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April’s Visa Free Digest

A comprehensive analysis of last month’s changes to visa-free travel across the globe.

EUROPENamed relevant territories:
Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Schengen Area, Fiji, North Macedonia, Taiwan, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Malta, Ghana, Albania, Russia
AMERICASNamed relevant territories: Australia, Canada, Japan, United States, Brazil

MIDDLE EAST
Named relevant territories: Israel, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, EU member states, China, Japan, United States, Iran, Azerbaijan, United Arab Emirates, Colombia, Turkey, Russia
ASIANamed relevant territories: Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bolivia, Singapore, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Ukraine, Maldives
AFRICANamed relevant territories: Sierra Leone
OCEANIANamed relevant territories: New Zealand

Europe

1 March saw the coming into force of an agreement, signed between the Ukraine and Georgia, to allow cross-border travel for Ukrainians and Georgians by using contactless ID cards. The agreement follows a previous agreement allowing visa-free travel for Ukrainian and Georgian passport holders.

On 16 March, Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko signed a decree to allow citizens of North Macedonia visa-free access to the Ukraine until 15 March 2020. Visa-free travel is available to North Macedonians who remain in the Ukraine for no longer than 90 days within 180-day periods.

In early March, Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinian, met the European Council’s President, Donald Tusk, to discuss the matter of visa-free travel for citizens of Armenia to the European Union’s Schengen Area. The Armenian Prime Minister said that he hoped “the political decision in this matter will be taken shortly since this will produce tangible results for our citizens and give our partnership even more visibility.”

On 6 March, Georgia and Fiji signed a mutual visa-free agreement. The agreement allows citizens to visit each other’s nations for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aleksandre Khvtisiasvhili, and Fiji’s Minister of Defence, National Security, and Foreign Affairs, Inia Seruiratu, signed the agreement.

On 14 March, North Macedonia announced that it would extend the temporary visa-free regime in place for citizens of Taiwan. The extension, valid from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, will allow citizens of Taiwan to enter North Macedonia without a visa for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

On 22 March, Switzerland announced that it would continue to waive visa requirements for citizens of the United Kingdom even after Brexit. The announcement was intended to avoid confusion in the event of a Brexit where no deal is reached with the European Union. The new regime is expected to come into force as soon as the United Kingdom exits the EU’s Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.

On 26 March, Malta and Ghana signed an agreement to waive visa requirements for persons holding diplomatic, official, and service passports. The agreement has yet to be ratified, and follows a visit by Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo to Malta. The visit also saw the nations agree to a new, direct flight from Malta to Ghana.

In late March, Albania announced it would temporarily allow Russian citizens to travel to the country without a visa. The regime is limited to 1 April to 31 October 2019, and applies to those visiting Albania for no more than 90 days for tourist or private purposes. Russia benefitted from a similar regime in 2018.


Americas

On 18 March, Brazil’s President issued a decree to establish permanent, visa-free travel for citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States. The move, which is intended to boost tourism, follows Brazil’s decision to temporary allow visa-free entry during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Visa-free travel for citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States will be available from 17 June 2019, and applies to those who remain in Brazil for a maximum of 90 days (extendable to 180 days) every 12 months.

In late March, a bill was introduced in the United States to change the name of the Visa Waiver Programme to the “Secure Travel Partnership.” According to the four congresspersons who introduced the bill, the new name “more accurately reflects the mission and security of the Programme.”


Middle East

On 5 March, Israel signed an agreement with Samoa to enable visa-free travel for Samoan citizens entering Israel for short visits. The agreement was penned by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in Jerusalem.

In early March, it was reported that Saudi Arabia is looking to establish visa-free or visa-on-arrival regimes for citizens from most EU member states, China, Japan and the United States. The regimes are expected to come into force in late 2019. News of the plan first appeared on the Wall Street Journal on 5 March 2019.

On 9 March, Iran called on Azerbaijan to lift visa requirements for citizens of Iran, in a move that would mirror Iran’s newly established visa-free regime for Azerbaijanis. The call was made by the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Larijani, at a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyar.

On 15 March, the United Arab Emirates and Colombia signed an agreement to waive visas for short-term travellers holding ordinary passports. The agreement was signed by the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during his visit to Colombia. It was also signed by Colombia’s Vice Minister of Foreign Relations, Luz Stella Jara Portilla.

