August’s Visa-Free Digest

A Comprehensive Analysis of Last Month’s Changes to Visa-Free Travel Across the Globe.

AlbaniaGuamPhilippines
AustraliaGuinea-BissauPoland
AzerbaijanHong KongPortugal
BahamasIcelandRepublic of Congo
BahrainIndonesiaRomania
Bosnia and HerzegovinaIrelandRussia
BruneiIsraelSaudi Arabia
Burkina FasoItalySerbia
CanadaJapanSingapore
CambodiaJordanSouth Africa
CameroonKosovoSouth Korea
ChinaKuwaitSpain
Costa RicaLaosSt Kitts and Nevis
Cote d’IvoireLatviaSt Lucia
CroatiaLiechtensteinSt Vincent and the Grenadines
CubaLithuaniaSweden
CyprusLuxembourgSwitzerland
Democratic Republic of CongoMacauSeychelles
DjiboutiMalaysiaTaiwan
DominicaMontenegroThailand
El SalvadorMyanmarUkraine
FranceNetherlandsUnited Kingdom
GeorgiaNew ZealandUnited States
GermanyNorth MacedoniaUruguay
GhanaNorthern Mariana IslandsVietnam
GreeceNorway
GrenadaOman

Please note that due to the unexpected magnitude of the Covid-19 outbreak, countries across the world have implemented unprecedented travel restrictions. Many jurisdictions have implemented entry restrictions on individuals of any nationality who have recently been in, or transited through, certain countries. The countries taking such an approach include Armenia, China, Costa Rica, Fiji, Gabon, Japan, Kiribati, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, South Korea, Tuvalu, and the United States.


Europe

Named relevant countries: Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bahrain, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

On 7 July, 42 Members of the European Parliament signed letters to President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, imploring them to endorse Kosovo visa liberalisation by the end of 2020. Kosovo remains the only country of the Western Balkans whose citizens require a visa to travel to the European Union, despite Kosovo having fulfilled the European Commission’s requirements for visa liberalisation in 2018. Macron and Rutte are considered to oppose Kosovo visa liberalisation.

On 10 July, the European Commission produced a report on the continued fulfilment of the visa liberalisation requirements by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and Ukraine. All eight countries currently benefit from visa-free travel to the European Union for stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The Commission concluded that the countries continue to fulfil the visa liberalisation requirements but must take further measures to address concerns related to fighting organised crime, addressing high-level corruption, and irregular migration of citizens from partner countries.

On 16 July, a visa waiver agreement was signed between the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the Government of Grenada. Upon entering into effect, the agreement will provide for visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine and Grenada for 90 days within a 180-day period. The agreement will reportedly enter into force upon completion of the necessary domestic procedures.

On 20 July, a new Ambassador for Ukraine to the United Kingdom, Vadym Prystaiko, was appointed. Prystaiko is set to focus on developing a bilateral agreement between Ukraine and the United Kingdom, to be signed by the end of 2020. According to Prystaiko, the bilateral agreement will encompass an improved visa regime between the two countries. Currently, citizens of the United Kingdom have unilateral visa-free access to Ukraine.

On 21 July, the Government of Ukraine published a Presidential Decree introducing a visa-free regime for citizens of Australia, Bahrain, Kuwait, New Zealand, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. The regime will take effect from 1 August 2020 and will allow citizens of the six countries to remain in Ukraine without a visa for stays not exceeding 90 days in a 180-day period. In return, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has stated that it expects these countries to simplify visa procedures for Ukrainians.

On 28 July, the press service of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine reported that the President signed a decree temporarily allowing citizens of China visa-free entry to Ukraine. The visa waiver is set to apply from 1 August until 31 January 2021 and is applicable for stays of up to 30 days within a six-month period.

Covid-19 Responses

On 8 July, Georgia permitted the entry of citizens and residents of France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, without self-isolation requirements, and Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden, subject to a 14-day isolation requirement. Entry restrictions continue to apply to other foreign nationals, affecting citizens of a further 78 visa-exempt countries.

