Information correct as of July 21, 2019, obtained from www.travel.state.gov. Please always check the latest guidance at U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs before booking a trip.
These are the visa requirements by country in Southeast Asia:
- Thailand: visa exempt for up to 30 days
- Vietnam: visa required for up to 30 days
- Cambodia: visa upon arrival for 1 month
- Laos: visa required for up to 30 days
- The Philippines: visa upon arrival for 30 days
- Singapore: visa exempt for 90 days
- Malaysia: visa exempt for 90 days
- Brunei: visa exempt for 90 days
- Indonesia: visa exempt for up to 30 days
- Myanmar (Burma): visa required for up to 28 days
- Timor-Leste: visa upon arrival for 30 days
As a U.S. citizen, you may be fortunate enough to hold one of the most accessible passports when it comes to countries you can visit visa-free. However, that doesn’t mean you can pass through border control with ease, frolicking from one country to the next! There are a few rules and visa regulations that you ought to research before you travel.
Luckily for you, we’ve compiled all of the information you’ll need to know about getting in and out of countries in Southeast Asia.
A Few Things You Should Know
Before we get started on country-specific visa requirements, take a note of the following requirements that apply to most, if not all, immigration policies across Southeast Asia.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months, from the date of entry into any country in Southeast Asia. If you have a passport due to expire within that timeframe, you may be turned away.
If your passport is damaged, or if it has pages missing, there is a chance that you will also be refused entry. So remember to keep it in a safe place when you go cliff-diving in the Philippines!
Proof of Onward Travel
Immigration officials may ask for proof of your onward travel. Some airlines will even refuse to board passengers without evidence of a departure flight from your destination.
Remember that many airlines offer free cancellations or flexibility within 24 hours of booking, so it is possible to book ahead of time then modify your booking upon arrival!
For visa applications both prior to traveling and upon arrival, you may be asked for passport-sized photos that have been taken within the last year.
Keep the local immigration officials happy with your cool efficiency by carrying around extra passport photos when crossing borders. Visa requirements can change without warning so when in doubt, bring some extra photos with you!
Country-Specific Entry Requirements
Visa-exempt for up to 30 days.
U.S. tourists can visit Thailand for 30 days, visa-free! However, if you arrive at the border by land, you will only be granted a visa for 15 days.
It is possible that you will be asked for proof of adequate finances for the duration of stay, usually 10,000 Baht per person (~US$305) or 20,000 Baht per family. This can be in the form of cash or travelers check. You may also have to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination, especially if you’ve traveled to a country that is known for having Yellow Fever.
For the most updated information, make sure to check the Royal Thai Embassy website.
U.S. citizens will be denied entry to Vietnam without an appropriate visa. When applying for a visa, make sure to choose the most applicable category detailed here. If you change the reason for your travel, you will have to change your visa accordingly. If you will be working in Vietnam, you will need to receive a work permit before applying for your visa.
U.S. Citizens are allowed to enter with an e-visa. You can obtain a single-entry e-visa for a maximum stay of 30 days online. The fee for an e-visa is $25 and it will be processed within 3 working days. The e-visa also requires to enter and exit only through certain ports.
Be wary of businesses and travel agencies that offer pre-approval for “visa on arrival.” You might find you’ll be charged additional fees at the airport to process your visa. It is recommended to obtain a visa prior to arrival.
Tourist visas can be granted upon arrival for 1 month from the date of entry. Tourist visas upon arrival cost $30, you can also get an e-visa online before you travel.
It is now standard practice for Cambodian immigration officials at airports to collect an electronically scanned image of your fingerprints upon arrival, so don’t be alarmed when you are asked for your fingerprints! You will also need two passport-sized photos.
Make sure your passport is stamped at the airport, and keep the departure form safe to avoid penalties on your departure.
Tourist visa required. Available at some official ports of entry for up to 30 days.
If you are in the region, you can also enquire about long-stay visas from the Laos Embassies in Bangkok (Thailand) or Hanoi (Vietnam). When you enter Laos, make sure you get an entry stamp in your passport. Not having a legitimate entry stamp could lead to arrest or a large fine.