On 25 March, the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that the country was holding talks with Russia to establish regime that would allow “Russian citizens to come to [Turkey] with their ID cards, without a passport.” Upcoming meetings with Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, are scheduled for 8 April 2019.


Asia

On 9 March, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena announced that, in April 2019, the nation would waive visa requirements for several persons travelling to Sri Lanka for religious and tourism purposes. He mentioned that Cambodia would be among the nations whose citizens would be able to benefit from the regime.

On 14 March, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Turkey had been added to the list of countries whose citizens could enter Pakistan without needing a short-stay visa. Moving forward, citizens of Turkey will instead be able to obtain a visa-on-arrival. The decision follows Pakistan’s liberalisation of travel for citizens of 50 countries, for whom a visa-on-arrival regime was established in January 2019.

On 26 March, the Information Minister of Pakistan, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, announced the abolition of the No Objection Certificate (NOC) requirement for tourists travelling to selected areas of Pakistan. The move follows the trend of visa liberalisation that saw Pakistan lift visa requirements for citizens of 50 countries (visas-on-arrival) and enable electronic visas to citizens of another 175 countries in January 2019.

On 14 March, India asked Pakistan to open the Kartarpur Corridor to 5,000 Indian pilgrims per day. A day later, Pakistani Government sources were quoted as suggesting that a 700-visitor cap may be more likely, and that a permit may also be required. The corridor’s opening was announced by Pakistan in November 2019 and was scheduled to coincide with the 550th anniversary of the birth of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. The corridor, measuring 4.7-kilometres, is sacred to India’s Sikh community.

In late March, India signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bolivia to waive visas for holders of diplomatic passports. The Memorandum was one of eight signed between the two nations during Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Bolivia.

In mid-March, the Regional Director for South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa of Singapore’s Tourism Board, G B Srithar, said that citizens of India could avail themselves of an extended 96-hour visa-free transit facility. The facility is accessible to persons who depart Singapore by air or sea, and who can show an onward air, ferry, or cruise ticket. Travellers must also show a visa or long-term pass with a validity of at least one month from the date of entry into Singapore issued by either Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, or the United States. Some exceptions apply for holders of single-journey visas from these countries.

On 20 March, Uzbekistan launched a visa-free regime for citizens of the United Arab Emirates. The regime follows a presidential decree made by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on 19 March 2019. Holders of ordinary and service passports from the United Arab Emirates will be able to visit Uzbekistan for up to 30 days. A separate, mutual agreement was signed between Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates for persons holding diplomatic passports.

On 21 March, the Ukraine’s Department of Consulate Service wrote a Facebook post announcing that, beginning on 14 April 2019, Thailand would lift visa requirements for its citizens. The visa waiver applies to citizens of the Ukraine who travel to Thailand for no more than 30 days.

On 23 March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives announced that the country had obtained a waiver of short-term visas for citizens travelling to Thailand. The waiver, scheduled to come into force on 14 April 2019, applies to tourists remaining in Thailand for no more than 30 days. The announcement follows talks between the Maldivian Foreign Minister, Abdulla Shahid, and a delegation from Thailand on the side-lines of the UN Conference on South-South Cooperation in Argentina.


Africa

In early March, Sierra Leone’s Vice President, Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, announced that the country was “working towards putting infrastructure in place to declare Sierra Leone a visa-free country, which means so many people around the world can just jump on a plane and come to Sierra Leone and get a visa-on-arrival.” He also noted that Sierra Leone was developing an e-visa system.


Oceania


In mid-March, New Zealand announced it would be adding an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) requirement for all persons currently able to enter the country visa-free, except Australian passport holders. This includes persons travelling on cruise ships and those transiting through Auckland International Airport. The ETA system will be rolled out on 1 October 2019. ETAs for New Zealand may take 72 hours to be processed, will be valid for two years (or until the expiry of the traveller’s passport), will allow multiple entries, and will cost NZ$9 if the application is made via phone app or NZ$12 if it is made via website. The ETA system will be coupled with the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy – a NZ$35 fee that will be applied to all visitors except for Australian citizens and permanent residents.

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