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:
|Algeria||Indonesia||Papua New Guinea|
|Colombia||Marshall Islands||St Vincent & the Grenadines|
|Dominica||Morocco||Trinidad and Tobago|
|Gabon||Nicaragua||United Arab Emirates|
Named relevant territories: Ukraine, Qatar, Armenia, European Union, European Parliament, Moldova, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bahrain, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Oman, Palau, Peru, Samoa, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Cuba, Russia, Dominican Republic, Turkey
2 November saw the coming into force of the visa-free travel agreement signed between the Ukraine and Qatar. This means that citizens of the two nations can travel freely across their respective borders for up to 90 days within any 180-day period. The relevant agreement was signed on 20 March 2018, when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited Doha.
On 6 November, Armenia’s Deputy Acting Foreign Minister, Karen Nazaryan, said that Armenia may obtain visa-free travel to the European Union by 2020. Speaking to Armenia’s Parliament, he noted that this was one of the elements of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed by Armenia and certain EU member states (with more EU member states due to sign CEPA in the near future), and that Armenia was undertaking reforms to ensure it met the justice and human rights requirements of visa-free travel.
On 14 November, the European Parliament released a report criticising Moldova for “an increasing backsliding on core values […] to which are also linked both the EU’s financial assistance to the Moldovan state and the visa-free regime.” Moldovans were granted the right to access the Schengen Area without a visa in April 2014, but such access could be withdrawn if the concerns raised by the European Parliament – which include a reduction in democratic values, corruption, and no independent judiciary – are not addressed.
In a decree dated 14 November, the Ukraine decided to suspend its 15-day visa-on-arrival regime for citizens of 31 countries. The suspension is due to commence on 1 January 2019, and will include nationals from Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bahrain, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Oman, Palau, Peru, Samoa, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Nationals from these countries will need to apply for and receive an e-visa costing US$85 and allowing visits of up to 30 days.
On 16 November, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that Russia’s agreement with Cuba to expand the two nations’ visa-free regime would come into force on 21 December 2018. “In accordance with the agreement, the term of the visa-free regime for trips will be increased from 30 to 90 days during each period of 180 days, starting from the date of the first entry, for citizens of the Russian Federation who are owners of valid passports, including diplomatic and service passports, and citizens of the Republic of Cuba who are owners of valid passports, including diplomatic, service and official passports,” said Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
On 26 November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that another Caribbean nation, the Dominican Republic, had also signed a visa waiver agreement with Russia. Mr Lavrov characterised this as “another step toward turning Latin America and the Caribbean basin into a zone of mutual visa-free trips for citizens,” and noted that the Dominican Republic is the 25th country out of 33 Caribbean nations to have signed a visa-free travel agreement with Russia.
On 28 November, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs, and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that Turkey had to complete seven (out of 72) requirements to obtain visa-free travel rights for its citizens, and that Turkey was determined to do so.
Named relevant territories: St Kitts and Nevis, Belarus, Montenegro, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, the Bahamas, India
On 2 November, St Kitts and Nevis and Belarus agreed to abolish visa requirements for their citizens. The agreement was signed at Belarus’ Embassy in Havana, Cuba, by the Caribbean Federation’s Ambassador to Cuba, H.E. Verna Mills, and by Belarus’ Ambassador to Cuba, Aleksandr Aleksandrov.
On 12 November, St Kitts and Nevis and Montenegro signed an agreement on visa-free travel for their citizens. The agreement, which applies to holders of all passports issued by the two nations, was penned in London at the St Kitts and Nevis High Commission by H.E. Kevin M. Isaac, St Kitts and Nevis’ High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and H.E. Borislav Banovic, Montenegro’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
In the second week of November, the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonslaves, said that extending visa-free travel rights for the country’s citizens was part of the Government’s manifesto, and should therefore not surprise commentators. He noted that visa-free travel agreements, such as the one signed with Russia on 27 September 2018 and due to come into force on 7 January 2019, should be viewed positively. He also noted that St Vincent and the Grenadines, which allows short-term visa-free visits for citizens of all countries except Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Syria, was working on lifting visa requirements for citizens of the Dominican Republic and Nigeria.
