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June’s Visa Free Digest

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

EUROPENamed relevant territories: Chile, Armenia, China, Russia, Suriname, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Japan, Ukraine, Mexico, Netherlands, Albania
CARIBBEAN Named relevant territories: St Kitts and Nevis, Albania, Dominica, Ukraine
AMERICASNamed relevant territories: United States, Argentina, Cayman Islands, Georgia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Malaysia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uruguay, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Trinidad and Tobago
MIDDLE EASTNamed relevant territories: Qatar, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Peru, Turkey, Uzbekistan
ASIANamed relevant territories: Australia, Japan, Russia, European countries, United Kingdom, United States, China, Macao
AFRICANamed relevant territories: Zambia, Turkey, South Africa
OCEANIA
Named relevant territories: Fiji, European Union

Europe

On 10 May, Armenia’s Cabinet approved an agreement to abolish visa requirements for persons holding diplomatic or official passports from Chile. The agreement is intended to grant reciprocal benefits to persons from Armenia travelling to Chile on diplomatic or official passports.

On 26 May, Armenia and China signed an agreement enabling ordinary passport holders to travel to each other’s country without a visa for periods of up to 90 days within 180 days. The agreement was signed during an official state visit to Armenia by China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. It is similar to the one signed between China and Belarus, and to one China intends to sign with Moldova. It is also similar to one currently in force between Armenia and both Macao and Hong Kong.

On 13 May, the agreement between Russia and Suriname for short-term visa-free travel came into force, resulting in Russian citizens now no longer needing to apply for a visa for any short travels to South America. This was confirmed by Spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, who, on 23 May 2019, said: “…from now the entire space of South America, with its 12 countries, is a visa-free zone for Russians.”

On 23 May, the Speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that Vietnam’s proposal for a visa-free travel agreement with Russia was “worth consideration and support.” Mr Volodin was speaking before Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who was on an official visit to Russia. Currently, Russians can travel to Vietnam without a visa for up to 15 days, while only Vietnamese diplomatic and service passport holders can enter Russia without a visa.

On 25 May, the visa waiver agreement signed between Russia and Costa Rica in May 2018 came into force. Under the agreement, persons holding ordinary Russian passports will be able to travel to Costa Rica without a visa for 90-day periods. Persons with ordinary Costa Rican passports will be able to enter Russia for 90 days every 180-day periods.

On 31 May, Russia reiterated its intent to establish a visa-free travel regime with Japan. The proposal was put to Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, by Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. “We have reminded about the Russian proposal to introduce a visa-free travel regime between Russia and Japan, starting from business and tourist trips,” said Minister Lavrov.

On 27 May, Ukraine and Mexico discussed the implementation of a visa-waiver agreement. Commenting on the matter, Serhiy Pohoreltsev, Director of the Department of the Consular Service of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “Ukraine and Mexico have reached the final stage of negotiations on the abolition of visa requirements for citizens of both countries.”

On 30 May, Ukraine and Costa Rica reached an agreement on visa-free travel for the citizens of their two nations. The achievement was announced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs via a Facebook post.

On 31 May, the Netherlands sent a notice to the European Commission asking that it review Albania’s status as a beneficiary of visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone. The Commission has the right to suspend visa-free travel rights in emergency situations. The Netherlands is arguing that persons involved in organised crime in Albania are using visa-free travel to enter the Netherlands, overstay, and partake in illicit activities.


Caribbean

On 14 May, St Kitts and Nevis and Albania signed a visa-free agreement to enable holders of ordinary, diplomatic, and official passports to travel across their respective territories for periods of up to 90 days in every 180-day period. The signatories were HE Dr Kevin Isaac, High Commissioner of St Kitts and Nevis to the United Kington, and HE Mr Qirjako Qirko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Albania to the United Kington. The agreement, signed within seven months of St Kitts and Nevis and Albania establishing diplomatic ties, is scheduled to come into force about one month after signing.

