A man with his passport looking at the visa stamped into it.

If you are thinking about moving abroad, you’ll need to explore immigration visa & residency permit types. There are so many options that it can be confusing to understand the best types of visa or residence permit for you. We recommend that you have a look at our country pages. There you’ll find all available visa or residency permit options for your chosen country. This article, however, breaks down all of the general visa and permit types that are available. You will come away with an understanding of what is possible around the world!

We’ll group visa types into five broad categories.

  1. Family Visa Types
  2. Work Visa and Professional Visa Types
  3. Tourist Visa Types
  4. Financial Situation Visa Types
  5. International Treaty Visa Types

Family Types of Visas

Descent and Double Descent visas

Do you have a direct family link to a country? If so, you may be eligible for a visa or permit to live and work in that country. To this end, you’ll need to know the history of your parents, grandparents, or other ancestors. For example, find out:

  • Where were they born?
  • How long did they live in each country?
  • What citizenships did they hold?
  • Did they renounce any citizenship?

Family Immigration Visa & Residency Permit Types

A family visa is a scheme to reunite immediate and extended family members. An example may be a person granted permanent residency through a professional visa. The visa holder may be able to apply to have family members join them. The visa may apply only to immediate family, meaning spouse and dependent children. In addition, other countries are more flexible with family visas available to siblings, parents, and others.

Parental Visas

A parent visa is a family visa that applies only to parents. This means if you have a residency visa in a country, your parents will be able to apply for residency. Similarly, some countries offer the same visa to the parents of your spouse.

Fiancé or Fiancée Visa or Marriage Visas

If you are engaged to marry someone, countries may offer a fiancé or fiancée visas. Generally, these visas are issued with a time limit for the completion of the marriage. Moreover, you will often need to prove that your relationship is in “good faith”, and not only to get the fiancé or fiancée visa.

Spouse or Marriage Visas

A spouse visa is a family visa that applies only to your spouse. The definition of a spouse can vary by country. As a result, you need to check to see if your partnership is recognised by the country you are interested in moving to. This can include same-sex marriage, de facto relationships, religious ceremony marriages, legal marriages, polygamous marriages, and others. Moreover, you will often need to prove that your relationship is in “good faith”, and not solely to get the marriage visa.

Addressing past wrong visas

Countries sometimes recognize that past policies were wrong. In recognition of those that were unjustly denied citizenship or forced to emigrate, countries are offering citizenship to their descendants. These can sometimes go back hundreds of years. Sephardic Jews from Portugal, people impacted by the Nazi policies of WW2, and others may fall into these categories.

Work Visa and Professional types of visas

Au-Pair Visas

An au-pair visa is generally issued as a part of a program. Mostly you’ll need to have a concrete offer of employment from an approved family. The visa is usually time-limited, and there are restrictions on partaking in other employment.

Digital Nomads

Currently, no government offers a specific Digital Nomad visa category. The Estonian government has been working on the release of the first Digital Nomad visa. Several other visa classes are commonly used by Digital Nomads to live and work in countries around the world.

See our blog on the best visas for Digital nomads in Asia and Europe.

Freelancer or Self-Employment Visas

Countries offer a freelancer visa to people who can show they have a viable business and a steady income. They are offering their services to multiple clients on a freelance basis. To qualify, you’ll often need to demonstrate your skills, capabilities, clients, employment record, and other evidence of your status. Sometimes you have to prove that you have clients in the country where you want the visa and normally have to prove residency there.

These blogs have examples of Freelancer and Self-Employed Visas for Asia and Europe.

Skills or Skills-Shortage Visas

Many countries actively recruit Expats with skills that are missing in their economy. The required skills vary from country to country, and from time to time. Hard to access countries like Australia have active programs that are an excellent pathway to permanent residency, citizenship, and a passport. Some of these visa programs are location-specific. For example, in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, New Zealand offered visas to many trades to help in the rebuilding effort. Another advantage of these visas classes is that the shortage of a particular skill often means high wages.

See our Skills Visa blog here for more information.

Start-up Visas

Countries are aware that getting in on the ground of a great idea can be lucrative. Many governments are actively recruiting entrepreneurs and founders. As well as a visa (and a pathway to permanent residency, citizenship, and a passport) there is often government support. The support can come in the form of access to incubators, investors, talent, markets, mentors, and more.

See our Startup visa blog here.

