November’s Visa-Free Digest 2017

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:

EUROPENamed relevant countries: Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Suriname, China
CARIBBEANName relevant countries: St Martin, British Virgin Islands, Guyana, Barbados, Hong Kong, Saint Lucia, United Arab Emirates
AMERICASNamed relevant countries: Ukraine, Canada
MIDDLE EASTNamed relevant countries: Oman, China, India, Russia, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, United States, Schengen Area, Iraq, Tunisia, Gulf Countries, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands
ASIANamed relevant countries: Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, India, Russia
AFRICANamed relevant countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Namibia
OCEANIA Named relevant countries: Vanuatu, United Arab Emirates

Check our September’s Visa-Free Digest for more updates.


Europe

Belarus’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Vladimir Makei, said on 6 October that the country was considering extending its visa-free travel provisions, currently allowing citizens from around 80 countries to enter Belarus without a visa for a period of up to five days, so long as entry occurs through Minsk National Airport.

Georgia has launched a campaign to educate its citizens on the visa-free travel regime it holds with the European Union’s Schengen Area, which came into force in March 2017. The campaign will target Georgia’s main ports of entry, as well as centres for minorities.

In mid-October, Russia announced that, together with Suriname, it was readying to sign a visa-free travel agreement to solidify the rapport between the two nations. Alexander Schetinin, Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s Director of the Department of Latin America, said that once the agreement was signed with Suriname, “all of South America [would] become a visa-free space for Russian nationals.”

On 25 October, Russia published instructions given by President Vladimir Putin for Parliament to review the visa liberalisation scheme announced by Russia in light of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. According to the instructions, the review must be completed by 18 December 2017, to allow for the scheme to be entered into law.

It is expected that the scheme will allow international football fans holding Fan IDs and tickets to the World Cup to enter Russia visa-free up to 10 days prior to the World Cup’s first match, which will be held on 14 June 2018, and to remain in the country up until 15 July, when the final will be played.

During his official visit to China in late October, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia was pondering the further liberalisation of visas for Chinese tourists.

At present, holders of passports from China may enter Russia for a period of two weeks if they are travelling in a group of five or more. Medvedev said Russia was now considering visa-free entry for tourist groups composed of three or more people remaining in Russia for no more than three weeks.

Caribbean

In mid-October, the Governments of St Martin and of the British Virgin Islands announced that citizens of Guyana, and particularly construction workers, may soon benefit from either visa-free travel or a much-simplified visa regime. The decision comes in the wake of the October hurricanes that damaged much of these nations’ infrastructure, requiring urgent reconstruction work.

On 26 October, Barbados granted visa-free travel to holders of passports from Hong Kong, a Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR). The grant allows the people of Hong Kong to travel to Barbados and remain on the eastern Caribbean island for a period of up to 90 days.

On 27 October, the agreement signed between Saint Lucia and the United Arab Emirates in September 2017 came into effect, triggering visa-free travel rights for those holding UAE ordinary, diplomatic, VIP, and private passports when remaining in Saint Lucia for a period of at most 60 days.

Americas

Speaking before Canada’s Parliament in late October, MP Linda Duncan urged her country to pursue a visa-free agreement with the Ukraine. She noted that an agreement with Canada would “facilitate trade” between the two nations, and “increase opportunities for supporting democratic reforms in the Ukraine.”

Middle East

On 1 October, Oman eased visa requirements for citizens of China, India, and Russia who are residents of, or otherwise hold visas to, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and any of the members of the Schengen Area. These nationals may enter Oman for tourism activities without a sponsored visa for a period of one month, and bring with them their spouse and children.

On 2 October, Iraq approved visa-free travel for all those foreign nationals residing in territories currently administered by the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and wishing to return home. The move follows a referendum for independence organised by the Kurdish authorities in September 2017, which was deemed illegal by Iraq and most of the international community.

On 22 October, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary, and Expatriates’ Affairs, Mr Hassan Qashqavi, rejected reports that Iraq had lifted visa requirements for Iranians wanting to travel to the city of Karbala on pilgrimage, and warned his fellow citizens to apply for a visa to Iraq should they wish to cross the border.

