September’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:

 

AndorraIndiaRussia
AngolaJapanSan Marino
BelarusKazakhstanSao Tome and Principe
BhutanLatviaSaudi Arabia
BruneiMacauSolomon Islands
BulgariaMaltaSouth Africa
ChinaMauritiusSouth Korea
CubaMyanmarTaiwan
CyprusNew ZealandThailand
Dominican RepublicNorthern Mariana IslandsTurkey
EthiopiaNorth KoreaUkraine
European UnionNorth MacedoniaUnited Arab Emirates
FijiPapua New GuineaUnited States
GhanaParaguayUzbekistan
GuamPhilippines
HaitiQatar
Hong KongRomania

Check our August’s Visa Free Digest for more updates.


Europe

Named relevant countries: Belarus, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Russia, Turkey

On 2 August, President Aleksandr Lukashenko extended Belarus’ visa-free travel zones in Grodno Oblast and Brest Oblast. Although no formal decree has been published, it is expected that the change will soon be in effect for travellers to Belarus.

In early August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he intended to launch a visa waiver programme for persons wanting to travel to Ukraine for purposes of medical tourism. “We can make a list of countries whose citizens often come to Ukraine for medical treatment in order to abolish visas for them and address the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [to settle this issue],” he said.

On 21 August, Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers approved an agreement that allows citizens of the Ukraine and of North Macedonia to enter their respective territories without a visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The agreement was signed between the two nations on 12 July 2019, in North Macedonia’s capital city, Skopje, and applies to those travelling on biometric passports.

On 7 August, Russia and Turkey re-established visa-free travel for holders of official and service passports, as well as international transport drivers. In Russia, the change came into effect after the signing of a Presidential Decree by Vladimir Putin. In Turkey, the Foreign Ministry further noted that it “expect[s] the full implementation of the agreement.”

Caribbean

Named relevant countries: Russia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, India

In late August, Haiti’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Edmond Bocchit, said that the country was readying a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia to enable visa-free travel for ordinary passport holders. The announcement followed a meeting between the Minister and Russia’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Vladimir Fedorovich Zaemsky, in Haiti.

On 26 August, the Dominican Republic and India penned an agreement for holders of diplomatic passports to enter and remain in each other’s nations without a visa for periods of up to 90 days. The agreement was signed by the Dominican Republic’s Miguel Vargas, Minister for External Relations, and India’s V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs.

Americas

Named relevant countries: United States, North Korea, South Korea, Paraguay, United Arab Emirates

On 5 August, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security updated its list of nations to which people who have travelled to since 1 March 2011 are not eligible to enter the United States without a visa. The list, previously including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, now also includes North Korea. This means that persons normally eligible under the 90-day Visa Waiver Programme who travelled to one of these nations (except certain forms of diplomatic or military travel) would need to obtain a tourist or business visa. The change is likely to affect citizens of South Korea, a sizable number of which have travelled to North Korea.

On 16 August, Paraguay lifted visa requirements for citizens of the United Arab Emirates travelling to the country for periods of up to 90 days. The move is reciprocal, meaning that Paraguayans can enter the United Arab Emirates without a visa for the same period, and was agreed to on the side-lines of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

Asia

Named relevant countries: Sri Lanka, European Union, India, United States, Taiwan, Brunei, Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Solomon Islands, Uzbekistan, Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, South Korea

On 1 August, Sri Lanka launched its temporary free visa-on-arrival programme for citizens of 47 nations. The programme enables eligible travellers to remain in Sri Lanka for up to 30 days. The programme is scheduled to last for six months and may be renewed if it is successful. Among the nations are all the member states of the European Union, India, and the United States. On 16 August 2019, Sri Lanka said the waiver may remain indefinitely.

Beginning on 1 August, Taiwan prolonged its temporary 14-day visa-free travel programme for citizens of Brunei, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand for an additional year until 31 July 2020. It also increased the maximum period of stay for Russian travellers to 21 days. On 31 August 2019, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that the regime, normally subject to a yearly review, would, starting from August 2020, be reviewed on a three-year basis.

