June’s Visa-Free Digest 2018

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:

EUROPENamed relevant countries: Belarus, China, Ukraine, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Qatar, Bosnia, Russia, Belarus, European Union, Turkey
AMERICAS Name relevant countries: Hungary, United States, Cuba, Russia, Guyana, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Costa Rica
MIDDLE EASTNamed relevant countries: Russia, Turkey
ASIANamed relevant countries: China, Vietnam, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Tuvalu, Nauru
AFRICANamed relevant countries: Togo, Morocco, South Africa, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Ethiopia, Rwanda

Check our May’s Visa-Free Digest for more updates.


 

Europe

On 4 May, the Speaker of the Council of Belarus, Mikhail Myasnikovich, said that Belarus and China were negotiating visa waivers for their citizens for trips of up to 30 days. He noted that the agreement would likely be the “main result of the Belarus-China Year of Tourism” and that it would result in a “major boost to tourism development.” Belarus inaugurated a 14-day visa-free regime with Hong Kong, a Chinese Special Administrative Region, on 13 February 2018.

On 31 May, Belarus announced that it would lift visa requirements for all attendees of the 31st Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers for the entire duration of the congress. The congress, which takes place every year, will be held in Minsk from 9-15 September 2018, and is expected to attract astronauts, scientists, and members of national space agencies.

On 11 May, the Ukraine confirmed it is working on visa-free agreements with four Latin American countries: Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. The affirmation was made by the Head of the Consular and Legal Affairs Department and Deputy Head of the Consular Service Department of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Serhiy Miniaylo, at a roundtable talk held in Kiev. Ukrainians can currently travel to 85 countries without needing to apply for a visa.

In mid-May, the Ukraine approved visa-free travel to its territory for citizens of Antigua and Barbuda and Qatar. Ordinary passport holders from these two nations may remain in the Ukraine for a period of up to 90 days every 180 days. The agreement with Antigua and Barbuda was signed on 5 February 2018, whilst the agreement with Qatar was penned on 20 March 2018.

On 28 May, Bosnia and China’s agreement to lift visa requirements for ordinary passport holders came into effect, allowing visits of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Bosnia thereby followed in Serbia’s footsteps, as Serbia was the first European nation to offer visa-free travel to nationals from China.

On 29 May, officials from the Crimea said they had exhorted Russia to implement a 30-day visa-free regime for foreigners wishing to undergo medical treatment in Russia. Statistics from Russia’s Health Ministry indicate a rise in the number of foreigners receiving treatment in Russia, from 33,000 in 2015, to 86,000 in 2016, and 110,000 in 2017.

On 29 May, Russia and Belarus signed an agreement to ease the flow of foreign sport enthusiasts entering the two countries during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and the 2019 2nd European Games in Belarus. The agreement allows foreign fans to travel via Belarus without a visa for the duration of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, plus some additional days to visit other key locations, and will be in force from 4 June to 25 July 2018. Correspondingly, it allows foreign fans to travel via Russia without a visa from 21 to 30 June 2019 for the 2nd European Games, which will be hosted in Minsk.

On 31 May, the European Union sent a delegation to Turkey to discuss the prospect of a visa-free regime. The implementation of a regime will depend on Turkey’s willingness to make changes to its terrorism and data protection laws, its anti-corruption efforts, and cooperation with the EU with respect to tackling criminal activity.

Americas

A report by the United States’ Department of Homeland Security (DHS), revealed by the Washington Post in early May, uncovered significant passport fraud in Hungary, with 700 non-Hungarians receiving passports and taking over the identities of actual Hungarian citizens. 65 of these people entered the United States through its Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), and 30 never left. The Washington Post further reported that, in April 2018, officials at the DHS warned Hungary that the country may lose its VWP rights should it fail to address its passport issues.

On 22 May, Cuba and Russia signed an agreement to extend their visa-free travel rights from a maximum of 30 days to 90 days. The agreement, signed by Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Cuba’s Vice President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Economy and Planning, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, applies to all passport holders from the two nations.

