Few destinations in Europe have immigration rules as facilitated, or an eagerness to welcome foreigners, as the sunny Albania. Unlike its closest neighbors, most notably Greece, Croatia and Italy, this small, largely unheard-of country allows Americans to stay for up to a year without applying for a visa in advance. You read that right.
All Americans need to travel, and even set up base temporarily in Albania, is a passport.
No European Country Loves Americans More Than Albania
Although it remained sealed off from the rest of the world during most of the 20th century, owing its slow development to a strict communist regime, Albania has re-emerged from obscurity in recent years as a promising Mediterranean power, with its turquoise-water beaches going viral on TikTok and a rich, centuries-old culture being promoted by famous expats.
Among them, British popstars Dua Lipa and Rita Ora, whose family hail from the Albanian kin state of Kosovo, have been tirelessly campaigning for their ancestral homeland’s international recognition, alongside the government itself. These efforts were not for nothing, as Albania is on track to become Europe’s hottest topic each passing year.
As a matter of fact, it is perhaps one of the continent’s few bureaucracy-free destinations, at least when it comes to borders. Not being in the European Union (EU), or the EU-associated Schengen Zone, Albania has had the freedom to set out its own entry rules, and instead of pursuing the former’s well-documented tough controls, it actively encourages migration.
Very few foreigners need visas going to Albania – even Turks and Kosovo nationals, who have a very limited visa-free travel map – and on top of that, it is one of only two countries in Europe to have opened up for U.S. citizens traveling in the long term. More precisely, only Georgia also grants Americans a one-year tourist permit on arrival.
All Americans Need Moving To Albania Is A Valid Passport
When landing via Tirana Airport, the country’s main international airport, or using a land or sea crossing via any of its neighbors, namely Greece, North Macedonia, Kosovo or Montenegro, Americans are granted a whole, continuous twelve months to explore the Balkan gem. That is more than enough time to discover all that Albania has to offer.
Their passport must, of course, be valid for the entirety of their intended stay, or else they may face other issues...
As far as we’re concerned, Americans are the only foreigners enjoying this privilege, with all other nationalities, including Canadians, EU and UK citizens, Australians and New Zealanders being allowed to remain in the national territory for only three months out of every six-month period, similarly to the EU’s own Schengen Area.
For example, when remaining in the country for longer than 90 days, the British must immediately report to Albanian authorities and apply for an extension visa, or a residence permit. Those failing to do so routinely face legal challenges when clocking out of Albania – on the other hand, this rule does not apply to Americans for up to a year.
Truly, no European country loves Americans more than Albania.
Getting Albanian Residency After One Year
There is one risk facing U.S. travelers, though: after experiencing firsthand the relaxed Albanian way of life, savoring its Balkan and Turkish-influenced cuisine, and marveling at its dramatic, rugged Adriatic Coast, they may never want to leave in the end. Luckily, they are eligible to apply for a residence permit once the year has elapsed.
Yes, Albania has set out an easy path to permanent migration. According to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. citizens can easily extend their one-year visa by proceeding with the following steps:
- Go to a Regional DBM Police at least 60 days before the permit’s expiration date is up, suggestively the 305th day
- Provide Albanian immigration authorities with all the relevant documentation they may require*
*This generally includes a Birth certificate, a Marriage certificate if applicable, and an Affidavit of Eligibility for a Residency Permit
The one-year timeframe starts counting from the date of first entry into Albania, and it doesn’t stop until the year is up. This means you may not be eligible for an extension if you’ve been outside the country for more than 6 accumulative months within the rolling period. Visits to other countries and territories, such as Greece or Kosovo, all count as ‘time away’.
When planning to leave Albania after this period, and attempting to re-enter again to reset the clock, Americans must wait at least 90 days until they can return. Make sure you keep a record of your own travel dates, as Albanian border officers no longer stamp passports for immigration purposes:
- Retain your flight booking confirmation emails
- Hotel bookings or other rental agreements
- Tickets out of Albania and any other information that you may deem valid for future verification purposes
The fee for applying for a residence permit is $50, and more information can be found on this link. Nevertheless, Americans can remain in Albania hassle-free for much longer than any other foreign tourists, making it the perfect retreat for digital nomads from across the pond. This is proof there is a strong, enduring friendship between both nations.
Things You Can’t Miss On A One-Year Trip Across Albania
- Tirana, the sprawling, modern capital famous for housing Communist-era bunker museums, a large artificial lake and a prominent cafe culture
- Shkoder, the so-called ‘Northern capital’, and a transit hub for those escaping to the Albanian Alps, so beautiful they rival Switzerland’s
- Elbasan, a city in central Albania where visitors can explore an Old Town built within the the walls of a medieval fortress
- Kruje, a small hilltop settlement revolving around a busy Ottoman-style bazaar and a cobblestone-street Old Town
- Durres, one of the Mediterranean’s most history-charged cities, featuring an iconic seafront Venetian Tower
- Vlora, a beach destination where the country’s best-developed resort zone is located
- Berat and Gjirokaster, both UNESCO World Heritage cities with surviving remnants of Albania’s Ottoman past
- Syri i Kalter, or the Blue Eye, a bottomless karst hole with every imaginable shade of blue
- Butrint, a well-preserved Greco-Roman city housing a large ancient theater, within short driving distance of the major port of Saranda
- The Albanian Riviera, a Mediterranean stretch where quaint towns like Himare, Ksamil, Dhermi and Qeparo can be found
Other popular international trips outside Albania include:
- The Greek island of Corfu, 35 minutes away by ferry from Saranda
- Ionnina, a city in Northwestern Greece famous for its defensive walls, lake setting and historical castle
- Montenegro, a country whose border is roughly half an hour north of Shkoder, in Northern Albania
- The ethnically Albanian-populated Kosovo, Europe’s newest country dating back to 2007 and sharing a border with Albania*
- Lake Ohrid, shared by both Albania and North Macedonia – on the North Macedonian side, Americans can visit the charming city of Ohrid, a symbol of the Balkan Peninsula
*Traveling to and from Kosovo may pose problems when attempting to enter Serbia at a later date. To find out more, click here.
Albania Is Fully Open For Tourism
Recently, Albania removed all of its Covid entry requirements, allowing Americans, short-term visitors or nomads alike, to enter without presenting any health documentation:
- No entry forms
- No vaccination certificate
- No boosters required
- No pre-departure tests
- No on-arrival tests
- No post-arrival tests
- No post-arrival quarantine
Although Albania has no entry rules in place of its own, there are no direct flights between the U.S. and Tirana. For that reason, Americans have to transit via a third state, usually in Europe, where different rules may apply.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com