reality, this isn't the full picture. If you want to move to another country, you need a visa. But what is a visa and how do you get one?

Do You Need a Visa to Move to Another Country?

So what is a visa?

Put simply, a visa to move abroad is a permission from your destination country that allows you to live there for a specific period of TIME, for a specific PURPOSE.

A visa can take form as:

  • A sticker in your passport of citizenship,
  • A separate paper document, or
  • An identity card issued by your destination country.

There are many types of visas. Some would only allow you to either work or study, some would allow both, some are issued because you are a spouse to a local citizen, some are issued only to retirees, and so on.

"I have strong passport (from a developed country). Do I still need a visa?"

If you are only VISITING a country with a strong passport, chances are you might not need a visa (this depends from one country to another).

But MOVING is not the same as a VISITING. To MOVE abroad, you will most likely need a visa.

When you VISIT a country, you are there as a tourist, and typically:

  • You are only allowed to stay for a relatively short time (⩽90 days in many cases), although some countries permit a longer stay and/or extensions
  • You are not allowed to be employed locally
  • You cannot apply for any resident identification nor access most local government services (e.g. universal healthcare)

When you MOVE to another country:

  • You will be allowed to stay for a longer period of time (⩾90 days if on a temporary visa), or even permanently if you have permanent residency or second citizenship there
  • You can apply for resident identification and access some, if not most local government services

Is it possible to move abroad without a visa?

For the majority of 5–7+ billion people in the world though, they would need a visa to move abroad.

But yes, there are exceptions, such as moving from one EU country to another (due to the EU freedom of movement), or if you have dual citizenship. In these cases, you can technically move abroad with only a one-way ticket without needing a visa.