A Comprehensive Analysis of Last Month’s Changes to Visa-Free Travel Across the Globe.
|Belarus||Hong Kong||Norway||St Kitts and Nevis|
|Bolivia||Hungary||Oman||St Vincent and the Grenadines|
|Croatia||Italy||Portugal||United Arab Emirates|
|Czech Republic||Japan||Qatar||United Kingdom|
Please note that due to the unexpected magnitude of the Covid-19 outbreak, countries across the world have implemented unprecedented travel restrictions. Many jurisdictions have implemented entry restrictions on individuals of any nationality who have recently been in, or transited through, certain countries. The countries taking such an approach include China, Malaysia, Nauru, Palau, Tonga, and the United States.
Named relevant countries: Australia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Maldives, Norway, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Schengen Area, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City
the economic plan for Belarus had been unanimously approved during a sitting of the European Council on the same day. The economic plan envisages, among other things, the introduction of visa-free entry to the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) for citizens of Belarus.
On 5 October, certain members of the European Parliament addressed an open letter to the faction leader of the Servant of the People Party in Ukraine. Referring to visa-free travel, the letter read, “it is by no means the intention from the EU side to abolish this great achievement for all Ukrainian and EU citizens – still, we reserve the right to impose the specific denial of such freedoms to individual oligarchs and policy-makers who abuse this right for their private illegal activities.” The letter was written in response to concerns over anti-corruption reform issues in Ukraine.
On 7 October, a press officer of the European Commission confirmed that the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is still set to become fully operational by the end of 2022, and that the Covid-19 pandemic has not affected preparations for the planned launch. ETIAS is a travel authorisation similar to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) and will become compulsory for citizens of over 60 countries who benefit from visa-free access to the Schengen Area.
On 8 October, Ukraine and the United Kingdom signed an agreement on political cooperation, free trade, and strategic partnership. The agreement notes the willingness of the two countries to improve cooperation in the field of migration and envisages work towards visa facilitation between the two countries.
On 9 October, the Government of Ukraine adopted a draft agreement on the mutual abolition of visa requirements with the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The draft agreement provides for mutual visa-free travel for citizens of the two countries for stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
On 13 October, a diplomatic source in France told Kosovo-based newspaper Gazeta Express, that France does not believe Kosovo has fulfilled the criteria for visa liberalisation with Europe, particularly where crime and corruption are concerned. As such, Kosovo will not conclude its protracted visa liberalisation process by the end of this year as many expected.
On 22 October, the EU Parliament published a press release urging the European Commission to table a proposal to suspend visa waivers for citizens of the United States. Currently, citizens of Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania still require a visa to enter the United States, while citizens of the United States can travel visa-free throughout the EU. As per EU legislation, the European Commission must suspend visa waivers for nationals of third countries for a 12-month period if that third country does not ensure reciprocity within 24 months of formal notification. The United States was notified as to non-reciprocity in 2014.
On 3 October, England removed Poland from its travel corridor list. Further, on 18 October, England removed Italy, San Marino, and Vatican City from its travel corridor list. Finally, on 25 October, England removed Liechtenstein. Persons arriving in England from these jurisdictions are therefore subject to a 14-day self-isolation requirement despite being able to enter the country visa-free.
On 6 October, the Government of Ireland published its Tourism Recovery Plan 2020–2023, which aims to secure a sustainable recovery from Covid-19. One recommendation was to “strengthen Ireland’s international competitiveness in Asia and developing markets by offering a free 90-day visa waiver programme for short term holiday visits.”
On 10 October, England added a number of islands in Greece to its travel corridor list, namely Lesvos, Santorini, Serifos, and Zakynthos. Crete was then added to the travel corridor list on 18 October followed by Mykonos on 25 October. Also on 25 October, England added the Canary Islands (though the rest of Spain remains outside the travel corridor), Denmark, and the Maldives. Persons arriving in England from these islands are exempt from the 14-day self-isolation requirement other persons must abide by.
On 14 October, the coronavirus crisis centre in Russia announced that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed an order resuming flights to Cuba and Serbia. Cubans and Serbians can both enter Russia without a visa.
