July’s Visa-Free Digest 2020

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

AlbaniaDominican RepublicKyrgyzstanSeychelles
Antigua and BarbudaEcuadorLaosSierra Leone
AustraliaEgyptLebanonSingapore
AzerbaijanEuropean UnionLiberiaSouth Korea
BahamasGambiaLiechtensteinSri Lanka
BangladeshGeorgiaMaldivesSt Kitts and Nevis
BarbadosGhanaMaltaSt Vincent and the Grenadines
BelarusGuineaMarshall IslandsSuriname
BoliviaGuinea-BissauMauritiusSwitzerland
BrazilHaitiMongoliaTanzania
BulgariaHondurasMontenegroThailand
Burkina FasoHong KongNepalTonga
BurundiIcelandNew ZealandTrinidad and Tobago
CambodiaIndiaNorwayTurkey
CanadaIndonesiaPakistanUkraine
ChileIsraelQatarUnited Arab Emirates
ChinaJamaicaRomaniaUnited Kingdom
ColombiaJapanRussiaUnited States
Costa RicaJordanRwandaUruguay
Cote d’IvoireKazakhstanSamoaVenezuela
CroatiaKenyaSchengen AreaZimbabwe
CubaKosovoSenegal
CyprusKuwaitSerbia

Please note that due to the magnitude of the Covid-19 outbreak, countries across the world have implemented unprecedented travel restrictions. Many countries have effected entry restrictions on individuals of any nationality who have recently been in, or transited through, countries deemed most affected by the outbreak. The countries taking such an approach include: Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Central African Republic, China, Comoros, Fiji, Gabon, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Namibia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Turkey, and the United States.


Europe

Named relevant countries: Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Colombia, Cyprus, European Union, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Japan, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Schengen Area, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.

On 3 June, a mutual visa exemption agreement for citizens of Turkey and Azerbaijan was published in Turkey’s official gazette. The agreement, which was signed on 25 February 2020 in Baku, allows citizens of Turkey and Azerbaijan holding a valid passport to be exempted from visa requirements for stays of up to 90 days.

On 3 June, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom confirmed plans to extend the period of visa-free access afforded to Hong Kong nationals holding British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports, should China go ahead with its proposed new security law. Under the United Kingdom’s plans (initially announced by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, in May), Hong Kong BNO passport holders would be eligible for visa-free access to the United Kingdom for stays of up to 12 months.

On 4 June, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, announced that he would instruct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to liberalise the country’s visa policy post-Covid-19. The President is considering abolishing visa requirements for citizens of Australia, China, India, New Zealand, and a number of Arab countries, in a bid to bring more money into the economy.

On 18 June, the European Court of Justice ruled that family members of European Union citizens who are not themselves Union nationals, but who have permanent residence status in a European Union Member State, are exempt from visa requirements to enter any other Member State. The Court further ruled that the visa exemption still applies if the residence card was issued by a Member State that is not part of the Schengen Area. Finally, the Court ruled that possession of the residence card in question constitutes sufficient proof that the holder is a family member of a Union citizen and no further verification or justification is necessary to enter the territory of a Member State.

On 19 June, speaking regarding visa liberalisation between Kosovo and the European Union, MEP for Kosovo, Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, stated that “there is no clear reason why the visa regime is still not being lifted”. She further commented that she hopes the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union will provide an opportunity for Kosovan citizens to obtain visa-free travel to the European Union.

On 29 June, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Panama noted that Belarus and Colombia are drafting a bilateral visa waiver agreement for ordinary passport holders.

On 29 June, the Interior Minister of Croatia, Davor Bozinovic, stated that Croatia is embarking on the final stage of accession to the United States’ Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) and that Covid-19 has not put this foreign policy priority on hold. United States Ambassador Robert Kohorst has stated that while Croatia’s entry to the VWP could be postponed by a few months due to the pandemic, the two sides are still seeking to honour the 2020 deadline.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 June, Albania opened its land borders to citizens of all countries. On 22 June, inbound and outbound international flights also resumed.

