March’s Visa Free Digest 2020

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

African UnionIndiaMongoliaThailand
ArgentinaIndonesiaMyanmarTurkey
ArmeniaIranNetherlandsTurkmenistan
AustriaIrelandNorwayTurks & Caicos
BangladeshItalyPolandUkraine
BelgiumJapanPortugalUnited Arab Emirates
ChinaJordanRussiaUnited Kingdom
CroatiaKuwaitSaudi ArabiaUnited States
DominicaMacauSingaporeVenezuela
European UnionMaldivesSpainVietnam
GeorgiaMaltaSri Lanka
GrenadaMarshall IslandsSwitzerland
Hong KongMauritaniaTaiwan 

Please note, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, several countries have imposed temporary travel restrictions on individuals of any nationality who have been in, or transited through, in the 14–21 days prior to travel, countries heavily affected by the virus, including China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.


Europe

Named relevant countries: Argentina, Armenia, European Union, Grenada, Jordan, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom

On 5 February, Prime Minister of Ukraine, Oleksiy Honcharuk, announced that the Cabinet of Ministers approved two protocols with the Governments of Argentina and Mongolia. The protocols extend the term of visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens in the aforementioned countries to 90 days during any 180-day period.

On 10 February, King Abdullah II of Jordan arrived in Armenia for a two-day official visit. President Sarkissian of Armenia and the Jordanian monarch held a meeting to discuss, among other things, the possible implementation of a visa-free travel agreement that would benefit citizens of the two countries. Such talks come as the countries seek to improve their bilateral relations.

On 11 February, the Government of Switzerland held a press conference to discuss the referendum set to be held on 17 May 2020. In the referendum, Swiss voters will decide whether Switzerland should take back unilateral control of immigration; a ‘positive outcome’ would therefore abrogate the free movement of citizens arrangement established in 2007 between Switzerland and the European Union.

On 12 February, Prime Minister of Ukraine, Oleksiy Honcharuk, announced that the Ukrainian Government approved the agreement between Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the abolition of visas. Under the agreement, citizens of the two countries may travel to the other without visas for 90 days during any 180-day period.

On 12 February, a draft European Parliament resolution on the “proposed mandate for negotiations for a new partnership with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” was adopted. The draft resolution, among other things, stated the European Parliament’s consideration that the Withdrawal Agreement should provide for reciprocal visa-free travel for short-term visits for citizens of the United Kingdom and European Union member states.

On 19 February, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a draft order on the abolition of visa requirements with the Government of Grenada, and authorised Ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom, Natalya Halibarenko to sign the agreement. Once the agreement enters into force, citizens of the two countries will be able to travel visa-free for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Americas

Named relevant countries: Croatia, Dominica, Turks and Caicos, United Arab Emirates, United States, Venezuela

On 15 February, amendments made by the Turks and Caicos Government to the Immigration Ordinance 2018 reportedly came into effect; removing visa free travel for citizens of Venezuela.

On 19 February, following efforts by Croatia to reduce its declined visa applications, United States Ambassador, Robert Kohorst, stated that “there is a very good chance” that Croatia will qualify for the United States Visa Waiver Programme in 2020, but highlighted that there are still some conditions that must be fulfilled.

On 24 February, a visa waiver agreement between the United Arab Emirates and the Commonwealth of Dominica entered into force. The agreement, which was signed by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, allows for holders of United Arab Emirates diplomatic, official, special, and ordinary passports to travel to Dominica without a visa, and entitles holders of Dominica diplomatic and official passports to visas-on-arrival at United Arab Emirates ports of entry.

Middle East

Named relevant countries: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, China, Croatia, European Union, Hong Kong, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Macau, Maldives, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom

On 10 February, following outbreak of the coronavirus, passport holders from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau were suspended from obtaining visa-free access to Iran, but are still permitted to obtain visas-on-arrival.

On 12 February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, Abdulla Shahid, announced on social media that Saudi Arabia is currently implementing a scheme that will allow Maldivian citizens to obtain visas-on-arrival to Saudi Arabia. The Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and heralded the “special relationship” between the two countries.