On 10 July, the Government of Ireland temporarily suspended the Irish Short Stay Visa Waiver Programme (SSVWP), which entitled nationals of 17 countries visiting the United Kingdom on a short stay visa to travel to Ireland. Under the SSVWP, individuals had to leave Ireland before their permission to stay in the United Kingdom ended. Nationals of the 17 countries affected must now apply separately for an Irish visa.

On 16 July, Bosnia and Herzegovina reopened its borders to citizens and residents of the European Union, provided they can present a negative Covid-19 test taken within 48 hours prior to arrival. The requirement for a negative test does not apply to citizens of Croatia. Citizens of the European Union benefit from visa-free access to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 16 July, the European Commission updated its Recommendation advising European Union Member States and all Schengen Area Member States, including the four Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), to reopen external borders to residents of certain non-member countries. The updated list included 13 countries, of which Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Uruguay benefit from visa-free access to the Schengen Area. Montenegro and Serbia were removed from the Recommendation.

On 17 July, the Government of Azerbaijan announced an extension to the closure of the country’s air and land borders until 31 August following a spike in the number of infections. The border closure does not apply to cargo and charter flights. The closure affects citizens of 11 visa-exempt countries.

Caribbean

Named relevant countries: Bahamas, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, United Kingdom.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 July, the Bahamas entered into Phase 2 of the reopening of its borders, under which airports opened to inbound international passenger flights. However, following a surge of cases since the reopening, Bahamian authorities closed the country’s borders once again to international commercial flights and vessels on 22 July. The closure does not apply to passengers arriving on commercial flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, who are required to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 10 days of arrival. The border closures affect citizens of 92 visa-exempt jurisdictions outside of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

On 12 July, officials in Barbados reopened the country’s only international airport to commercial traffic, subject to all arrivals presenting a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival. Passengers who fail to produce a test will be required to submit to testing upon arrival. Individuals arriving from low-risk Caribbean countries with no recent travel history to a high-risk country are exempt from the testing requirement, including those arriving from Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. The reopening affects citizens of 142 visa-exempt countries and territories.

On 30 July, it was revealed that the Government of Cuba have suspended all inbound and outbound flights, including both charter and commercial flights, through at least 15 August. The Government had previously permitted the entry of foreign nationals arriving on charter flights on 1 July. The suspension affects citizens of 19 visa-exempt countries.

Americas

Named relevant countries: Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guam, Hong Kong, Northern Mariana Islands, United States.

On 14 July, President Trump of the United States signed an executive order promising to commence appropriate action to amend the regulation at 8 CFR 212.4(i) to eliminate the preference for Hong Kong passport holders over PRC passport holders. Under the executive order, Hong Kong is therefore set to be removed from the Guam and Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Programme which allows visitors to stay without a visa for up to 45 days in the two United States territories.

Covid-19 Responses

On 15 July, authorities in Canada and the United States announced that the closure of their mutual land border has been extended until at least 21 August. All non-essential travel remains prohibited.

On 21 July, the President of the Autonomous Executive Port Commission of El Salvador confirmed that while El Salvador International Airport will remain closed indefinitely, he is ready to permit ferry operations between El Salvador and Costa Rica. Until then, foreign nationals, with the exception of permanent residents and accredited diplomats, remain prohibited from entering the country. The restrictions affect citizens from 86 visa-exempt jurisdictions, including Costa Rica.

On 29 July, the Government of Brazil published a decree lifting all travel restrictions on foreign nationals arriving by air to airports in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The decree requires that foreign nationals visiting the country for short stays of up to 90 days must purchase health insurance valid for the duration of the stay. The decision affects citizens of 100 visa-exempt countries.

Middle East

Named relevant countries: Israel, Jordan.