On 5 June, authorities in Georgia announced that international flights would resume from 1 July 2020, with temperature checks being carried out at all airports in the country. The news affects citizens of 93 visa-exempt countries who are able to enter Georgia without a visa for a period of one year.

On 11 June, the European Commission invited the EU+ area, including all Schengen Area Member States (plus Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania) and the four Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) to finalise the lifting of internal border controls by 15 June 2020 and to extend the temporary restriction on non-essential travel into the European Union until 30 June 2020. Further, on 30 June, the Council of the European Union adopted a recommendation that the region reopen its borders to non-member foreign nationals from 14 countries. Of the 14 countries Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, New Zealand, Serbia, South Korea, and Uruguay benefit from visa-free access to the Schengen Area.

On 19 June, the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan announced that the country’s entry and exit restrictions on air and land access will be extended until 1 August 2020. Exceptions exist for cargo, charter, and special flights. The restrictions directly affect citizens of 11 visa-exempt countries.

On 19 June, MEPs expressed concern regarding remaining internal border controls in the Schengen Area, despite the European Commission’s recommendation that all internal controls be removed by 15 June. Adopting a resolution by 520 votes in favour, calls were made for a discussion on a Recovery Plan for Schengen to prevent any temporary internal controls from becoming semi-permanent. Under the same resolution, MEPS also asked the Council and Member States to take the necessary steps to admit Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania into the Schengen Area.

On 28 June, authorities in Kosovo reopened Pristina Airport following its three-month closure. The Government also lifted the country’s ban on air and land travel from countries deemed medium and high risk. Temperature measurements are taken for all arrivals and proof of a negative Covid-19 test is recommended. The news directly affects citizens of 110 visa-exempt countries and territories.

Caribbean

Named relevant countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 June, Antigua and Barbuda opened its borders to international travel, and international commercial flights into VC Bird International Airport resumed on 4 June. All arrivals are subject to measures designed to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 and persons are asked to register with the Ministry of Health, Wellness, and the Environment before travel.

On 15 June, the Bahamas entered into phase 1 of the reopening of its international borders. Under phase 1, international boaters, yachters, and private aviation may enter subject to the making of a travel application. Phase 2 is slated to begin on 1 July 2020, under which airports will open to inbound international passenger flights.

On 15 June, Jamaica opened its borders to international travel. All travellers must apply for a Travel Authorisation 72 hours before arrival, and present it upon arrival in Jamaica. All passengers arriving from countries deemed high risk are required to take a Covid-19 test and are placed in quarantine for up to 48 hours until the results have been received. The news affects citizens of 106 visa-exempt countries and territories.

On 16 June, the Government of Cuba announced its reopening plan. As part of recovery phase 2, from 1 July 2020, foreign nationals arriving on charter flights will be permitted to enter certain holiday destinations in the country. Commercial flights remain suspended. The news affects citizens of 19 visa-exempt countries.

On 26 June, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, announced that Barbados will reopen its borders to international commercial air travel on 12 July 2020. All passengers arriving in Barbados from outside the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will be required to take a Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival, while passengers arriving from within the CARICOM must take a test at least one week prior to arrival.

On 30 June, the state of emergency in the Dominican Republic expired and the country’s border reopened to passenger traffic. From 1 July 2020, the Dominican Republic reopened to international tourism. The news immediately affects citizens of 108 visa-exempt countries and territories.

On 30 June, authorities in Haiti reopened the country’s international airports of Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haitien. The news directly affects all but 9 countries who benefit from visa-free access to Haiti for a period of 3 months.

Americas

Named relevant countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Honduras, United States.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 June, Ecuador resumed inbound and outbound commercial flight operations with limited capacity. All arriving passengers must present a negative Covid-19 test result taken within 7 days of arrival and must complete a mandatory period of self-quarantine for 14 days. The policy affects citizens of all but 25 countries, who are afforded visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Ecuador.

