November’s Visa-Free Digest 2019

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:

Armenia Haiti Philippines
Australia Hong Kong Poland
Austria India Qatar
Azerbaijan Iran Romania
Barbados Iraq Russia
Belarus Italy Rwanda
Botswana Japan Saudi Arabia
Brazil Kazakhstan Serbia
Bulgaria Kiribati South Africa
Canada Kyrgyzstan Spain
Central African Republic Malaysia St Kitts and Nevis
China Malta Switzerland
Croatia Marshall Islands Taiwan
Cuba Mexico Tajikistan
Cyprus Moldova Thailand
Dominica Myanmar Ukraine
Ethiopia Nauru United Arab Emirates
European Union New Zealand United Kingdom
Fiji Nigeria United States
Georgia Norway Uzbekistan
Germany Oman Vietnam
Ghana Pakistan Vanuatu
Guam Papua New Guinea


Named relevant countries: Belarus, Russia, Botswana, Ukraine, European Union, Japan, Dominica, European Commission, Croatia, Serbia, Armenia

On 5 October, Belarus announced it would join the Brest and Grodno areas currently open to visa-free travel, and add five more districts to the Grodno area. The Grodno area was opened in October 2016. Brest was opened on 1 January 2018. On 14 October 2019, Belarus approved these new travel rules, which are expected to come into force on 10 November 2019 and to allow single-entry visa-free travel for 15-days (with some variations depending on whether a person is travelling alone or as part of a tourist group).


On 8 October, the visa waiver agreement signed between Russia and Botswana in June 2019 came into effect. The original agreement was signed by the two nations’ Foreign Ministers, Sergey Lavrov for Russia and Unity Dow for Botswana, on the side-lines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. The agreement allows for short-term stays of up to 30 consecutive days and of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.


On 15 October, the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, said that Ukraine would soon implement “integrated border management” procedures with the European Union. He noted that this was the “next step in ensuring freedom of movement of goods and services after visa-free travel.”


On 21 October, Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, posted on Twitter that Ukraine would be “grateful” to Japan for its continued consideration of a visa waiver for its citizen, “especially in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics.” The Tweet came in the context of the President travelling to Japan and of Japan having already implemented facilitated systems for Ukrainians obtaining short-term visas beginning on 1 January 2019.


On 24 October, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a Facebook post stating it had “good news for the citizens of Ukraine and Dominica” because the two nations’ visa-free travel agreement would come into force on 13 November 2019. The agreement, which was signed on 15 May 2019, affords citizens visa-free entry rights for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.


On 22 October, the European Commission said that Croatia, the latest country to have joined the European Union, had continued to fulfil its Schengen criteria and was therefore eligible to become a member of the Schengen Area. The final decision on Croatia rests with the European Council. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said: “I commend Croatia for its efforts and perseverance to meet all the necessary conditions to join Schengen […] This is why I trust the member states will take the right steps for Croatia to become a full Schengen member soon.”


On 26 October, Serbia announced the decision to award visa-free travel to citizens of Armenia. The measure is unilateral, and will come into force on 3 November 2019. It applies to Armenians who travel to Serbia for periods of up to 90 days within 180 days. The announcement was made by a spokesperson for Serbia’s Foreign Ministry, Anna Naghdalyan.


Named relevant countries: St Kitts and Nevis, Marshall Islands, Cuba, Pakistan, Barbados, Haiti

On 26 October, St Kitts and Nevis signed a visa-free travel agreement with the Marshall Islands. The agreement was signed in Taiwan, which is a close diplomatic ally of St Kitts and Nevis, by the Ambassador to Taiwan, Jasmine Huggins. On the part of the Marshall Islands, it was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs John Silk. “We are aware that the privilege of traveling to new and distant places provides an opportunity for personal growth and development and today we are making it that much easier for our citizens,” said Ambassador Huggins.


On 30 October, Cuba and Pakistan signed an agreement for visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports. The signing ceremony was attended by Cuba’s Vice-President, Roberto Morales Ojeda, and by Pakistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi. However, the agreement was signed by Pakistan’s Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior.