Covid-19 Responses

On 20 July, the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel extended the country’s entry ban on non-resident foreign nationals until at least 1 September. Under the restrictions, only those with a permit issued by the Israeli Airports Authority may enter Israel. The restrictions affect citizens of 99 visa exempt jurisdictions.

On 26 July, Transport Minister of Jordan, Khaled Saif, announced the resumption of international flights with 22 countries categorised as ‘green zone’ countries on 5 August. The planned resumption has since been delayed however, reportedly due to a global increase in Covid-19 cases. The flight ban affects all but 59 jurisdictions who benefit from visa free and visa-on-arrival access to Jordan.

Asia

Named relevant countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.

Covid-19 Responses

On 13 July, the Asia Travel Technology Industry Association (ATTIA), made up of a number of online travel companies including Agoda, Airbnb, and Booking.com, issued a statement urging Governments to re-visit visa waiver progress lost during the height of the pandemic. ATTIA noted that increased focus on visa facilitation as well as improved online connectivity had helped the Asia Pacific region become the fastest growing region for travel in 2019.

On 22 July, the Government of Japan extended its suspension of visa waiver agreements by one month until the end of August. On the same day, the country’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, spoke at a meeting of the Government’s Covid-19 response task force and stated that Japan will soon enter into discussions with 12 Asian jurisdictions, including visa exempt Brunei, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan, concerning the safe resumption of travel between the nations.

On 23 July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan issued a statement announcing the extension of its visa-waiver scheme for nationals of Brunei, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand until 31 July 2021. Citizens of Brunei, the Philippines, and Thailand are granted a visa-free stay of 14-days, while citizens of Russia are granted a 21-day visa-free stay. Currently, however, travel bans remain in place for the four countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 25 July, authorities in Cambodia announced the introduction of a temporary ban on all commercial flights from fellow ASEAN members, Malaysia and Indonesia, due to the large numbers of Covid-19-positive passengers returning from these countries. The ban entered into effect on 1 August. Visa exemptions and visa-on-arrival services remain suspended in Cambodia, affecting citizens of Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

On 28 July, it was announced that the National Central Committee for Prevention, Control, and Treatment of Covid-19 in Myanmar extended the country’s international commercial flight ban until 31 August 2020. Flights were reportedly due to resume on 31 July. The ban continues to affect citizens of 12 visa-exempt countries and 13 visa-on-arrival eligible countries.

Africa

Named relevant countries: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Republic of Congo, Singapore, South Africa.

On 13 July, the High Commissioner of South Africa to Ghana, Lulu Xingwana, announced during an appearance on a radio show that South Africa is ready to give visa-free entry to citizens of Ghana.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 July, the Government of Cote d’Ivoire reopened the country’s air borders to international commercial flights. The country’s land and maritime borders will remain closed through 31 August. The news affects citizens of 23 visa-exempt countries.

On 10 July, authorities in the Central African Republic announced the resumption of inbound and outbound international flights from Bangui-M’poko International Airport on a limited basis. Arrivals will be subject to health measures including temperature checks and will be required to sign an affidavit attesting to their good health. Land borders with Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Congo remain closed to commercial travel. The resumption of flights affects citizens of 17 visa-exempt countries, including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Congo.

On 17 July, the Government of Djibouti reopened its land and sea borders and resumed international flights rom 18 July. All arriving passengers will be subject to Covid-19 screening at their own expense. The reopening particularly affects citizens of Singapore, who are eligible for visa-free travel to the country.

On 24 July, domestic air services in Burkina Faso resumed and the Government has announced that international air borders will reopen on 1 August 2020. Land borders remain closed until further notice. This news affects citizens of 18 visa-exempt countries.

On 26 July, authorities in Guinea-Bissau authorised the resumption of regional flights, followed by international flights on 1 August, with passengers required to provide a negative Covid-19 test on entry. The reopening affects citizens of every country, all of whom are eligible for visa-on-arrival access to Guinea-Bissau.