On 16 June, the Government of Chile renewed the country’s state of emergency for an additional 90 days. Under the state of emergency, non-resident foreign nationals are prohibited from entering the country. Before the entry ban, citizens of 93 jurisdictions were able to visit Chile for up to 90 days without a visa.

On 16 June, the United States Department of Homeland Security extended the suspension of the entry of non-resident foreign nationals traveling to the United States from Canada through land ports of entry until 21 July 2020. Exceptions exist for ‘essential travel,’ including, but not limited to, travel for medical, work, and education purposes, as well as official government or diplomatic travel.

On 18 June, the Covid-19 Emergency Measures (No. 4) entered into effect in Guyana, extending the closure of Cheddi Jagan and Eugene F. Correia International Airports to all international flights with some exceptions. The measures are set to expire on 2 July 2020. The restrictions affect citizens of 55 visa-exempt jurisdictions.

On 20 June, officials in Brazil extended the country’s existing ban on the entry of all non-resident foreign nationals by air, land, and maritime border crossings through at least 5 July 2020. Transiting foreign nationals are exempt provided they stay in the international area of the airport. The entry restrictions affect citizens of 100 visa-exempt countries.

On 23 June, President Ivan Duque of Colombia announced in a nightly broadcast that the country’s existing lockdown measures had been extended until 15 July 2020. As a result, Colombia’s air, land, and maritime borders will remain closed, with international flights suspended until 1 September 2020. The entry restrictions directly affect citizens of 99 visa-exempt jurisdictions.

On 26 June, the Government of Bolivia issued a national decree confirming that all borders remain closed and all inbound and outbound international flights remain suspended. Returning Bolivian citizens and residents are exempt from the border closures. The closures immediately affect citizens of 49 visa exempt countries and territories.

On 26 June, the Health Minister of Costa Rica, Daniel Salas, announced that, as of 1 August 2020, foreign nationals from countries that have contained the spread of Covid-19 would be permitted to enter the country. No further specification was made to identify approved countries. Until 1 August 2020, all air, land, and maritime borders will however remain closed to non-resident foreign nationals. The border closures affect citizens of 97 visa-exempt jurisdictions.

On 29 June, the Government of Honduras announced the extension of the country’s nationwide curfew until 12 July 2020. In addition, the country’s air, land, and maritime borders remain closed and international flight operations remain suspended. The restrictions directly affect citizens of 83 visa-exempt jurisdictions.

Middle East

Named relevant countries: Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Samoa, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago.

Covid-19 Responses

On 12 June, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office revealed that Lebanon is due to reopen Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport for international commercial flights on 1 July 2020, but will operate air traffic at 10% capacity. All arrivals will be required to submit to Covid-19 testing at the airport and individuals testing positive will be required to self-quarantine as per Ministry of Health instructions. Additionally, non-residents will be required to have a valid health insurance policy covering the duration of their stay in Lebanon. The opening will immediately affect citizens of 89 countries eligible for unconditional visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Lebanon.

On 20 June, inbound international flights to Pakistan resumed from all airports except Gwadar and Turbat International Airports. All arriving passengers are tested for Covid-19 and are required to undergo quarantine in either a Government facility or self-funded private accommodation while results are processed. The news has a direct effect on citizens of the Maldives, Nepal, Samoa, Tonga, and Trinidad and Tobago who were previously eligible for visa-free access to Pakistan.

On 25 June, authorities in Israel announced the extension of the country’s entry and transit restrictions on foreign nationals until 1 August 2020. 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, who would otherwise be able to access Israel without restriction for a set period of time.

On 27 June, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood, announced on social media Pakistan’s intention to reopen the visa-free Kartarpur Corridor for all Sikh pilgrims on 29 June 2020, on the anniversary of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh’s death.