Student Visas

Student visas are offered to people to live and study in a new country. Governments use these visas to attract talent into their economies. The range of acceptable study areas and levels varies by country. There is often a provision for some part-time work to fund studies. These visa classes are often an excellent pathway to permanent residency, citizenship, and a passport in the country where you have studied.

Work Visas or Work Permits

Governments recognise that companies sometimes need to look outside their borders to fill positions. Work visas and work permits are issued to meet this demand. In most cases, the work visa will be tied to a specific role offered by a company. For this reason, you need to find a job first, then apply for the visa. If you lose the job or quit the job, your visa may become invalid. Many large or multinational companies will have a well-used process for managing these visa applications. Smaller companies may rely on the person to apply themselves.

Working Holiday Visas

There are many working holiday programs around the world. These are targeted at young people. There are restrictions on the types of work, and the amount of work that can be carried out. The idea is that young tourists will visit and help to fill seasonal, regional, and transient roles. The wages will then be spent on more travelling around the country.

See our blog on Working Holiday visas for more information.

Tourist Types of Visas

A tourist visa or travel visa is issued for you to visit a country for recreation. You should not generally carry out any work activities. These visas are usually time-based. They will have a limit on the total time you can spend in the country over a more extended period. For example, the visa might be for a maximum of 30 days at a time. Additionally, you might only be able to visit for a maximum of 90 days in 1 year.

Some countries offer visas on arrival, while for other countries you may have to apply for your visa beforehand. If you need to apply, you may be required to show proof of travel arrangements to leave the country. Additionally, you may have to show sufficient funds to support yourself while in the country and have travel insurance. Some countries have a good character test requiring police checks.

Financial Situation Visa types

Non-Lucrative Visa / Passive Income Visa / Person of Independent Means Visas

If you can show you have a source of income to support yourself, some countries will issue you a visa. The source of income varies, but it needs to be something that is not your direct work. Examples of this are:

  • rental income
  • dividends
  • interest payments
  • annuity payments
  • trust fund disbursements
  • pensions
  • silent ownership of part of a business
  • a regular court-mandated payment

The key is that you can show that you have an income that will support you. Furthermore, you need to show that the income will continue to support you in the future. You will need to have medical insurance and these visas are usually reviewed after a period of one, two, or more years. This visa category is often a pathway to permanent residency, citizenship, and a passport.

Have a read of our full article on Passive Income visas here.

Retirement Visa

The retirement visa category is similar to the non-lucrative visa class above. You need to show you can support yourself in your new country of choice. Above all, the difference is that these retirement visas have age limits. You need to be older than a specified age to access the visa.

See our blog Retirement Abroad – an opportunity for a better life?

Investment Visa or Golden Visa

To promote investment into their economies countries offer Residency by Investment or Citizenship by Investment schemes. These are often called Golden Visas. The investment type varies by country. For instance, investments can include:

  • your own home
  • commercial property
  • business equity
  • stocks
  • private and government bonds
  • payments into government development funds
  • fixed-term cash deposits into local banks

The periods to residency and citizenship vary greatly, as do restrictions on family members accessing local services.

See our articles on Residency by Investment or Citizenship by Investment here.

International Treaty Visa types

Cross-Country Agreement Visas

Some countries have agreements with other countries that allow visa access across multiple borders. An excellent example of this is the SCHENGEN area. A visa granted by any of the 26 member states is valid in all member states. An example would be a 90-day tourist visa issued by Spain. This visa will allow you to freely visit all of the other 26 countries that make up the area. The same visa conditions apply to all member countries.

Right of Abode

Right of abode is not strictly a visa type, but we felt it was worth mentioning. Countries have agreements that let their citizens live and work in other countries without a visa or immigration control. For example, the MERCOSUR region of South America. Importantly, this bloc allows all citizens from member and associate states to have complete freedom of movement in the bloc. So, if you are in Argentina, you can live and work in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and the other MERCOSUR member states.

Other examples are the European Union (EU) and the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). Similarly, Australia and New Zealand have a cross-country agreement.

What Immigration Visa & Residency Permit Types Will Suit You?

The world is full of opportunities. However, navigating the many types of visas and permits can be very difficult. If you have an idea of counties that may appeal to you, a great place to start is the wherecanilive.bigscoots-staging.com country pages. In particular, you can see all the visas and permits that are available. Alternatively, check out our blogs to find more information by visa category, or by country.

Good luck with your exploration and your travels. It is a beautiful world to explore.

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