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:
|EUROPE||Named relevant countries: Greece, Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Schengen Area, Ukraine, South Korea, Kosovo, Montenegro, European Union|
|CARIBBEAN||Name relevant countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Ukraine, St Kitts and Nevis, India|
|AMERICAS||Named relevant countries: Argentina, Mongolia|
|MIDDLE EAST||Named relevant countries: Turkey, Schengen Area, Jordan, India|
|AFRICA||Named relevant countries: Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Armenia, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Panama, Romania, Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Thailand|
|OCEANIA||Named relevant countries: Nauru, South Ossetia|
Check our February’s Visa-Free Digest for more updates.
In early February, the Government of Greece announced a tender to develop new ID cards for citizens. The move came ahead of a visit from a delegation from the United States Department of Homeland Security, which previously expressed concern with respect to the lack of biometric data within the ID cards, signalling that it may affect Greece’s eligibility under the Visa Waiver Programme.
On 8 February, the Foreign Minister of Belarus, Vladimir Makey, said that Belarus and Russia were formulating an agreement on visa-free travel for their nationals, as well as for third-country nationals crossing their shared border after the introduction of Belarus’ five- and ten-day visa-free policy for citizens of 80 countries. “We plan to sign this bilateral intergovernmental document in the immediate future,” said the Foreign Minister.
In mid-February, it emerged that visa-free travel for Georgia to the Schengen Area may be in jeopardy, as over 15,000 Georgians overstayed their maximum visit allowance of three months. Georgians have been able to access the Schengen Area without a visa since 29 March 2017.
On 14 February, the Ukraine’s Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, said that the Ukraine and South Korea were close to completing negotiations on visa-free travel. The negotiations took place in Seoul, during a trip by a delegation of the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior which ended on 13 February 2018. “Do we need a visa-free travel with the 11th economy of the world? The question is rhetorical! I am very glad that we managed to come close to an agreement on this issue… We will do our best so that in a short while each of you reading these lines should have an opportunity to learn this first hand – by using the visa-free travel with South Korea for business or travel purposes,” said Minister Avakov.
On 16 February, Kosovo and Montenegro announced they had reached an agreement with respect to the 2015 demarcation agreement that governs their shared border. The agreement, announced the two nations, needs to be ratified by Kosovo, while it has already been ratified by Montenegro. Ratification of the agreement is essential to Kosovo obtaining visa-free travel to the European Union.
On 6 February, Antigua and Barbuda and the Ukraine signed a visa-free agreement, to be ratified by their respective Governments, allowing visa-free travel to their nationals for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The agreement was signed by the two nations’ respective Ambassadors to the United States in Washington D.C.
On 16 February, St Kitts and Nevis and India signed an agreement to allow holders of diplomatic and service passports to travel across their borders without a visa. Ordinary passport holders from India can travel to St Kitts and Nevis without a visa, but the same is not true for ordinary Kittitians and Nevisians making their way to India. “St Kitts and Nevis has kindly agreed to exempt visas even for the ordinary passport holders and I will carry it back to my Government… so that we can discuss and reciprocate the same way,” said the High Commissioner of India to St Kitts and Nevis.
On 19 February, an agreement, signed between Argentina and Mongolia on 31 August 2017, came into force. The agreement allows citizens of Mongolia to travel to Argentina without a visa for a period of up to 90 days.
On 3 February, Turkey’s Ambassador to the European Union, Faruk Kaymakci, said that Turkey could reform its anti-terrorism laws with relative ease, thus meeting one of the key benchmarks required for Turkey to obtain visa-free travel to Europe’s Schengen Area. He pointed to the fact that things had settled since the unsuccessful military coup of July 2017, giving more room for reform in the domain of anti-terrorism.
On 7 February, Omer Celik, Minister of EU Affairs for Turkey, said that the country had fulfilled all 72 requirements for obtaining visa-free travel to the Schengen Area. On that same day, Turkey’s Ambassador to the European Union, Faruk Kaymakci, submitted a draft document on this matter to the European Union Commission.
The move comes shortly before a meeting between Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Chief of the European Council, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov scheduled for 26 March 2018 in Varna.
On 28 February, Jordan announced it would allow citizens from India to travel to the country without a visa, and to enter through a visa-on-arrival system. With the formal agreement between Jordan and India to be signed on 1 March 2018 by Jordan’s King Abdullah II India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two countries are expected to increase bilateral cooperation and assistance.