On 29 November, the Bahamas and India signed an agreement for visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports issued by the two nations. The agreement was signed by the Bahamas’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Darren Henfield, and India’s High Commissioner to the Bahamas, Mude Sevala Naik.
Named relevant territories: Cuba, Panama, United States, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, Romania, Colombia, Belarus
In early November, Panama’s Ambassador to Cuba, Max Lopez Cornejo, discussed the excitement currently felt in Cuba with respect to Panama’s decision to issue Cubans a ‘tourism card’ that would enable them to enter the country without a visa. “We trust that Cubans come to know Panama, to pursue tourism, to make the purchases they need for themselves, and equally to return to their country as they are doing up until this moment,” said the Ambassador, who noted that all Cubans who had received a visa from Panama had returned to their home country in due course.
In the second week of November, the United States and the European Union held discussions on including Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania in the country’s Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), which enables citizens of select countries to enter the United States for up to 90 days for purposes of business or tourism. These five nations are the only remaining EU member states to be excluded from the VWP. Commenting on the talks, the European Commission said: “The United States and the European Union agreed on the importance of advancing towards reciprocal visa free travel under their respective legal frameworks and, following the most recent tripartite meeting on visa reciprocity, welcomed the progress of the five concerned member states towards meeting the statutory requirements of the [VWP], in order to be considered for designation in the Programme.”
In mid-November, Colombia and Belarus penned an agreement to allow visa-free travel for persons holding diplomatic and service passports. The agreement was signed by Belarusian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Evgeny Shestakov, during a trip to Colombia.
Named relevant territories: India, Qatar, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone
On 11 November, Qatar’s Ministry of Interior changed some of the regulations impacting visa waivers for citizens of India. Qatar, which had allowed Indians to enter the nation using its visa-free entry facility for 30 days extendable for an additional 30 days, removed the right to extend stays. It also imposed a requirement for a valid credit card. Previous requirements, including a passport with 6-months validity from the arrival date, a return ticket, and evidence of a hotel reservation remained unchanged. Later in November, the Qatar’s Ministry of Interior expanded the credit card requirement to include debit cards.
On 12 November, Turkey extended the visa-free travel rights of citizens from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. While previously allowed to remain in Turkey for up to 30 days in any 180-day period, citizens from these three countries may now stay in Turkey for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
On 19 November, the United Arab Emirates and the Democratic Republic of the Congo signed a Memorandum of Understanding to remove visa requirements for their citizens wanting to travel for short periods of time. The Memorandum was penned by the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the DRC’s Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Leonard She Okitundu.
On 29 November, the United Arab Emirates and Sierra Leone agreed to establishing a 30-day visa-on-arrival regime for UAE citizens entering Sierra Leone. The relevant Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the UAE’s Minister of State, Sultan bin Ahmad Sultan Al Jaber, and Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Alie Kabba.
Named relevant territories: Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Thailand, Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Palau, United Arab Emirates
On 8 November, a visa-waiver agreement signed by Kyrgyzstan and Serbia on 5 December 2017 came into force. The agreement allows visa-free travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The Kyrgyzstani Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the agreement was intended “to enhance bilateral trade [and] economic and investment relations, strengthen cultural and humanitarian ties, and develop the tourism industry.”
In early November, Thailand announced that, from 15 November 2018 to 13 January 2019, citizens of 21 countries would no longer need to pay for their visa-on-arrival. The 21 countries are: Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Citizens of these nations will be allowed to enter Thailand for up to 15 days.
In mid-November, Thailand announced that citizens of the Ukraine would soon be able to travel to the country without a visa for a period of up to 30 days. The news was greeted by Ukrainian Petro Poroschenko on 22 November with a Facebook post.
