August’s Visa-Free Digest 2019

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

Planning your next trip abroad? You will find this Visa-Free Digest especially helpful if you’re about to travel to or from these countries and territories:

AlbaniaNetherlands
Antigua and BarbudaNew Zealand
AzerbaijanNorth Macedonia
BahrainPakistan
BarbadosPhilippines
CanadaQatar
ChinaRussia
CubaRussia
EUSao Tome and Principe
GeorgiaSaudi Arabia
GermanySouth Africa
GhanaSri Lanka
HaitiSt Kitts and Nevis
IndiaTaiwan
KazakhstanThailand
MalaysiaTurkey
Maldives

Check our July’s Visa Free Digest for more updates.


Europe

Named relevant territories: European Commission, Albania, Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Germany, Maldives

In early July, the European Commission said it would not suspend visa-free travel to the Schengen Area for citizens of Albania, despite a request from the Netherlands to do so. The European Commission said it had carefully assessed the situation and that “the circumstances to trigger the visa suspension mechanism [had not been] met.”

On 10 July, the President of the Russian Premier League, Sergei Pryadkin, said that Russia was still deciding the matter of whether to introduce a visa-free regime for football fans who have tickets to the Russian Premier League. “The introduction [of the system],” said Pryadkin, “has been postponed by a year, for the start of the next season.”

On 18 July, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, said that Germany wanted to discuss the matter of visa-free travel for Russian citizens with other member states of the Schengen Area. Speaking at the 18th Petersburg Dialogue, held in Königswinter, the Minister said: “I know that there is one topic, which interests many of you particularly: visa facilitation, especially for young people from Russia. This is a matter we want to pursue further. We may not be able to decide it alone, but we intend to sit down with our Schengen partners to see what can be done.”

On 22 July, the European Union’s Ambassador to Russia, Markus Ederer, said that Crimean residents applying for Schengen Visas would be refused if they applied using passports issued by Russia after the annexation of the Crimea. He also said that such residents should apply for visas in EU consulates in Ukraine, and not in Russia.

On 25 July, Russia announced that citizens of the Maldives had obtained the right to enter Russia without a visa, following an agreement signed between the two nations on 25 June 2019. Persons entering on the regime have the right to remain in Russia for up to 90 days. The regime is mutual, ensuring the same treatment for citizens of Russia entering the Maldives.

On 12 July, Ukraine and North Macedonia signed an agreement to allow visa-free entry for their citizens for up to 90 days in every 180-day period. The agreement substitutes a previous one, which required yearly extensions. It was signed by Ukraine’s Ambassador to North Macedonia, Natalia Zadorozhniu, and North Macedonia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov.

Caribbean

Named relevant territories: Barbados, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, Georgia, Antigua and Barbuda, United Arab Emirates

On 10 July, Barbados revoked the visa-free privileges it had awarded citizens of Haiti only a year before. Barbados’ Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), David Comissiong, said this was due to a large influx of Haitians who confused visa-free travel rights with rights to settle. “[N]o one in Haiti had really explained to them the principles of this free movement programme, and the vast majority of them were coming with this mistaken idea that they could simply come to Barbados to work and live, with many of them becoming stranded in Barbados,” said the Ambassador.

On 15 July, St Kitts and Nevis and Georgia signed an agreement to allow persons holding diplomatic, official, and ordinary passports visa-free entry for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The agreement was penned in New York by H.E. Sam Condor, Permanent Representative of St Kitts and Nevis to the United Nations, and H.E. Kaha Imnadze, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations.

On 18 July, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that, in line with two decisions made by Cabinet on 5 July 2014, persons from the United Arab Emirates holding diplomatic, official, or ordinary passports would be able to enter Antigua and Barbuda without a visa with immediate effect. Antigua and Barbuda’s Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Lionel “Max” Hurst, said the intent of the initiative was to incentivise applications to the country’s Citizenship by Investment Programme.

Middle East

Named relevant territories: Bahrain, Schengen Area, Iraq, Iran, China, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, India, Equatorial Guinea

On 6 July, the Foreign Ministry of Bahrain said it had launched a campaign to obtain visa-free travel rights to the Schengen Area. Bahrainis currently require visas to travel to most of Europe, while a visa-on-arrival facility has been approved by Bahrain for most European states, including all EU member states.