On 4 February, South Korea’s Ambassador to Belarus, Kim Yong Ho, announced that the two nations had plans to waive visas for their citizens. “South Korea and Belarus are working hard to abolish visas between the two countries,” said the Ambassador, who specified that hopes were high for an agreement to be reached later in the year during Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs’ visit to South Korea.
On 12 February, South Korea said it would introduce an electronic travel authorisation system for foreigners travelling to the country visa-free. The system is due to mirror that of the United States’ Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and is aimed at strengthening immigration control.
On 6 February, Japan and Russia briefly discussed visa-free travel between the islands of Hokkaido and Sahkalin, with Japan’s Director of the Political Affairs Department at the Japanese Embassy to Russia noting that “Tokyo is ready to further discuss this issue.” The lifting of visas for Hokkaido and Sahkalin was first envisioned by Russia’ President, Vladimir Putin, and Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in mid-December 2016.
On 10 February, Uzbekistan inaugurated a 30-day short-term visa-free travel regime for citizens of Israel, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Turkey. The regime was established by the signing of a decree by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on 3 February 2018 “to create favourable conditions for boosting Uzbekistan’s tourism potential.” Until 10 February 2018, only nine nations could enter Uzbekistan visa-free: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and the Ukraine. Citizens from these nine nations all benefit from 60 days of visa-free travel within Uzbekistan.
Also on 10 February, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan implemented the elimination of visa requirements for eligible citizens crossing the Oybek checkpoint for stays of up to five days. To be eligible, citizens of Uzbekistan must be residents of the cities of Angren or Bekabad, or of the Akhangaran, Bekabad, Bukin, or Psken districts. Tajiks are eligible if they are residents of the Asht, Babajan Gafur, or Matchinsky districts.
In mid-February, Uzbekistan also announced that, starting May 2018, it would be initiating a visa-on-arrival regime for all foreigners transiting through the nation for a period of 72 hours or less.
In mid-February, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee made calls to extend Vietnam’s visa-free regime for citizens of the 22 countries that currently do not require visas to travel in Vietnam. Under the Committee’s proposal, the regime should be extended from a maximum of 15 days of travel to either 21 or 30 days.
On 15 February, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Zahid Hamidi, said that the Government would question the United States’ Ambassador to Malaysia over her recent comments suggesting that the nation would not be included in the Visa Waiver Programme anytime soon. The Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that Malaysia had “fulfilled all conditions, including the conditions set under the HSPD-6 [Homeland Security Presidential Directive No 6], and ensured that security aspects such as the lost passports list and suspects list were fully utilised.” The United States currently lists 38 countries in its Visa Waiver Programme.
On 17 February, the Head of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry’s Press Service, Anuar Zhainakov, announced the initiation of a visa-free travel regime for holders of ordinary passports from Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates for stays of up to 30 days commencing 10 March 2018. The announcement follows an agreement signed between Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates in May 2017.
On 10 February, Cape Verde ratified an agreement, first signed in February 2014, enabling visa-free short-term travel for citizens of Mozambique. The agreement came into force upon ratification, as Mozambique had already taken steps to ratify the agreement, and applies to tourist and business visitors.
On 15 February, an agreement between Mozambique and Angola came into effect, resulting in citizens of the two nations being able to travel freely across their borders for a period of 30 days. Importantly however, citizens will still need to present certain entry documents, including their yellow fever vaccination card, evidence of sufficient funds, and proof of onward travel, at the border.
On 15 February, Zimbabwe launched a visa-on-arrival scheme for citizens of 28 countries. The countries include Armenia, Ethiopia, India, Mexico, Panama, and Romania, as well as the other member states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC): Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia. The launch was announced by Zimbabwe’s Department of Immigration Principal Director, Clement Masango, at the National Tourism Strategy Workshop held in Victoria Falls.
On 27 February, the Seychelles and Thailand signed an agreement to lift visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and official passports. The agreement was penned after the accreditation of H.E. Cherdkiat Atthakor, Thailand’s new Ambassador to the Seychelles.
In mid-February, Nauru and South Ossetia, a breakaway region claiming independence from Georgia, signed a visa-free travel agreement for their citizens for stays of no more than 90 days. Nauru is one of a four countries to recognise South Ossetia, and is known for its very strict entry regulations. Only citizens from a handful of Pacific countries and Israel, Russia, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates can enter Nauru visa-free.