On 30 October, Barbados’ Ambassador to the CARICOM, David Comissiong, said that although Barbados was committed to assisting Haiti’s growth by re-establishing a visa-free travel regime with the nation, his delegation had “not been able to go because for the whole year, Haiti has been in turmoil.” Barbados established a visa-free travel regime for Haitians in August 2018, but had to reinstate a visa regime upon confusion on the part of Haitians that the visa-free travel regime also allowed them to live and work in Barbados.


Named relevant countries: United States, Poland, Malaysia, China, India, Brazil, Qatar

On 4 October, United States President Donald Trump announced that Poland had formally been nominated for inclusion in the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). “They’ve been trying to get this for many, many decades. And, I got it for the Polish people, in honour of the Polish people in the United States and in Poland,” said the President. Inclusion in the VWP entails access to the United States for periods of up to 90 days without needing to apply for a visa.


In early October, the United States Ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, said that discussions on including Malaysia in the US Visa Waiver Programme had started anew between Malaysian Home Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, and Acting US Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, and that the two countries could work together on the matter.


On 24 October, Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, announced the country would remove visa requirements for citizens of China and India. He noted that the move would not be reciprocated, but that it would increase short-term tourism and business travel to Brazil. On 17 June 2019, Brazil established a similar, non-reciprocated regime for Australia, Canada, Japan, and the United States.


On 28 October, following a trip to Doha, Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, signed a mutual visa waiver agreement for transiting businesspersons, tourists, and passengers. The agreement applies equally to citizens of Qatar and Brazil. Previously, Brazilians could travel to Qatar without a visa on the basis of a unilateral decision on the part of the Government of Qatar.

Middle East

Named relevant countries: Iran, Russia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda

In early October, Iran’s Deputy Head of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts  said that the visa waiver agreement between Iran and Russia for group trips organised by a select number of travel agencies was “being reviewed,” and would be ready for finalisation in the coming days.


From 24 October to 27 December, citizens of Iraq will be able to travel to Iran without needing to obtain a visa. The move was announced by Iran’s embassy in Baghdad, which expressed hope that this would lead to a permanent visa-free travel agreement between the two nations.


On 23 October, Iran and Oman came together to discuss visa-free travel for their respective citizens. Iran was represented by the Minister of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism, Ali-Asghar Mounesan, while Oman was represented by the Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah. The latter stated: “We appreciate our deep relations with Iran and we are considering cancelling visas for Iranians who want to travel to Oman.” Later, on 30 October 2019, Mounesan confirmed that talks with Oman were “underway to implement a visa-free programme for Iranian tourists visiting the country.” Iran already allows visa-free entry for citizens of Oman through a temporary regime that was extended by one year in September 2019.


On 30 October, Qatar waived visas for holders of all types of valid passports issued by Rwanda. The agreement between Qatar and Rwanda allows for stays of up to 30 days, and applies to both single and multiple entries.


Named relevant countries: Myanmar, Australia, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Oman, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Taiwan, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Vanuatu, Australia, Canada, European Union, United States, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Austria, Norway,  United Kingdom, Hong Kong

Beginning on 1 October, Myanmar inaugurated a visa-on-arrival regime for citizens of Australia, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Switzerland. Visas-on-arrival are available at the international airports of Yangon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw. The cost of the visa is US$50, and it enables visitors to remain in Myanmar for up to 30 days. The change follows a general trend of visa liberalisation in Myanmar, with passport holders from Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, and South Korea being granted temporary visa-free travel rights until 30 September 2020.


In early October, Kazakhstan introduced a visa-free regime for ordinary passport holders from Oman. The regime enables visits of up to 30 days and was announced by the Kazakh Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman, Najmedin Muhametali. It is expected that Oman will shortly allow Kazakh nationals to enter Oman via electronic visas, and ultimately through a visa-on-arrival regime.


On 11 October, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said that a visa regime similar to the Schengen Agreement should be introduced for member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. He said that the “significant differences” in CIS visa and migration laws “create inconveniences for foreign tourists who want to visit several CIS countries” and that a single regime “under the conditional name Commonwealth visa” should be considered. The Kazakh President made the proposal at the CIS Summit in Ashgabat.


On 14 October, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan decided to extend the rights associated to their visa-free travel agreement to enable visitors to stay in their two nations for 90 days, instead of the original 30 days. However, visitors staying between 30 and 90 days will need to register with local authorities – something that visitors staying for only 30 days will not need to do.