On 30 June, authorities in Jordan announced the extension of the country’s suspension of commercial international flights until 14 July 2020. Previously, all but 59 jurisdictions benefitted from visa waivers and visas-on-arrival to Jordan.

On 30 June, authorities in Kuwait approved a 3-phased plan, to be overseen by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, to resume commercial flights from Kuwait International Airport from 1 August 2020. Until 1 August, inbound and outbound commercial flights remain suspended and an entry ban on foreign nationals remains in place. The news affects citizens of 59 countries eligible for visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Kuwait.

Asia

Named relevant countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 June, the Government of Laos announced new entry and exit regulations, set to remain in effect until 30 June 2020. Under the regulations, all airports and land border crossings remain closed and entry into Laos is only permitted in limited circumstances. The issuance of visas remains suspended, including for those eligible visa-on-arrival access to Laos. Visa-free access is also halted. Previously, citizens of all but 32 countries could travel to Laos visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival.

On 2 June, the Chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly of Indonesia, Bambang Soesatyo, called for a review of Indonesia’s visa-free policy to prevent another wave of Covid-19 once the country’s tourism sector reopens. According to Soesatyo, a review is especially important for visa-exempt countries heavily affected by Covid-19.

On 2 June, the Ministry of Tourism of the Maldives published a circular on its website announcing the reopening of the country’s borders to all foreign nationals in July 2020. From July, all foreign nationals will be able to enter the Maldives visa-free with no additional requirements imposed.

On 5 June, the Ambassador for South Korea to Russia, Lee Sok-bae, stated his hope to resume visa-free travel with Russia post-Covid-19. He noted however that the two countries must overcome the threat of Covid-19 before visa-free arrangements can enter back into force.

On 5 June, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau confirmed that Sri Lanka will reopen to foreign nationals on 1 August 2020. All foreign nationals will, however, be required to apply for Sri Lanka’s e-visa: the ETA and visas-on-arrivals will no longer be issued. This update particularly affects citizens of the Maldives, Seychelles, and Singapore, who were previously eligible for visas-on-arrival at any Sri Lankan port of entry.

On 6 June, the Government of Indonesia announced new regulations concerning international arrivals. Under the regulations, non-Indonesian nationals remain restricted from entering the country. The entry ban affects citizens from 170 visa-exempt jurisdictions.

On 9 June, the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation of Cambodia issued a notice confirming that the suspension of visa-free entry and visas-on-arrival is still in force. Visas must be obtained from a Cambodian embassy or consulate abroad. The entry of foreign nationals, with the exception of those holding diplomatic, official, or special visas, is permitted subject to conditions. Foreign nationals must possess a health certificate (no more than 72 hours old) deeming them free of Covid-19, provide proof of health insurance with a minimum coverage of US$50,000 for the duration of their stay, undergo further Covid-19 testing on arrival, and deposit US$3,000 with a bank at the point of entry to cover the cost of the health measures.

On 12 June, the Ministry of Home Affairs of India permitted four categories of foreign nationals to enter the country, namely: minor children with at least one parent who is an Indian citizen or an OCI cardholder, spouses of Indian citizens, single parents of minor children holding Indian passports or OCI cards, and students with at least one parent who is an Indian citizen or OCI cardholder.

On 16 June, international commercial flights to Bangladesh were given the green light. However, foreign nationals arriving in the country must provide a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. Additionally, all arriving passengers must self-isolate for a 14-day period. Visa-on-arrival services to the country remain suspended, affecting citizens of 47 countries who would otherwise be eligible for visa-on-arrival access to the country.

On 19 June, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation of Nepal announced plans to resume international flights on 1 August 2020, pending the implementation of proper hygiene and social distancing measures. The provision of visas-on-arrival to all foreign nationals and Non-Resident Nepalese Card holders remains suspended. Previously, Nepal issued visas-on-arrival to any foreign national with the exception of holders of refugee travel documents and nationals of 12 countries.

