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:
|Antigua and Barbuda||Fiji||Niger|
|Bulgaria||Guinea||Sao Tome and Principe|
|Burkina Faso||Guyana||Sierra Leone|
|Canada||Japan||St Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Central African Republic||Liberia||Thailand|
|Czech Republic||Mexico||United Arab Emirates|
|Eritrea||Namibia||Western Saharan Republic|
Check our June’s Visa Free Digest for more updates.
Named relevant territories: Albania, Netherlands, Germany, Kosovo, Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Maldives
In June, the European Commission launched an investigation on the suspension of visa-free travel for citizens of Albania. The investigation followed a request from the Netherlands, which voiced concern about Albanian gangs undertaking criminal activities across Europe. European Commission Spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said that the European Commission would take one month to come to a decision on the matter, specifying that “decisions to suspend visa-free travel cannot be taken lightly, and any steps leading towards triggering of the mechanism would be subject to very careful assessment and analysis.”
In early June, Germany decided to lend its support to Kosovo with respect to granting Kosovans the right to travel without a visa to the Schengen Area. The decision followed a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Kosovan Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj, who later stated he was grateful for the “decision of Germany to say YES to the lifting of visas for the citizens of Kosovo who, although being one of the most pro-European people, are kept isolated.”
On 7 June, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that he would like the “European Commission to give a recommendation before the end of our term in office for Croatia’s Schengen zone accession,” and that he “would like the Council of Ministers to react suitably to it.” Croatia is a member of the European Union but has yet to become part of the Schengen Area.
Starting on 10 June and continuing until 10 July 2019, foreign attendees of the 2nd European Games in Minsk were able to enter Belarus without a visa. The games themselves only lasted from 21-30 June 2019. 74 countries benefited from the scheme, which allowed foreigners to remain in Belarus for up to 30 days. Additional requirements included an ordinary passport valid for at least 90 days after the intended date of departure from Belarus, a ticket for the games, evidence of €10,000 medical insurance cover, and proof of satisfactory finances. Event preparation specialists and official representatives also benefited from visa-free travel from 20 May to 10 July 2019.
On 20 June, Belarus proposed the establishment of visa-free travel for ordinary passport holders of Belarus and Bosnia Herzegovina. The proposal was made at a meeting in Minsk between Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Rumas and the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik. There are already provisions in place for holders of diplomatic and service passports issued by the two nations.
On 24 June, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates signed an agreement amending their existing visa-free travel arrangement for persons holding diplomatic, official, and special passports to extend to persons holding ordinary passports. The ceremony took place at the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The agreement is due to come into force within 30 days of its signing.
On 25 June, Russia and the Maldives signed a mutual, 90-day visa-on-arrival agreement for their citizens. The agreement was penned by the two countries’ Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov and Abdulla Shahid. Tourism, climate change, and exports, including in the fish industry, were discussed by the two Ministers as part of the initiative, which is expected to bring Russia and the Maldives closer.
Named relevant territories: Guyana, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Morocco, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, United States, Antigua and Barbuda, Russia
On 11 June, Guyana and Ghana signed an agreement to allow visa-free travel for up to 90 days. The agreement was signed by the two nations’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs: Karen Cummings for Guyana, and Shirley Botchwey for Ghana.
In early June, the Dominican Republic and Morocco signed a visa waiver agreement for persons travelling for business or tourism. The agreement allows for a 60-day period of visa-free travel, renewable for an additional 60 days. The agreement was signed by the Dominican Republic’s Foreign Minister, Miguel Vargas, and Morocco’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Bourita.
On 15 June, at a joint press conference held in Kingston with the President of Ghana, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, said that Jamaica and Ghana were in the process of negotiating a mutual visa waiver agreement for their citizens. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two nations, said the Prime Minister, were tasked with the negotiations, with the agreement scheduled to come into force on 1 July 2019. Commenting on the matter, the President of Ghana said: “We cannot have visas standing in the way of […] relations, so the decision has been taken by my Government that, as Ghanaians benefit from visa-free arrangements here in Jamaica, we are also going to provide visa-free arrangements for Jamaicans in Ghana.” The Ghanaian President was however criticised by the opposition, which condemned his announcement of the agreement prior to its ratification by the Ghanaian Parliament. “[S]uch conduct affronts constitutionalism and fails to market the beauty of Ghanaian democracy in the global arena,” said Member of Parliament for the North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
In mid-June, news of Ghana signing multiple visa-free travel agreements with Caribbean nations sparked questions as to whether Memorandum of Understanding between Ghana and St Vincent and the Grenadines, signed in November 2018, had come into force. An official of St Vincent and the Grenadines clarified, however, that “the process has not yet been totally completed, it still has to be Gazetted.”
On 15 June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Commerce, of St Vincent and the Grenadines had to issue an official statement dispelling false news that citizens could travel to the United States without a visa: “The Ministry […] takes this opportunity to advise the general public that the information regarding the waiver of US visa for St Vincent and the Grenadines is false and that all Vincentians seeking to travel to or through the United States of America MUST obtain the necessary requisite visa to do so.”