Following the announcement, on 13 November the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) appealed to the Government of Malaysia to waive its visa-on-arrival fees for citizens of China and India. “Granting visa fee waiver is common sense to stimulate visitor arrivals and to stay competitive with neighbouring countries. Furthermore, Malaysia and Thailand are inter-connected with tourists from China and India crossing over to Malaysia to extend their holiday,” said Datuk Tan Kok Liang, President of MATTA.
In mid-November, China announced that, beginning on 1 January 2019, citizens from 53 countries who can currently stay in the cities of Chengdu, Kunming, Qingdao, Wuhan, and Xiamen for up to 72 hours without a visa will be able to stay for twice as long: 144 hours. Those entering through Qingdao will be able to visit the entire province of Shandong for the 144-hour allotted time. These citizens will continue to be required to show a valid travel document and evidence of an onward journey.
In late November, India and Pakistan agreed to the establishment of a ‘corridor’ for Indians to visit the Sikh holy site of the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. Known as the Kartarpur Corridor, this four-km pathway is scheduled to be completed in four months. Indian Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu broke ground on the site on 26 November, while Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan did so on 28 November. Indians are expected to be able to use the site to travel visa-free by November 2019.
On 30 November, the Taiwanese Mistry of Foreign Affairs announced that, beginning on 1 December 2019, citizens of Taiwan and Palau would be able to visit each other’s territories for up to 90 days without needing to apply for a visa beforehand. As of the end of November 2018, in the Pacific, Taiwanese citizens can visit the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu visa-free.
On 30 November, the Foreign Minister of the Maldives, Abdulla Shahid, announced that he had penned a visa-free travel agreement with his counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyanin. The move will see Maldivians being able to travel to the United Arab Emirates without a visa by the beginning of 2019.
Named relevant territories: Morocco, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Algeria, Tunisia, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Mali, Ethiopia Zimbabwe, India, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique, Botswana
Morocco is set to enforce a new entry permit requirement for almost all persons from African nations who were previously able to enter the country visa-free. The requirement will affect citizens of the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, and Senegal, but not Algeria or Tunisia. Royal Air Maroc, Morocco’s national airline, said that the requirement came into force on 1 November 2018 for citizens of the Republic of Congo, Guinea, and Mali.
On 1 November, Ethiopia inaugurated its visa-on-arrival regime for all Africans holding ordinary passports. Ethiopia expects this will further boost its status as a hub for African air travel. Ethiopia is not the only African country to have established a visa-on-arrival regime for citizens of Africa – it was preceded by Ghana and Gabon, and followed by Botswana. Additionally, Angola, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Senegal all offer visa-free travel to African citizens.
On 3 November, Zimbabwe and India penned an agreement on waiving visas for holders of diplomatic passports. The agreement was one of six, and was the result of talks in Zimbabwe between Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Vice-President, Venkaiah Naidu, and India’s Vice President, Venkaiah Naidu.
On 5 November, Malawi and India signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish visa-free travel for persons holding diplomatic and official passports.
On 21 November, Kenya and Mozambique signed an agreement for visa-free travel for diplomats and ordinary citizens of their two nations. The agreement was announced by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mozambican President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, who was visiting Nairobi. President Kenyatta noted that: “This big step will facilitate people to people contact and will also be pivotal in facilitating and boosting bilateral trade between the two countries.”
Beginning on 24 November, Botswana launched its visa-on-arrival regime for all African passport holders wanting to enter the country for tourism. The regime was first announced on 15 November by the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and follows a call by the African Union to remove all visa requirements across the African continent.
Named relevant territories: Marshall Islands, Taiwan
On 19 November, the Marshall Islands and Taiwan inaugurated a mutual visa-free travel regime allowing citizens to visit without a visa for up to 90 days. Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen, promised visa-free agreements to six Pacific nations upon travelling there in October 2018.