In response to China’s announcement that, beginning on 1 August, it would stop lone Chinese nationals from travelling to Taiwan, on 5 August Taiwan’s Minister for Transportation and Communications, Lin Chia-lung, said Taiwan was actively considering enlarging the number of countries that can benefit from its visa-free travel regime. Later in August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs specified that Indonesia and Vietnam were on the list of countries likely to benefit from the expansion. At a Cabinet meeting of the Taipei City Government, held on 22 August, a proposal was made to expand visa-free travel to certain Gulf nations.

On 16 August, Taiwan and the Solomon Islands penned an agreement to launch a mirror-image visa-free regime for their citizens. The regime, allowing stays of up to 90 days, is due to come into force in the near future. The Solomon Islands is the fifth Pacific nation to have signed an agreement with Taiwan. The remaining nations are the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu.

On 13 August, Uzbekistan announced the introduction of a visa-free regime for persons from 20 countries wanting to visit the country for up to 30 days. The regime is scheduled to come into force on 1 January 2020. The announcement was made by Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister, who said: “I must say that the head of the country gave very serious instructions to introduce a visa-free regime with a number of large states. I think that within a month these decisions will be brought to your attention.”

On 20 August, Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced that Cabinet had “approved the extension of [visa-on-arrival] fee waivers until April 2020,” for citizens of 18 countries, including Andorra, Bhutan, Bulgaria, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. However, it was also announced that full visa-free hopefuls China and India would not be awarded visa-free travel rights to Thailand, something that Government Spokesperson, Narumon Pinyosinwat, ascribed to security concerns. Earlier in the month, Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, had proposed a 14-day visa-free travel programme for Chinese and Indian citizens to be launched in November 2019.

In late August, Myanmar announced that it would extend the temporary visa-free regime in place for citizens of Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, and South Korea for a period of one year, commencing on 1 October 2019. Similarly, Myanmar announced the extension of its temporary visa-on-arrival facility for citizens of China and India – it too to last one year from 1 October 2019.

Africa

Named relevant countries: South Africa, Cuba, Ghana, New Zealand, Qatar, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, Angola, Russia

During the Summer of 2019, South Africa announced its intent to establish 90-day visa-free travel regimes for citizens of seven countries: Cuba, Ghana, New Zealand, Qatar, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. For citizens of New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, the regime came into force on 15 August 2019. “We took this decision unilaterally but we are engaging these countries to see how they can relax entry requirements for our citizens. I am glad to say that Qatar has already waived visa requirements for South Africans and this will enable our people to attend Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 easier,” commented South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi. For citizens of Cuba, Ghana, and Sao Tome and Principe, the Minister noted that negotiations for the implementation of the regime should be finalised by the end of August 2019. However, with regards to Ghana, South Africa’s High Commissioner to Ghana, Lulu Xingwana, later said that the regime would likely come into force in September 2019, following meetings between government representatives of the two countries. “We are left with issues concerning reciprocity because if we have a waiver for Ghanaians, Ghana must also do a waiver for South Africans,” she noted.

On 9 August, Ghana and Angola agreed to waive visa requirements for persons holding diplomatic and service passports. Upon entry into force of the agreement, eligible individuals will be granted visa-free stays of up to 90 days. The agreement was signed by Foreign Ministers Manuel Domingos Augusto of Angola and Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway of Ghana.

At the end of talks held on 20 August, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration for Ghana, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, announced that Ghana and Russia are planning to sign a visa waiver agreement for holders of diplomatic and service passports. Minister of Foreign Affairs for Russia, Sergey Lavrov, was also present at the announcement, which was made at a press conference in Moscow.

Oceania

Named relevant countries: Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Russia

On 30 August, Delegate for the Northern Marianas, Gregorio Sablan, said that the United States Department of Homeland Security intended to end the 45-day visa-free travel regime currently in place for Russians entering Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. On 3 October 2019, the change will see Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands close their doors to short-term travellers from Russia who have not applied for a visa – something that has not been the case since 2012.