On 20 June, Kazakhstan resumed international flights to six countries, of which the following five are visa-exempt: Georgia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Turkey.

On 20 June, the Government of Kyrgyzstan announced the reintroduction of measures to limit the spread of Covid-19. The country’s entry ban on foreign nationals, including permanent residents, remains in place until further notice. The restrictions immediately affect citizens of 69 visa-exempt nations.

On 30 June, authorities in Mongolia announced the extension of the country’s suspension of all international air and rail services until 15 July 2020. Additionally, foreign nationals remain barred from entering the country. The travel restrictions affect citizens of 44 visa-exempt and visa-on-arrival eligible countries.

Africa

Named relevant countries: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Malta, Mauritius, Qatar, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.

On 8 June, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs for Ghana, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, declared on Twitter that the Committee will be considering visa waiver agreements with nine countries. These countries are Guyana, Jamaica, Malta, Qatar, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

Covid-19 Responses

On 1 June, a presidential decree was issued in Burkina Faso lifting the nationwide curfew on 3 June 2020. It was specified, however, that the health emergency persists and that the country’s borders remain closed to foreign nationals until further notice.

On 6 June, authorities in Kenya extended the country’s suspension of international passenger flights until 6 July 2020, with the exception of cargo and repatriation flights. The restrictions directly affect citizens of 43 visa-exempt countries.

On 10 June, President Adama Barrow of Gambia extended the country’s public health emergency until 1 July 2020. Under the state of emergency, all inbound and outbound flights, with the exception of medical and freight operations, remain suspended. Gambia’s land border with Senegal remains closed. Previously, Gambia granted visa-free entry universally, with the exception of 35 countries and territories.

On 20 June, the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo extended the country’s health emergency for the fifth time for a further 15-day period. The country’s international flight suspension will be reviewed in the coming weeks. The travel restrictions linked to the health emergency affect citizens of the following visa-free or visa-on-arrival eligible countries: Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mauritius, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

On 22 June, the Government of the Republic of Congo extended its state of emergency until 11 July 2020. Inbound and outbound international passenger flights remain suspended and Congolese air, land, and maritime borders remain closed. The state of emergency restrictions affect citizens of 15 visa-exempt and visa-on-arrival eligible countries.

On 25 June, authorities in Cote d’Ivoire announced the resumption of international flights. According to the Ivorian National Security Council, airports in the country will reopen to international flights on 1 July 2020. All arrivals will be required to undertake health checks and follow-ups during the period of their stay. The news is particularly welcome for citizens of 23 visa-exempt countries.

On 25 June, President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea-Bissau announced that the country’s state of emergency had been extended for a period of 30 days. Under the state of emergency, the country’s borders remain closed and international flights remain suspended. The restrictions affect citizens of all countries who were previously eligible for visa-on-arrival access to Guinea-Bissau.

On 27 June, authorities in Egypt eased a number of Covid-19-related restrictions. All airports throughout the country reopened to international flights from 1 July 2020, although tourism is limited to certain coastal areas. All arriving passengers are subject to temperature checks and are required to self-isolate. The easement is particularly relevant to citizens of 48 visa-exempt and visa-on-arrival eligible countries.

On 29 June, Liberia resumed international commercial flights to Monrovia-Roberts International Airport. Land borders with Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone remain closed, however. The news affects citizens of 14 visa-exempt countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Oceania

Named relevant countries: Marshall Islands, New Zealand.

Covid-19 Responses

On 15 June, authorities in the Marshall Islands announced the extension of the country’s ban on incoming foreign nationals until 5 July 2020. Repatriation flights for stranded citizens and residents continue, however. The entry ban affects citizens of 96 jurisdictions normally eligible for visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to the Marshall Islands.

On 21 June, authorities in New Zealand extended the country’s list of exceptions to border closures. Now, New Zealand citizens and residents, and their children and partners, diplomats, and certain critical workers are permitted entry. The overall closure however continues to affect citizens of 60 visa waiver eligible countries.