On 22 October, the Council of the European Union updated its recommendation advising EU Member States and all Schengen Area Member States, including the four Schengen Associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), to reopen external borders to residents of certain non-member countries. The updated list includes 11 countries and territories, of which Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Uruguay benefit from visa-free access to the Schengen Area.
Named relevant countries: St Kitts and Nevis
On 31 October, St Kitts and Nevis reopened its borders and resumed international flights for the first time since closing to tourism in March 2020. The decision to reopen particularly affects citizens of 125 visa-exempt countries and territories.
Named relevant countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States
On 19 October, United States Ambassador Robert Kohorst confirmed that Croatia has a United States visa rejection rate of less than three per cent, the final criterion for acceptance into the Visa Waiver Programme. Kohorst added that while visas will not be abolished for Croatian citizens before the end of 2020, he expects that visas will be abolished soon.
On 12 October, Panama reopened its borders to all, including non-resident foreign nationals. All arrivals must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken 48 hours prior to arrival or be tested at the airport. A positive test result will mean having to quarantine at a Government-approved location. The reopening particularly affects citizens of 118 visa-exempt countries.
On 15 October, as part of a mutual agreement, Paraguay and Brazil reopened their land border crossings. All other ports of entry in Paraguay remain closed, except for repatriation and humanitarian purposes. In Brazil, land and maritime borders remain closed to non-resident foreign nationals, with some exceptions.
On 22 October, authorities in Peru issued a decree reopening the country’s land borders, subject to the entering into force of regulations allowing ports of entry to accept passenger arrivals. The reopening of Peru’s land borders affects citizens of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Named relevant countries: Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
On 20 October, the Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy of the United Arab Emirates and the Director-General of the Population and Immigration Authority of the Ministry of Interior of Israel signed a mutual visa waiver agreement between the two countries. After ratification of the visa waiver, citizens of the United Arab Emirates will be able to visit Israel visa-free for 90 days per visit. The visa-free agreement is the first such agreement between Israel and a country in the Middle East.
On 1 October, Oman allowed the resumption of inbound and outbound international flights subject to Government approval. The reopening of Oman’s airspace particularly affects citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who all benefit from visa-free access to Oman.
Named relevant countries: Australia, Brunei, India, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand
On 2 October, a notification issued by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Pakistan revealed that Pakistan has reopened its side of the Kartarpur corridor to citizens of India. The Kartarpur corridor allows Sikh pilgrims visa-free access to the Durbar Sahib Gurdwara. India has yet to decide on a date on which to reopen its side of the corridor.
On 15 October, Pakistan resumed international flights at all international airports in the country. All arrivals to Pakistan are required to self-isolate for two weeks if asymptomatic and, if displaying symptoms, are required to undergo further health assessments and must quarantine either at home, in paid accommodation, or at a medical facility. Pakistan’s resumption of flights particularly affects citizens of 55 countries benefitting from visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to the country.
On 22 October, the Ministry of Home Affairs of India lifted all Covid-19 visa restrictions, with the exception of electronic tourist visas-on-arrival. All Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders may now travel to India without a visa as per their OCI and PIO status.
On 30 October, Japan lifted its entry ban on foreign nationals from certain countries and territories, including Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Japan continues to suspend visa waivers with other countries, for whose citizens an entry ban still applies.
Named relevant countries: France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Mozambique, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States
On 1 October, Uganda reopened its air and land borders to inbound and outbound international travel to and from all countries. Arrivals are required to present a negative Covid-19 test taken 72 hours prior to arrival in the country. The reopening particularly affects citizens of 37 visa-exempt jurisdictions.
On 1 October, the main border between Mozambique and South Africa at Ressano Garcia reopened, after being closed to all but goods traffic since March 2020. Persons crossing into South Africa must present a negative PCR test taken no sooner than 72 hours prior to arrival.
On 4 October, the Department of Home Affairs of South Africa published a statement revealing that the visa-free status of citizens of the following countries and territories had been reinstated: France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. The Department of Home Affairs said that the move was in line with the Government’s commitment to address the economic and tourism stagnation catalysed by Covid-19.