What Is an Exit Visa?

An exit visa is a government-issued document granting an individual permission to leave a country. Most concerns about obtaining a visa are related to the entrance to a country by a non-citizen and that person's right to work there or stay long-term. However, some countries require exit visas as well.

Key Takeaways

  • Few countries require an exit visa, but it's wise to check with the embassy or consulate before traveling.
  • An exit visa may be required as proof that an ex-pat worker has paid taxes on local income.
  • The U.S. State Department website lists all visa requirements and other rules, and the hazards of each country.
  • A traveler may be at risk of not being allowed to leave a country for days if they lose or travel with an expired exit visa.
  • Exit visas are not needed to visit all countries, although there are exceptions like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

How an Exit Visa Works

Countries that require U.S. citizens to have exit visas include Russia, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Cuba had an exit visa requirement for U.S. citizens but eliminated it in 2013.

Generally, business visitors with commercial visas may be required to obtain an exit visa before leaving so that the local government can verify that any taxes owed on income earned in the country have been paid.

The website of the embassy or consulate of any nation you plan to visit will list all visa and other requirements for visitors from other countries.

Risk of Not Having an Exit Visa

A traveler with an expired, lost, or stolen visa may be unable to leave a country for some days, and even before that may have problems securing a hotel room or booking transportation within the country.

Those who overstay a visa generally face a wait of three to 20 business days before obtaining an exit visa. In extreme cases, a traveler overstaying a visa could be fined or jailed.

The U.S. State Department website regularly updates information relevant to U.S. travelers, from visa requirements to political events and health alerts.

Examples of Exit Visa Use

The nature and uses of exit visas vary by county. In Russia, for example, a visitor who overstays a scheduled trip must request an exit visa that includes an explanation of the reason for their prolonged presence in the country.

In Saudi Arabia, obtaining an exit visa is an essential step in the departure process, mainly if the foreign citizen has been working in the country. People who move to Saudi Arabia for a job may only remain for the duration of a work contract. As the contract's expiration approaches, the expatriate must secure an exit visa, with an employer's cooperation, in preparation for leaving. The worker typically must resign from the position and then wait while the employer submits the documentation. Any delay may force the expatriate to stay in the country until it is resolved.

Special Considerations

The practice of requiring an exit visa has raised questions about human rights, particularly among low-paid migrant workers who may face exploitation by their employers. Workers who stand up for their rights or quit their jobs can face retaliation by employers, who may refuse to supply an exit visa.

For migrant workers, the exit visa process may require signatures from several employers, making the process even more demanding.