On 28 May, Guyana sent a diplomatic note to the United Arab Emirates indicating that holders of UAE diplomatic, private, and regular passports would no longer be required to obtain a visa to travel to the South American country for short stays. Rather, travellers entering through a Guyanese airport will receive a visa-on-arrival.

On 28 May, Canada announced plans to eliminate short-stay visa requirements for citizens of the United Arab Emirates travelling for purposes of tourism or business. Visa-free travel is expected to come into force on 5 June 2018 and will enable UAE citizens to remain in Canada for a period of up to six months, so long as they apply for, and are granted, an electronic travel authorisation (eTA). Canadian citizens have been able to travel to the United Arab Emirates without a visa since June 2013.

On 28 May, Costa Rica and Russia signed an agreement to establish mutual visa-free travel rights for their ordinary passport holders for visits of up to 90 days within any 180-day period. Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated that, upon the ratification of the agreement, Russia “will have visa-free agreements with all countries of Central America, which creates new possibilities for the development of contacts with the countries of that region on economic, sports, cultural, tourist, and other trajectories.”

Middle East

On 6 May, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that the country hoped the visa regime with Russia could be either simplified or completely eliminated by the end of the year. Russia instituted a visa regime for citizens of Turkey in November 2015, when Turkey shot down a military plane it believed to be violating Turkish airspace.

Asia

Beginning on 1 May, China’s Hainan’s province was opened to visa-free travellers from 59 countries. The visa-free regime, in place for those having organised their visits through accredited travel agencies and remaining in China for no more than 30 days, simplifies a previous regime and expands it to a wider net of foreign citizens. On 19 May, Chi Fulin, Head of the Hainan-based China Institute for Reform and Development, said the regime may be further expanded to all countries with whom China has diplomatic relations.

On 3 May, Vietnam decided to extend the visa-waiver regime currently applying to citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom, and allowing them to remain in the country for up to 15 days without needing to apply for a visa. The temporary regime, in force since July 2015 and generally renewed for a period of one year, was renewed for three years. In 2015, around 720,000 visitors came to Vietnam from Western Europe. This number increased to 855,000 and 1.5 million in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

On 24 May, Japan inaugurated visa-free entry for Russian citizens living in the Kuril Islands, four islands whose sovereignty has been a matter of dispute between Japan and Russia since World War II. The first group of Russian citizens consisted of 60 students and teachers whose trip included the city of Nemuro, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the Peace Memorial Park, and the island of Miyajima.

On 28 May, Taiwan announced the implementation of a visa-free travel regime for citizens of Tuvalu and Nauru, two island-nations located in Oceania. The regime, due to commence on 1 June 2018, allows citizens of Nauru to visit Taiwan for 30 days or less, and citizens of Tuvalu to visit Taiwan for 90 days or less. The announcement was made by the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Africa

On 2 May, Togo and Morocco penned an agreement to eliminate visa requirements for their diplomatic passport holders. The agreement came in the context of a bid by Morocco to become part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Starting 4 May, holders of diplomatic and official passports from South Africa and Liberia no longer need to obtain visas for short-term travel. The regime rests on an agreement signed by Martin C. Alexwyn Karpeh, the Liberian Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, on 3 April 2018.

On 11 May, Equatorial Guinea ratified a visa waiver agreement signed with Angola to allow holders of diplomatic and service passports from the two nations to travel across their borders without a visa. The move evidences increased cooperation between the two nations, which are focusing on their shared maritime activities.

On 25 May, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister announced his country would soon follow in the footsteps of Rwanda and allow all Africans to enter Ethiopia without having to apply for a visa beforehand. The announcement was made at a banquet held by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was in Ethiopia on an official visit.

On 27 May, Rwanda became the first nation in Africa to ratify the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport. The move follows Rwanda’s decision to implement a universal visa-on-arrival regime beginning on 1 January 2018.