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 territories: Ukraine; United Kingdom; Uruguay; Russia; Jamaica; Palau; European Parliament; Kosovo; Belarus; Georgia; Thailand|
|CARIBBEAN||Named relevant territories: St Kitts and Nevis; Gambia|
|AMERICAS||Named relevant territories: United States; Poland; Paraguay; United Arab Emirates|
|MIDDLE EAST||Named relevant territories: Qatar; Iran; Oman; United Arab Emirates; Serbia|
|ASIA||Named relevant territories: Laos; South Korea; Taiwan; Russia; Pakistan; India; Mongolia; Armenia|
|AFRICA||Named relevant territories: Algeria; Belarus; Cuba; Egypt; Georgia; Ghana; Iran; Lebanon; Morocco; Palestine; Qatar; United Arab Emirates; South Africa|
Check our September’s Visa-Free Digest for more updates.
In early September, it was reported that the Ukraine and the United Kingdom had resumed talks on establishing a visa-free travel regime for ordinary Ukrainian passport holders. “It was agreed that the first round of talks will be held this October,” said the Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, although he warned that the implementation of a regime with the United Kingdom would likely take two years.
On 27 September, the Ukraine signed a visa waiver agreement with Uruguay on the side-lines of the 73rd UN General Assembly. The Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers authorised the agreement on 19 September 2018. The agreement allows Ukrainians to travel to Uruguay for up to 90 days, with an option for a 90-day renewal. It also allows Uruguayans to travel to the Ukraine for a maximum of 90 days in a 180-day period.
On 3 September, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that Russia “would definitely like to move forward faster” with respect to visa waivers and the easing of travel for its citizens. He noted: “We have already made such agreements with about one-third of countries that we cooperate with. Another one-third of countries have eased visa restrictions that made the life of our citizens travelling abroad easier.”
Also on 3 September, Russia’s Legislative Commission endorsed a draft federal law for UEFA Euro 2020 fans with tickets to the St Petersburg matches. The law would enable fans to enter Russia visa-free until 31 December 2020. On 25 September, two bills on the matter were submitted to the State Duma. Russia passed a similar law for 2018 FIFA World Cup fans.
On 27 September, on the side-lines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Russia and Jamaica signed a new visa-free agreement for their citizens. The agreement, which allows stays of up to 90 days, covers both Russians and Jamaicans. A previous agreement between the two nations only allowed visa-free entry for Russians into Jamaica.
On 28 September, Russia and Palau penned a mutual visa-free travel agreement for their citizens. The agreement followed a meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and members of the UN delegation for Palau to New York, where the 73rd UN General Assembly was being held.
On 13 September, the European Parliament voted to allow negotiations on visa-free travel for citizens of Kosovo. The negotiations will be in the hands of the European Parliament and European Council, with the first discussion on the matter held on 17 September 2018. It is expected that, should visa-free travel be approved, Kosovars would be able to visit the Schengen Area without a visa for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. The visa waiver would however only apply to those holding biometric passports.
On 23 September, Alexei Begun, who heads Belarus’ Department for Citizenship and Migration at the Ministry of Interior, said that Belarus was working closely with Russia “to find illegal migrants and channels of illegal migration.” The statement followed concerns by Russia that Belarus’ new open-border policy may result in person entering Russia without the necessary authorisation. Belarus’ policy allows visa-free entry for up to 30 days for citizens of 80 countries entering via Minsk Airport. Prior to July 2018, the policy only allowed visa-free stays of up to five days.
In late September, on the side-lines of the 73rd UN General Assembly, Georgia and Thailand signed an agreement for visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports. The signatories were Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Vakhtang Makharoblishvili, and Thailand’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Virasakdi Futrakul.
On 28 September, St Kitts and Nevis and the Gambia signed a visa-free travel agreement. The agreement exemplifies St Kitts and Nevis’ emphasis on improving its people-to-people relations with Africa and other regions of the world.
On 18 September, President Trump said that the United States was considering including Poland in its Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), as well as establishing a permanent military presence in the country as per Poland’s request. Currently, citizens from 38 nations can travel to the United States on the VWP, meaning that they can remain in the United States for up to 90 days without needing to previously apply for a visa.
They do, however, need to apply for an ESTA, and electronic system authorisation for travel to the United States. In reaction to the news, US Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, said that relations between the two nations were are the strongest ever.
On 25 September, Paraguay and the United Arab Emirates agreed to waive visa requirements for citizens of the United Arab Emirates travelling to Paraguay. The agreement was penned on the side-lines of the 73rd UN General Assembly by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Dr Anwar Gargash, and Paraguayan Foreign Minister, H.E. Luis Castiglioni.
At the beginning of September, Qatar announced it was considering establishing a visa-free Fan ID system for attendees of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, similar to the one that was adopted by Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The announcement was made by Nasser Al Khater, Assistant Secretary General, Tournament Affairs, at the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. Al Khater noted that Qatar was looking forward “to speaking to our colleagues in Russia very soon to see what the lessons have been learned from the system.”
On 21 September, Iran announced a new visa-free regime for citizens of Oman, expected to become operational within 10 days of the announcement. Iranians can already travel to Oman without a visa, and, once at the border, they can receive a visa-on-arrival or a 10-day visa that can be renewed for up to a year.
On 27 September, on the side-lines of the 73rd UN General Assembly, the United Arab Emirates and Serbia amended a 2014 travel agreement to extend visa-free travel rights to those holding ordinary passports. The agreement was signed by UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dacic.
On 1 September, Laos inaugurated visa-free travel for citizens of South Korea for stays of up to 30 days. By comparison, citizens of ASEAN member states can generally remain in Laos for 15 days. The Government’s decision is intended to boost tourism.
On 6 September, Taiwan initiated a temporary visa-free travel regime for citizens of Russia. The regime, scheduled to end on 31 July 2019 unless further extended, requires Russians to enter on a passport with at least six months validity. They must also provide evidence of a return ticket and have a clean criminal record. Finally, they may be asked to provide the name of a contact person, their hotel bookings, and a financial statement.
On 7 September, the Information Minister for Pakistan, Fawad Chaudhry, said that the new Pakistani Government led by Imran Khan would allow Indian Sikh pilgrims to travel without visas to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara. No timeframe was provided however, and the Minister said that the pilgrims would need to pay an exit ticket.
Throughout September however, the Government of India was criticised for stalling negotiations on the creation of the corridor to the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara.
On 28 September, Mongolia and Armenia signed an agreement to waive visa requirements for short stays of up to 30 days. The agreement, which requires ratification by the two nations, was penned on the side-lines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.
On 25 September, South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, said that the country was readying to establish visa-free travel for citizens of Algeria, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates with the goal of boosting the country’s tourism sector. South Africa is also simplifying, but maintaining, visa requirements for citizens of China and India.