A Comprehensive Analysis of Last Month’s Changes to Visa-Free Travel Across the Globe.
|Belarus||Kazakhstan||Russia||United Arab Emirates|
|European Union||Myanmar||Sri Lanka||Uzbekistan|
Named relevant countries: Belarus, Latvia, Mexico, North Macedonia, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom
On 10 January, President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, signed Decree No. 10 addressing preparations for the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship that will be co-hosted by Belarus and Latvia. The Decree provides for visa-free entry to Belarus for participants, competition organisers, and foreign tourists throughout the duration of the event.
On 24 January, the Ambassador of Russia in Mexico City, Viktor Koronelli, announced that his country passed to Mexico an updated draft agreement on the mutual exemption of visas for citizens of the two countries, with the agreement currently under consideration by the Mexican Government. The announcement follows years of discussion on the possibility of abolishing visa requirements and comes after Russia established visa-free travel for Mexicans visiting St Petersburg in October 2019.
On 30 January, and in light of the United Kingdom’s upcoming exit from the European Union on 31 Jauary 2020, President of Ukraine Volodymr Zelensky signed a special decree granting unilateral visa-free entry to UK citizens from 31 January 2020 to 30 January 2021. The visa-free access applies to stays not exceeding 90 days in any 180-day period.
On 31 January, North Macedonia and Taiwan agreed to extend their existing mutual visa waiver regime from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025. Under the regime, citizens of the two countries can visit the other for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The regime, however, applies only to citizens of Taiwan whose passport contains their national identification card number.
Named relevant countries: Cyprus, United States
On 14 January, the United States agreed to accelerate efforts to include Cyprus in the United States’ Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), with the two countries deciding to set up a Working Group composed of officials from both Governments to conclude the process as quickly as possible. The VWP enables eligible foreigners who wish to conduct business or visit the United States to stay there for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa.
Named relevant countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Serbia, Tajikstan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan
On 7 January, the United Arab Emirates announced on social media the introduction of a visa waiver regime for citizens of Mexico. After the signing of a diplomatic memorandum of understanding on visa exemption in late 2018, the regime is now in force for Mexican nationals.
On 19 January, an agreement abolishing visa requirements between Armenia and China entered into force. Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Avet Adonts, said that the agreement established a reciprocal visa waiver allowing visa-free travel in the host country for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. On 31 January 2020, however, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan suspended the regime until 31 March 2020, following outbreak of the coronavirus.
On 23 January, during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Palestine, an agreement facilitating the free movement of students and diplomats from Russia and Palestine was concluded. It is unclear when the visa-free agreement will be implemented.
On 25 January, in a meeting with Tajik Ambassador Nizam al-Din Zahedi, the Tourism Minister of Iran, Ali-Asghar Mounesan, proposed the abolition of visas between member states of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO), namely, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. During the meeting, it was noted that the proposal will be followed up at the upcoming ECO summit.
On 30 January, the Government of Armenia approved a draft decision on abolishing visa requirements for nationals of Serbia. The decision follows Serbia’s waiver of visa requirements for Armenian citizens that entered into force in November 2019. The decision is set to enter into force 10 days after its official publication.
Named relevant countries: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, European Union, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Ukraine, United Nations, United States, Uzbekistan, Vietnam
On 1 January, Kazakhstan introduced a 72-hour transit visa exemption for citizens of China and India travelling via Kazakhstan through the following international airports: Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Aktau, Karaganda, and Taraz. However, following the outbreak of the coronavirus in China, on 26 January 2020, the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Askar Mamin, held an emergency Cabinet meeting resulting in the temporary suspension of the transit visa exemption for Chinese citizens.
On 1 January, as part of the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, two orders granting a visa exemption for stays of up to 15 days in Malaysia for citizens of China and India came into effect. Such citizens must be registered through the electronic travel registration and must enter and exit Malaysia either through authorised airports, or at seven border crossings located throughout the country, within three months of registration. The visa exemption was set to remain in place until 31 December 2020, but was suspended for Chinese citizens on 27 January 2020 in an attempt to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On 1 January, an agreement signed in Myanmar by the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, providing for a mutual visa waiver for citizens of the two countries for stays of up to 30 days, entered into force.
On 1 January, Sri Lanka extended its visa-on-arrival scheme for citizens of the following 48 countries: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United States, and all 28 European Union Member States. The scheme will now be in operation until 30 April 2020.
On 1 January, a Presidential Decree came into force in Uzbekistan allowing foreign citizens holding United Nations passports to enter Uzbekistan without a visa for stays of up to 30 days.
On 1 January, a Presidential Decree implementing a visa waiver policy for citizens of China entered into force in Uzbekistan. Under the decree, citizens of China can visit Uzbekistan without a visa for stays of up to 7 days, provided they arrive by air and can provide proof of a valid return journey. The Decree aims to create favourable conditions for the development of international relations between the two countries.
Named relevant countries: Bahrain, Seychelles
On 15 January, the Minister for Finance, Trade, and Economic Planning of the Seychelles, Loustau Lalanne, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, signed a number of agreements facilitating the improvement of bilateral relations between the two countries. According to the two governments, steps are being taken to extend the mutual visa waiver currently offered for holders of diplomatic, special, and official passports to ordinary passports.