On 15 May, Dominica signed a visa-waiver agreement with Ukraine. The agreement was signed at Dominica’s High Commission in London, by Dominican Acting High Commissioner Janet Charles and the Ukraine’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United Kingdom, HE Natalia Galibarenko. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were formalised on 25 April 2019. Under the agreement, persons are limited to visa-free travel for up to 90 days within 180 days.


Americas

In early May, the United States was the subject of false news with respect to its Visa Waiver Programme. One article, dispelled by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry on 2 May 2019 for example, stated that Argentina, the Cayman Islands, Georgia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Malaysia, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Uruguay had received visa-free travel rights for their citizens. Similarly, a fake post by President Donald Trump on Facebook purportedly stated that Malawi, South Africa, and eight other nations has also been included in the Programme. On 2 May 2019, the US Embassy to Malawi tweeted: “The U.S. Embassy has seen false reports that Malawian citizens will no longer require visas for temporary travel to the United States. These reports are untrue.” The United States Embassy in Zambia also had to dismiss news that Zambians had been accepted into the Visa Waiver Programme. Later in the month, the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago stated “Don’t be fooled by fake news, there’s no expansion of the US Visa Waiver Programme at this time.”


Middle East

In early May, the Secretary General of the Qatar National Tourism Council announced that guests of Qatari residents would be able to enter the country visa-free throughout the ‘Summer in Qatar’ festival, scheduled to run from 4 June to 16 August 2019. He noted that Qatar will “attract families and friends of people living in Qatar and make for them visa free arrival at the Hamad International Airport,” but highlighted that the facility would not be available for “enemies,” which, he specified, included citizens of Egypt.

On 5 May, the United Arab Emirates signed a mutual visa-free travel agreement with Peru for holders of ordinary passports. The agreement was signed in Peru by the UAE’s Assistant Minister for International Organisations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Peru’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On 10 May, Turkey abolished visa requirements for Uzbek truck drivers remaining in the country for a period of up to 30 days. The change was made by a presidential decree signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on 9 May 2019.


Asia

On 1 May, China’s southeast province of Guangdong began implementing an extended visa-free policy for foreigners from 53 countries, including Australia, Japan, Russia, several European countries such as the United Kingdom, and the United States. These foreigners can now remain in the province for up to 144 hours, instead of the previous 72-hour limit. Foreigners seeking to travel under the policy must have a valid passport and onward tickets evidencing that they will be leaving Guangdong within the 144-hour limit. This is not the first time a policy of this kind is applied to a region of China.

In early May, officials from Macao lobbied the Government of China to launch a visa-free travel regime for tourists wishing to visit the nearby island of Hengqin. The proposed regime would see tourists from a select number of countries being able to remain in Hengquin for maximum periods of 72 hours.


Africa

On 2 May, Zambia and Turkey waived visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports. The waiver was preceded by the signing, in July 2018, of the Agreement on Mutual Abolition of Visas for Holders of Diplomatic Passports. “The abolition of visa requirements for diplomatic passport holders between our two friendly countries is exciting as it signifies the growing warm and cordial bilateral relations since the reciprocal high-level visits last year undertaken by His Excellency, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia and His Excellency, Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the Republic of Turkey,” said Joseph Chilengi, Zambia’s Ambassador to Turkey.

On 4 May, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that South Africa was “committed to working towards the AU goal of visa-free African travel,” and that the nation was “in the process of overhauling in a very radical way [its] visa dispensation” to encourage tourist arrivals. The remarks were made at the Africa Travel Indaba, which took place in Durban from 2 to 4 May 2019.


Oceania

On 20 May, Fiji and the European Union partook in the 4th High Level Political Dialogue, an event that is part of the framework for cooperation established by the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States-EU Partnership Agreement, commonly known as the Cotonou Agreement. Following the dialogue, it was agreed that the European Union would further consider allowing Fijians short-term visa-free access to the Schengen Area. At present, citizens of Fiji can apply for the German Schengen Visa in the Fijian capital, Suva.

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