It is highly recommended to avoid entry to Laos by boat or ferry, it also illegal and dangerous to swim from Thailand to Laos (just in case anyone was crazy enough to consider it). On a serious note, make sure you enter and exit Laos from the official ports otherwise you will be at risk of fines and even imprisonment.
Visa upon arrival for 30 days.
Upon entry, your passport will be stamped with an entry visa, valid for 30 days. You will need to provide proof of an onward flight. If you overstay your visa limit, you may be detained or fined.
You can visit the Philippine Bureau of Immigration for more information and details on how to apply for an extension. This website also announces important information such as typhoon warnings and changes in visa requirements.
Visa exempt for up to 90 days.
A sovereign city-state and island country where you don’t need a visa to enter for stays of up to 90 days! This generous exemption applies to both tourism and business visits. If you need a student or work visa, you should contact your closest embassy.
Visa exempt for up to 90 days.
Similar to Malaysia’s smaller neighboring country of Singapore, Malaysia doesn’t require a visa for up to 90 days if you are a U.S. citizen coming for business or tourism purposes. If you’d like to stay for up to two months longer, you can apply for an extension with the Malaysian Immigration Department
However, there are a few rules you’ll have to adhere to. If you enter or exit Sabah or Sarawak, you must have your passport with you, even when arriving on domestic flights within Malaysia. If you have dual citizenship in Malaysia and the United States, the border control may ask you to forfeit your U.S. Passport as they do not recognize dual nationality.
Despite tolerant visa restrictions, immigration authorities will not tolerate foreigners who overstay their welcome. Make sure you organize your exit plans ahead of time and stick to your plans to avoid any unwanted fines and detention.
Visa exempt for up to 90 days.
U.S. citizens may enter Brunei for up to 90 days without a visa. Those who overstay their visa face strict penalties that can include jail sentences, fines, and even caning! Make sure the entry stamp in your passport indicates the validity of your stay. You must also have one page for a stamp, plus at least six pages blank in your passport. This differs from the usual two pages in other Southeast Asian countries.
Brunei also has HIV/AIDS restrictions. Every traveler is required to fill out a health card, may be required to undergo an examination, and may be quarantined if they suspect the traveler has HIV/AIDS or have come into contact with someone who has it.
Additionally, it’s also important to respect Brunei’s Islamic customs and social values before and during your stay. You will be subject to local laws and they can differ greatly from those in the U.S. so do your research beforehand!
Visa exempt for less than 30 days.
To be granted a no-fee stamp upon arrival, you must have a return or onward journey ticket from Indonesia. You also can’t have been previously refused entry to Indonesia and the visa exempt stamp does not allow extensions.
Indonesia also does not accept U.S. emergency passports–the 12-page passports that are issued overseas. If you are granted an emergency passport during your travels, you will have to apply for a visa before attempting to enter Indonesia. Make sure to have your passport and visa with you at all time, in case of a random check by officials.
However, there is another way to travel within Indonesia that can be extended once (for a maximum of 30 days): pay $35USD for a “visa-on-arrival”. Well worth it if you’re considering spending longer than a month to explore some of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands!
If you’re traveling to Indonesia for non-tourism purposes such as business, journalism, or work, you will have to obtain a visa in advance. You can also learn about multiple-visit visas that are available via an application process on the Indonesian Immigration website.
Visa required for up to 28 days.
A country in Southeast Asia bordered by India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, and China. You can acquire a visa by applying to the Government of Myanmar’s e-visa program. Once approved, you’ll need to use your visa within three months and it will validate upon the date of entry. Bring your letter of visa approval to show to officials at border control.
You will be required to display a valid visa at airports, train stations, and even hotels. Remember to keep your visa and your passport on you at all times as security checkpoints are common, especially outside of tourist areas.
About the Author
Dave Weatherall// That Travel Blog
Dave left school when he was 17 to pursue a life without an office! With his blog, That Travel Blog, he helps people make money online, so they can travel. When you download one of That Travel Blog’s e-guides, 100% of your payment goes to micro-finance entrepreneurs in developing countries. You can follow Dave’s adventures on Instagram @thattravelblog.