On 8 July, Iraq and Iran signed an agreement to allow Iranian pilgrims to visit Iraq for the purposes of attending Arba’een rituals. The agreement was signed in Tehran by Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaqari and Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Brigadier General Muhammad Badr.

On 16 July, Iran opened its borders to citizens of China. The new regime was first announced in June and enables Chinese nationals to remain in Iran for periods of up to 21 days (initially, Iran had said Chinese nationals were limited to 15-day stays, but this was extended). The move is in response to the United States’ travel ban to Iran. Ali Rabiei, a spokesperson for the Iranian Government, explained: “President Hassan Rouhani assigned the airport police not to stamp passports of foreign tourists.” The same regime is available to citizens of Hong Kong, one of China’s Special Administrative Regions.

In mid-July, the United Arab Emirates announced it would allow citizens of India to access its visa-on-arrival facilities so long as such citizens also hold resident permits to the United States or the European Union valid for at least six months from the date of entry in the United Arab Emirates. Visas-on-arrival are valid 14 days and can be extended for an additional 28 days. Indian citizens must pay a fee both for the initial visa and for its extension.

On 28 July, the United Arab Emirates and Equatorial Guinea signed an agreement, due to come into force immediately, establishing entry rights for citizens of the two nations. The agreement allows UAE ordinary passport holders to enter Equatorial Guinea with a visa-on-arrival. It also allows holders of diplomatic and service passports from the two nations to enter each other’s territories visa-free. In both cases, stays must be limited to 90 days.

Asia

Named relevant territories: Brunei, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Russia, China, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Canada, EU member states, United States, Azerbaijan, Turkey

On 2 July, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the date to which the Government plans to extend visa-free travel rights for citizens of Brunei, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand: 31 July 2020. Visa-free rights are being extended on a trial basis, with success being measured by way of the strengthening of economic, trade, cultural and tourism ties between Taiwan and these four nations.

On 4 July, Taiwan announced that citizens of Russia travelling on the country’s trial visa-free regime would be able to stay in Taiwan for up to 21 days – a notable increase from the previous 14 days maximum stay limit. High purchasing power and low visa violations were cited as reasons for extending Russian citizens’ travel rights.

At a press conference in early July, the Ministry of Public Security confirmed that China’s Hainan province would launch a 15-day visa-free regime for foreign tour groups entering China by cruise. The same regime is already in place for persons entering Shanghai by cruise.

On 9 July, John Amaratunga, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Tourism Development, said that Sri Lanka was planning on reviving an extensive programme that would see citizens from 39 nations benefitting from visas-on-arrival valid for one month. On 31 July, Sri Lanka announced it would commence the programme on 1 August 2019. The number of beneficiary countries was extended to 47, and it was noted that the visas-on-arrival would be issued for free. The programme is currently envisioned as a temporary measure and is scheduled to end after six months.

On 14 July, Pakistan agreed to allow persons travelling on an Indian passport or an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India) card to enter the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara without a visa. Pakistan decided to cap entry to 5,000 persons per day, with entries having to be on foot. India has since asked Pakistan to allow 10,000 persons per day on special occasions when demand for access to the pilgrimage site will increase.

Starting on 15 July, Malaysia increased the number of ports-of-entry where citizens of China and India can obtain visas-on-arrival. Initially limited to six ports-of-entry, Chinese and Indian nationals can now also enter via Langkawi Airport, Bukit Kayu Hitam immigration checkpoint, Miri International Airport, Sungai Tujuh checkpoint, the Labuan ferry jetty, and Sultan Abdul Aziz International Airport. The regime applies to persons from China and India entering Malaysia through Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, or Thailand.

On 22 July, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of the Interior commented on the country’s decision to waive visa requirements for persons from 60 nations wanting to stay in Kazakhstan for up to 30 days. It said that the move was intended to “boost investment attractiveness and create [a] favourable business climate.” Among the included nations are Canada, the EU member states, and the United States.

In late July, Azerbaijan announced its intent to introduce a visa-free travel regime for citizens of Turkey. The regime is due to come into force in September 2019.

Africa

Named relevant territories: South Africa, Cuba, Ghana, Qatar, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sao Tome and Principe, United Arab Emirates

On 10 July, South Africa announced that seven new nations would be granted visa-free travel rights: Cuba, Ghana, Qatar, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sao Tome and Principe, and the United Arab Emirates. The announcement was made by South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, who stressed the importance of incentivising tourism to South Africa.