On 18 October, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it received a letter from the American Institute in Taiwan, dated 15 October 2019, confirming that Taiwan would remain in the US Visa Waiver Programme. Taiwan received a similar confirmation in 2015. It first joined the Programme in November 2012.


On 20 October, Pakistan began accepting registrations for Indians planning to visit the Kartarpur Corridor without needing to show a valid visa. India expects the first pilgrims to be allowed into Pakistan by 9 November 2019, when Imran Khan will inaugurate the project. The inauguration will take place three days before the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanank, a significant figure for India’s Sikh community. The official signing of the Kartarpur Agreement took place on 24 October 2019. Although Indians will not need to apply for a visa, their passport will be stamped by Pakistan’s Federal Investigative Agency, which operates under the Ministry of the Interior.


On 22 October, the Deputy Government Spokesperson for Thailand, Traisulee Traisoranakul, announced that the Thai Cabinet had decided to extend its temporary free visa-on-arrival regime for an additional six months until the end of April 2020. The regime, which has been in place since 1 December 2018 and was scheduled to expire on 31 October 2019, applies to citizens of Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, and Vanuatu.


On 23 October, China announced that the number of cities that allow visa-free transits of up to 144 hours (six days) will increase to a total of 27 beginning on 1 December 2019. The announcement was made by the National Immigration Administration. Citizens from 53 nations benefit from this policy, including all citizens of Australia, Canada, the European Union, Russia, and the United States. Beneficiaries must have a passport valid for at least three months and return tickets showing an intended departure within 144 hours.


In late October, more information was revealed about Uzbekistan’s new visa-free travel regime, which will affect the citizens of 86 countries beginning on 1 January 2020. Citizens of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia, and others may enjoy such rights without a time limit. Citizens of Kyrgyzstan will be able to travel to Uzbekistan visa-free for a maximum of 60 days. Citizens of Austria, Italy, Norway, Spain, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom, and others will be able to do so for up to 30 days. Citizens of China and Hong Kong will be limited to 7 days.


Named relevant countries: Central African Republic, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, United Kingdom, Ghana, Nigeria, Vietnam


On 8 October, the agreement on visa-free travel signed between the Central African Republic and the United Arab Emirates on 8 September 2019 came into force. This means that persons holding diplomatic, special, and ordinary passports issued by the United Arab Emirates can travel to the Central African Republic for up to 90 days without needing to apply for a visa.


On 9 October, South Africa’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, said that South Africa was hoping the United Kingdom would reconsider its visa-free travel policy towards South Africans. South Africans lost visa-free access to the United Kingdom after several South Africans sought to travel there on forged passports. “Since that time we have improved [passport security],” said the Minister, “and we think the UK must now reconsider allowing visa-free access.”


In mid-October, the Parliament in Ghana debated the visa waiver agreement signed between Ghana and Jamaica in June 2019. The agreement was signed during Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s visit to Jamaica.


On 30 October, Nigeria and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the removal of visa requirements for persons holding diplomatic and official passports from the two nations. The signing was followed by a dinner hosted by Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and attended by Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister, Vuong Hue.


Named relevant countries: New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Guam Philippines, Kiribati, United Arab Emirates

On 1 October, New Zealand launched its New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) system. The system requires people to apply for, and receive, a NZeTA before travelling to New Zealand, and applies to all persons with visa-free access to New Zealand, including those who transit on the country’s 24-hour visa-waiver. The change affects citizens of more than 60 nations, including those of the United Kingdom and United States. It does not, however, affect citizens of Australia.


On 3 October, speaking to the members of the Rotary Club of Guam at the Outrigger Guam Beach Resort in Tumon, former Governor Carl Gutierrez said he was hopeful he would meet the President of the United States by the end of 2019 to obtain visa-free travel to Guam for citizens of the Philippines.


Beginning on 23 October, Kiribati opened its doors to holders of diplomatic, special, and ordinary passports from the United Arab Emirates staying in Kiribati for 30 days. The move follows a Waiver Agreement signed between Kiribati and the United Arab Emirates on 23 September 2019 on the side-lines of the 74th UN General Assembly in New York.