On 20 February, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey revealed Turkey’s plans to implement visa-free travel for citizens of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, beginning 2 March 2020. The reported visa-free regime is set to allow entry for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

On 23 February, in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, Armenia and Turkey closed their borders to Iranian citizens. In Armenia, Prime Minister Nikol Pahinyan announced the closure of Armenia’s land border with Iran for 14 days, as well as partial restrictions on air communication. In Turkey, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced that Turkey has temporarily closed its four land borders with Iran and has stopped train and flight services to the country.

On 24 February, due to the coronavirus outbreak, government officials in Kuwait suspended all flights to and from Italy and South Korea. The suspension affects, among others, citizens of Italy and South Korea, who were previously permitted visa-on-arrival access to Kuwait for a period of up to three months.

On 27 February, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey announced plans to implement a visa exemption for citizens of a further five countries, namely Croatia, Ireland, Malta, Portugal, and Norway. The visa exemption will allow entry for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, and therefore mirrors the visa-free regime that was previously announced on 20 February. The visa-free travel agreements represent a step closer to visa liberalisation with the European Union for Turkey.

Asia

Named relevant countries: Bangladesh, China, Commonwealth of Independent States, Georgia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Myanmar, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Vietnam

On 1 February, in an effort to minimise the spread of the coronavirus, Singapore suspended its 96-hour visa-free transit facility, affecting nationals of China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Georgia, India, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine.

On 2 February, Russia suspended its 20-year bilateral visa-free travel arrangement for tourist groups to and from China. The suspension follows the outbreak of the coronavirus in China.

On 4 February, following outbreak of the coronavirus, the Government of South Korea temporarily suspended visa-free entry to Jeju Island, affecting regular passport holders from 27 nations.

On 5 February, the Minister of Justice and Human Rights of Indonesia, Yasonna Laoly, signed a regulation temporarily withdrawing visa-free and visa-on-arrival entry for citizens of China. The suspension forms part of the Indonesian Government’s efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

On 6 February, following outbreak of the coronavirus, Myanmar suspended visa-on-arrival access for nationals of mainland China.

On 6 of February, following outbreak of the coronavirus, Sri Lanka suspended visa-on-arrival access for citizens of mainland China. Previously, citizens of China were included in Sri Lanka’s visa-on-arrival scheme due to be in operation until 30 April 2020.

As of 8 February, following outbreak of the coronavirus, holders of passports from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau are no longer eligible for visa-on-arrival access to Bangladesh. Holders of such passports are now required to complete a Health Clearance Form provided by cabin crew.

On 14 February, amid concerns regarding the impact of the coronavirus on the tourism sector in Thailand, Tourism and Sports Minister of Thailand, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, announced that the Government plans to resubmit to the Cabinet its free visa-on-arrival policy for citizens of China, provided that the Chinese authorities handle the outbreak. The current fee exemption for visas-on-arrival for Chinese nationals is currently due to end on 30 April 2020.

On 27 February, the Embassy of India in Seoul announced on social media that India has temporarily suspended the provision of visas-on-arrival to nationals of Japan and South Korea, in light of the number of coronavirus cases in the two countries. Existing e-visa or regular visas remain valid provided the applicant has not visited China on or after 15 January 2020.

On 29 February, the Government of Vietnam temporarily suspended visa-free travel for citizens of South Korea in a measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus amid increasing concerns. Previously, South Korean citizens were permitted to stay in Vietnam without a visa for up to 15 days.

Africa

Named relevant countries: African Union, Mauritania, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates

On 2 February, President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, entered the United Arab Emirates on an official state visit. The two countries exchanged a memorandum of understanding on a mutual visa waiver for their citizens.

On 4 February, after months of speculation, President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria presented the Nigeria Visa Policy (NVP) 2020 at the State House in Abuja. The NVP, among other changes to immigration policy, allows for the granting of visas-on-arrival to citizens of any of the 55 African Union member states.