In mid-June, Antigua and Barbuda executed a visa-free travel agreement with Russia. The agreement was signed by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, and Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov. Lionel Hurst, Antigua and Barbuda’s Chief of Staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, commented: “We are looking at as many ways as possible to increase the number of countries not requiring visas.”
Named relevant territories: Poland, United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Brazil
On 12 June, US President Donald Trump said that “Though we still have some work to do, we hope to welcome Poland into the VWP very soon — and that’s a very big deal.” President Trump was referring to the Visa Waiver Programme, which enables persons to visit the United States for up to 90 days without needing to apply for a visa. He was speaking at a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. A bill to enable entry into the Visa Waiver Programme by Polish citizens was presented by US Representative Dan Lipinski, who praised Poland’s decision to agree to a ‘Preventing and Combatting Serious Crimes Agreement’ with the United States as part of the process that will hasten the visa waiver process.
On 17 June, citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States began to benefit from visa-free travel to Brazil. Their 90-day travel rights can be extended to 180 days following a request to the Federal Police. Brazil first announced its decision to grant visa-free travel rights to these four nations on 19 March 2019 at a joint press statement by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donal Trump. The grant is unilateral, and does not require Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States to waive their own visa requirements.
Named relevant territories: Iran, China
On 29 June, the Deputy Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handcraft, and Tourism Organization said that Cabinet had decided to allow Chinese nationals to enter Iran without needing to obtain a visa. On 30 June, this was confirmed by official news agency IRNA, which stated: “The cabinet has agreed to waive visa requirements for Chinese nationals entering the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Iran’s decision is unilateral and does not mean that China will allow Iranians to enter its territory without first obtaining a visa.
Named relevant territories: Brunei, Russia, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, European Union, United States, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Macau
On 10 June, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the decision to extend the temporary visa-free travel rights awarded to citizens of Brunei, Russia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Scheduled to expire on 31 July 2019, the temporary rights enable visa-free travel within Taiwan for up to 14 days for any person who can show an ordinary passport valid for at least six months, a return or onward ticket for travel by airplane or boat, proof of accommodation and adequate finances, and a clean criminal record.
On 10 June, the Sri Lankan State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wasantha Senanayake, announced that the country would soon be implementing a visa-on-arrival facility for citizens of the European Union and the United States. Sri Lanka had been preparing for a visa-on-arrival system for citizens of the European Union, the SAARC (including, in addition to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, and Pakistan), and the United States, but these plans were halted after the Easter Bombings of April 2019.
Later in the month, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Tourism Development, Wildlife, and Christian Affairs, John Amaratunga, announced that citizens from Thailand would soon be able to enter Sri Lanka via a free visa-on-arrival facility. He further stated: “The free on-arrival visa facility will be extended to other markets as well to boost the tourism industry after the Easter attacks which is making a dent on the industry.”
On 13 June, Cambodia broadened the visa-free travel rights accorded to citizens of the Philippines. Instead of being able to remain in Cambodia for 21 days only, Filipinos will now be able to stay for up to 30 days, extendable for a further 30 days.
On 13 June, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country was going in the direction of granting citizens of Russia visa-free travel. Currently, said Prime Minister Khan, Russians can enter Pakistan through a visa-on-arrival facility: “There are seventy countries, and Russia is included in this countries who can come, the Russians can come and get a visa at the airport.”
On 27 June, Macau’ Identification Services Bureau announced that Macanese citizens could travel to the United Arab Emirates without a visa for up to 30 days. Macau is a Special Administrative Region of China, and different rules apply to those with Macanese passports.
Named relevant territories: Namibia, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principé, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara Republic, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Vietnam, Mozambique, Egypt
On 13 June, Namibia announced a pilot programme for the issuance of visas-on-arrival to citizens of various countries. These include African nations Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, the Central Africa Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principé, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, and the Western Sahara Republic. They also include non-African nations Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The announcement came from the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Stanley Simataa, who said the programme would be launched at Hosea Kutako International Airport with a N$1,000 visa-on-arrival fee.
On 22 June, Mozambique and Egypt signed a visa-free agreement for holders of diplomatic and service passports. Penned by the two countries’ Foreign Ministers, Jose Pacheco and Sameh Shoukry, the agreement was one of several initiatives to improve collaboration between the two nations.
Named relevant territories: Guam, Philippines, Australia, Fiji
On 3 June, Carl Tommy Cruz Gutierrez, ex-Governor of Guam, said that Guam was considering visa-free travel for up to 90 days for citizens of the Philippines. The decision would need to be put to the United States, as Guam is an overseas territory. Currently, of nearby countries, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan all benefit from short visa-free travel to Guam.
On 5 June, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, said that, although Australia generally applies a “universal visa system so all non-citizens no matter where they come from need a visa to enter and stay in Australia,” the country would be willing to discuss easing travel for citizens of Fiji.