January’s Visa-Free Digest 2020

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:

Albania Hungary Qatar
Algeria Indonesia Russia
Austria Iran South Africa
Azerbaijan Ireland South Korea
Belarus Japan Sweden
China Kosovo Taiwan
Colombia Libya Thailand
Croatia Luxembourg Tunisia
Czech Republic Myanmar Turkey
Denmark New Zealand Ukraine
Ecuador Nigeria United Kingdom
European Union North Macedonia United States
Finland Norway Vietnam
Georgia Philippines  


Named relevant countries: European Union, Kosovo, Georgia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Ireland, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Colombia, Ecuador, Belarus, Albania, Russia, Qatar

On 5 December, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) stated that the European Union is “working towards” the abolition of its visa regime with Kosovo. The comments were made during a visit to Kosovo’s capital city, Pristina, and come in the context of a vote by the European Parliament in September 2019 to initiate talks with the EU Council regarding visa liberalisation for Kosovo’s citizens. It is unclear when the visa-waiver is set to be finalised.

On 9 December, the 28 European Union Member States backed a visa waiver proposal allowing citizens of Georgia into the Schengen Area without visas for short stays of 90 days for business, tourist, or family purposes. This endorsement marks a significant milestone in realising the Georgian visa waiver, but formal ratification is yet to take place.

On 12 December, European Union Member States backed another proposal allowing citizens of Ukraine into all 28 Member States (excluding the United Kingdom and Ireland) for short stays of up to 90 days within any 180-day period. The European Parliament has yet to sign off on the visa waiver.

On 22 December, an agreement facilitating reciprocal visa-free travel for citizens of Ukraine and North Macedonia entered into force. The agreement applies provided that length of stay does not exceed 90 days in a period of 180 days.

On 24 December, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Oleksiy Honcharuk, announced on social media that Ukraine had approved mutual visa waiver agreements with the governments of both Colombia and Ecuador. Under the agreements, citizens of each country will be permitted to spend up to 90 days in the host country without a visa. The effective date for the two agreements has not yet been confirmed.

On 27 December, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia, Vladimir Semashko, and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Albania to Russia, Arben Gazioni, signed an agreement facilitating the mutual waiver of visa requirements. Upon entering into force, the agreement will allow citizens of Belarus and Albania to visit the other for a period of up to 30 days.

On 27 December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar announced the signing of a visa-free travel agreement between Russia and Qatar. According to the agreement, Russian and Qatari citizens will be able to avail themselves of visa-free travel for stays not exceeding 90 days.


Named relevant countries: United States, Croatia

On 10 December, Croatia made a positive step towards inclusion in the United States Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) when Justice Minister of Croatia, Drazen Bosnjakovic, and United States Attorney General, William Barr, signed agreements regulating mutual legal assistance and extraditions. On 13 December, Interior Minister of Croatia, Davor Bozinovic, announced that Croatia had reduced its declined visa applications from 5.9 percent to 4.02 percent, and is therefore on track to meet the final condition for inclusion in the VWP, namely a percentage of rejected visa applications not exceeding 3 percent.

Middle East

Named relevant countries: Iran, Azerbaijan, Libya, Turkey, Algeria

On 1 December, visa requirements for citizens of Iran visiting the landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, were waived. Iranian citizens are now able to visit Nakhchivan for up to 15 days without the need to apply for a visa.

On 15 December, a new visa-free policy for certain citizens of Libya was published in the Turkey Official Gazette. The policy allows Libyan passport holders under 18 years of age and those over 55 years of age to visit Turkey without a visa. Previously, visa-free entry was only available to Libyans aged 65 and above.

On 24 December, Turkey published a similar visa policy in its Official Gazette for citizens of Algeria, allowing Algerian nationals under the age of 15 and over the age of 65 to travel to Turkey without a visa. The decision applies to stays of up to 90 days within a six-month period for tourism purposes.


Named relevant countries: China, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Myanmar, Austria, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Hungary, Luxembourg

On 1 December 2019, Ningbo, China joined the list of Chinese cities offering a transit visa exemption. The Government of Ningbo effected a 144-hour transit visa exemption policy, allowing eligible foreign nationals visa-free access to Ningbo when travelling through China between two different countries in a period not exceeding 144 hours. Citizens from 53 countries can apply for transit visa exemptions at 30 ports in 23 Chinese cities.

On 5 December, the Thailand Trade and Economic Office (TTEO) announced that it would be reinstating its original visa application process for citizens of Taiwan. The announcement followed public dissatisfaction with the changes of 30 November 2019, requiring Taiwanese applicants to provide three months of bank statements as evidence they can cover the cost of their travel. TTEO will instead delay the visa changes until 1 March 2020.

On 12 December, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and the Ministry of Justice of South Korea announced plans to implement a visa-free policy for citizens of Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines entering South Korea. The policy will allow tourist groups to enter airports in inland areas for up to 5 days visa-free but will only apply if their final destination is Jeju Island. It is set to be implemented in 2020.

On 17 December, the Vietnam government extended its visa-free policy for citizens of Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Russia, South Korea, and Sweden for stays of 15 days, until 31 December 2022. The visa exemption has been in force since 2015 for the aforementioned countries but was previously due to expire on 31 December 2019.

On 19 December, the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism of Myanmar announced its plans to allow visas-on-arrivals for citizens of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, and New Zealand. The visa-on-arrival scheme was announced for 1 January 2020 for stays not exceeding 30 days.


Named relevant countries: South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria

On 1 December, Home Affairs Minister of South Africa, Pakishe Motsoaledi, held a briefing to provide updates on South African visa requirements. He announced a planned mutual visa exemption that would grant reciprocal visa-free access for citizens of Tunisia.

On 11 December, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria revealed that Nigeria will implement visas-on-arrivals for all African citizens. The announcement has however been met with mixed reactions. The proposed visa-on-arrival policy was considered on 17 December by the Nigerian Senate, where lawmakers argued that such a policy would need the backing of the legislature prior to implementation. As it stands, the motion has been referred to the Committees on Interior, Judiciary, and Legal Matters for further discussion.