A Comprehensive Analysis of Last Month’s Changes to Visa-Free Travel Across the Globe.
|England||Kazakhstan||Poland||United Arab Emirates|
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: Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Gibraltar, Greece, Grenada, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom
On 7 September, following the rescheduling of the 2021 IIHF World Championship, the President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, signed Decree No. 337 formalising a number of decisions related to the preparation and conduct of the championship. The visa-free travel period for participants of the Championship was moved to 3 May – 13 June 2021, while the visa-free travel period for foreign tourists was moved to 14 May – 13 June 2021.
On 8 September, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia proposed migration reforms in Russia’s Public Chamber. The reforms would require visiting foreign nationals to submit fingerprints and photographs, undergo a medical examination, and carry an ID card containing the collected personal data. The proposed changes would also apply to countries with which Russia has visa-free agreements but only to foreign nationals staying in Russia for more than 30 days.
On 9 September, following a series of meetings with representatives of the UK and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, it was revealed that the Government of Spain had proposed that Gibraltar join the Schengen Area after 31 December 2020. 97 percent of people in Gibraltar voted to remain in the EU in 2016, something that Spain argued should result in Gibraltar being allowed to benefit from as many EU policies as possible (including freedom of movement). Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, has announced his support for the proposal, to which the UK Government is expected to respond in the coming weeks.
On 11 September, after a meeting of the Visegrad Fours’ heads of Government, the Prime Minister of Poland, Mataeusz Morawiecki, announced that the four countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia) are ready to introduce a visa-free regime for citizens of Belarus. According to Morawiecki, visa-free travel would be one part of a package of measures to support Belarus that will be presented at the next meeting of the European Council.
On 16 September, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved the visa waiver agreement between the Governments of Ukraine and Grenada, concluded on 16 July 2020. The introduction of visa-free travel between the two countries is reportedly set to contribute to the growth of indirect revenues to Ukraine’s state budget.
On 17 September, Viola von Cramon, MEP and Deputy Head of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee, tweeted that Ukraine risks losing its visa-free regime with the EU due to its problematic selection of the head of its Specialised Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office. The tweet follows contrary assertions made on 14 September by Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, that the appointment of a new head poses no threats to visa-free travel with the EU.
On 9 September, England removed seven islands in Greece from its travel corridor list: Crete, Lesvos, Mykonos, Santorini, Serifos, Tinos, and Zakynthos. Further, on 12 September, England removed Hungary and Portugal (except the Azores and Madeira) from the list. On 19 September, England removed Slovenia, and, on 26 September, it removed Denmark, Iceland, and Slovakia. Persons arriving in England from these countries are therefore subject to a 14-day self-isolation requirement.
On 12 September, England added Sweden to its travel corridor list, and on 19 September, it added Singapore. Persons arriving in England from these two countries are therefore exempt from the 14-day self-isolation requirement.
Named relevant countries: Croatia, El Salvador, United States
On 30 September, the end of the fiscal year in the United States, the country was set to take into account the visa rejection rate of Croatia. Having a visa rejection rate below 3% is the final criterion that Croatia must meet to be included in the United States Visa Waiver Programme. Should Croatia meet the required visa rejection rate, visas are set to be waived for Croatia in 2021. It was revealed earlier in September that the target is likely to be met if another 2,000 United States visas were issued to citizens of Croatia before 30 September.
On 19 September, El Salvador reopened its borders to all inbound international flights. Citizens from all nations that could visit El Salvador pre-Covid-19 are now able to enter the country. The reopening notably affects citizens of 86 jurisdictions with visa-free access to El Salvador.
Named relevant countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates
On 3 September, the Kuwaiti Embassy in Madrid issued a statement announcing that Spain supports Kuwait in its efforts to lift Schengen visa requirements. The President of the Spanish Senate, Pilar Llop, reportedly made this clear during a meeting with Kuwait’s Ambassador to Madrid, Eyada Al-Saeedi, when he said that he would back this effort within the European Parliament.
On 10 September, authorities in Kazakhstan sanctioned the resumption of flights with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, having previously allowed flights to resume with Belarus, Georgia, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates.
On 12 September, Iran and Russia held their first virtual meeting to discuss international relations. Talks were held regarding the implementation of the visa waiver agreement reached between the respective governments in 2017 for Iranian and Russian group tours. The meeting follows an earlier announcement by Iran’s Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts, Ali Asghar Mounesan, who stated his intention to visit Russia before the end of September to review the agreement’s implementation.
On 14 September, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on International and Inter-parliamentary Relations for Azerbaijan, Samad Seyidov, stated that Azerbaijan’s visa requirements with Turkey “may be fully lifted in the future.” Citizens of Azerbaijan and Turkey currently benefit from visa-free travel between the two countries for stays of up to 90 days.
On 21 September, Kyrgyzstan resumed flights with Russia. Russia joined a list of over 30 countries whose citizens may enter Kyrgyzstan without having to fulfil the country’s 14-day self-isolation requirement.
On 17 September, the flag carrier airline of Israel, El Al Airlines, announced that international passenger flights would gradually resume from 1 October. Until then, Israel’s ban on the entry of non-resident foreign nationals remains in place, affecting citizens of 99 visa-exempt jurisdictions.
Named relevant countries: Cambodia, Japan, Laos, Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam
On 22 September, the President of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association urged the Government of South Korea to commit to the drafting and signing of a memorandum of understanding granting complete visa-free entry to citizens of the Philippines. Currently, Filipinos are only permitted visa-free entry to South Korea for up to five days in inland areas provided their final destination is Jeju Island.
On 15 September, authorities in Vietnam resumed international flights with Japan and South Korea and, on 22 September, with Cambodia and Laos. Arrivals must present a negative Covid-19 test taken up to five days before travel, quarantine at designated facilities for at least five days, and submit to further testing.
Named relevant countries: Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria
On 6 September, Royal Air Maroc announced on social media that nationals of visa-exempt countries may visit Morocco provided they have either an invitation from a Moroccan company or a confirmed hotel reservation. The reopening of Morocco’s airspace primarily affects citizens of 67 visa-exempt jurisdictions.
On 7 September, Mozambique reopened its borders to international flights. The reopening immediately affects citizens worldwide, as Mozambique allows citizens of all countries to obtain a visa-on-arrival.
On 11 September, authorities in Mauritania authorised the entry of foreign nationals into the country by air, provided they present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arrival. The resumption of air travel immediately affects citizens of all countries, as Mauritania issues visas-on-arrival at Nouakchott-Oumtounsy International Airport universally.
On 15 September, inbound and outbound international air travel resumed in Nigeria, after all but essential flights were suspended in late March. Arrivals must register on the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control travel portal, present a negative Covid-19 test taken up to 96 hours before arrival, and self-quarantine for at least one week. Land and maritime borders remain closed. The reopening of Nigeria’s airspace directly affects citizens of all African countries who benefit from visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Nigeria.
On 18 September, the Government of Namibia allowed international travel to resume, including across land and maritime borders subject to travel restrictions in neighbouring countries. The resumption of travel notably affects citizens of 96 jurisdictions who are eligible for visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Namibia.