On 19 October, Tunisia announced that, in a bid to increase its tourist arrivals, it would allow all residents from Gulf Countries to obtain visas-on-arrival upon entering Tunisian territory and showing valid residence documentation. It also announced that citizens of the Gulf Countries could enter Tunisia visa-free. Visa-free travel is allowed for up to 15 days.

On 20 October, Mr Recai Berber, who is a Turkish MP and the Head of the Turkey-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group, called for Turkey and Russia to reinstate visa-free travel rights for their citizenship – something that was cancelled following the downing of a Russian military plane in 2015.

“We do not see Russia as a rival but a partner,” he said. On 22 October, Aleksandr Nova, Russia’s Minister of Energy, responded by saying that Russia was “optimistic that efforts to provide visa liberalisation to [Turkish] passport holders will soon be effective.” Novak spoke at the 15th Term Meeting of the Russian-Turkish Intergovernmental Joint Economic Commission.

In late October, the United Arab Emirates signed two new Memorandums of Understanding for visa-free travel with Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The MoUs were signed on the side-lines of an Expo2020 meeting.

Asia

In mid-October, Taiwan increased calls for Thailand to reciprocate its visa-free regime, which allows Thai citizens to travel to Taiwan until 31 July 2018. Chen-Yuan Tung, who represents the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Thailand, said “We really hope the Thai Government would consider granting a visa-free programme for Taiwanese visitors.” Taiwan is seeking to expand its South Asian networks.

Shortly after, Taiwan formally announced it would launch a visa-free pilot programme for citizens of the Philippines stating on 1 November 2017. The pilot programme is expected to remain in force until 31 July 2018 facilitating tourists and business travellers for a period not to exceed 14 days.

The President of the Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, arrived in the United Arab Emirates on 16 October, where he held talks on a visa waiver agreement between the Maldives and the UAE for holders of diplomatic and official visas, as well as other agreements pertaining to trade, taxation, and the development of the Velana International Airport in Male, Maldives.

At the end of October, India and Russia penned an agreement allowing flight pilots and crew members to enter each other’s territories without needing to apply for a business visa. Rather, pilots and crew members will be eligible to receive temporary landing permits (TLPs).

Even those pilots and crew members who work on unscheduled flights will be granted TLPs, so long as the flight is approved by the Ministry of Foreign aviation. Such TLPs are free for stays of up to seven days.

Africa

The African Union announced that, on 13 October, Nigeria had begun issuing visas-on-arrival for all African nationals holding African passports. The African Union, whose goal is to see a visa-free Africa by 2018, was however contradicted by Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, who said on 15 October 2017 that the information was false. Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, and the Seychelles currently award visas-on-arrival to all those with African passports.

Starting 17 October, several members of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), which includes Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon decided to officialise the removal of visa requirements for citizens travelling for periods not exceeding 90 days and holding ordinary, service, and diplomatic passports with at least three months validity.

On 17 October 2017, Equatorial Guinea ended visa restriction. On 19 October 2017, Gabon did the same, and was followed on 23 October by the Republic of the Congo. The full liberalisation of visas was celebrated at the CEMAC extraordinary meeting held on 31 October 2017 in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital city.

On 23 October, Chad launched a visa-free regime for citizens of the United Arab Emirates, whether holding ordinary or diplomatic passports. The implementation of the regime follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in September 2017. Citizens of the UAE are able to remain in Chad for a period of no more than 90 days.

On 26 October, Namibia announced that, upon completion of the necessary diplomatic steps, it would open its doors to all holders of African ordinary passports. Tjekero Tweya, Namibia’s Minister of Information and Communication Technology, said Namibia would first issues visas-on-arrival, and then eliminate visas altogether.

Holders of African diplomatic and official passports have been able to travel to Namibia visa-free since 24 May 2016.

Oceania

On 21 October, Vanuatu announced that holders of diplomatic, special, mission, and ordinary passports from the United Arab Emirates could now enter the island nation visa-free and remain for a period not to exceed 90 days. The announcement follows a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two nations on 21 September 2017.