A visa run or border run is a brief trip out of the country and back in order to "restart the clock" on one's allowed period of stay, where it would otherwise have expired. Many foreign citizens, who work or live in a country where it is difficult or not possible to extend a visa — will be familiar with such trips.
In some cases, a visa run is necessary to activate new visas or change the immigration status of a person. An example would be leaving a country and then returning immediately to activate a newly issued work visa before a person can legally work.
For example, a foreigner working in Maputo, Mozambique, can get a 1-month visa on entry to the country very easily, but extending this is not an option. So the trick for many is to take the short car journey into South Africa (where many citizens can enter without a visa), do some shopping and then return, picking up a new Mozambique visa on the way.
Visa runs are frowned upon by immigration authorities as such acts may signify that the foreigner wishes to reside permanently and might also work in that country; purposes that visitors are prohibited from engaging in and usually require an immigrant visa or a work visa. Immigration officers may deny re-entry to visitors suspected of engaging in prohibited activities, especially when they have done repeated visa runs and have no evidence of spending reasonable time in their home countries or countries where they have the right to reside and work.
To combat visa runs, some countries have limits on how long visitors can spend in the country without a visa, as well as how much time they have to stay out before "resetting the clock". For example, Schengen countries impose a maximum limit for visitors of 90 days in any 180-day period. Some countries do not "reset the clock" when a visitor comes back after visiting a neighbouring country. For example, the United States does not give visitors a new period of stay when they come back from visiting Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean; instead they are readmitted to the United States for the remaining days granted on their initial entry. Some other countries, e.g. Thailand, allow visitors who arrive by land from neighbouring countries a shorter length of stay than those who arrive by air.
- Try to spend at least a day out of the country on your visa/border run. The longer you stay outside of the country, the more lenient border officers will be.
- Try to do other activities while outside of your main country: go for shopping, visit some other places, so that your trip does not become a tedious repetitive bureaucratic duty.
- Get informed – regularly check forums, reddit, Facebook groups, etc. where long-term expats talk about the rules and various problems they have encountered.
- Read the official rules from an immigration department or a Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The information can sometimes be unclear but it’s worth arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible.
Hong Kong and Macau are popular choices, especially for visa runs from South China. If you're in or near Beijing, consider Mongolia; from Shanghai and thereabouts, consider a flight to Taiwan; and from Yunnan or Guangxi, consider Vietnam. Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan have completely separate immigration regimes and will reset your Chinese visa exactly like travelling to another country.
If you're considering using this strategy to work in China on a business or tourist visa, don't. Though it used to be a popular strategy, the authorities are cracking down.
Nationals of many countries are allowed to stay visa-free in a country up to 365 days in row.
Up to 30 days. Border run is allowed.
Up to 30 days. Border run is allowed.
It's easy to do a visa run to neighboring Argentina or Brazil. If you're looking for something fun while you're across the border, Buenos Aires (a ferry ride away from Colonia or Montevideo) has plenty to see and do, while Santana do Livramento (across the Brazilian border from Rivera) has shopping and Brazilian barbecue restaurants. Or cross at Fray Bentos and see Uruguay's UNESCO-listed industrial heritage on way.
You must get your passport stamped out of Uruguay and into Brazil or Argentina for this to work – it is not enough to go halfway across the bridge and turn back around, or to visit a Brazilian border town without stopping by the immigration posts.
- Costa Rica
- Vietnam (During COVID-19, Vietnam's borders are not fully opened, so you should not do the visa run as you cannot get visa stamped at entry point of Vietnam. Instead, visa extension is the best choice as of February 2022.)