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November’s Visa Free Digest

A comprehensive analysis of last month’s changes to visa-free travel across the globe.

EUROPENamed relevant territories: Russia, Dominica, Suriname, Turkey, Serbia, Iran, Belarus, Georgia
CARIBBEAN Named relevant territories: Jamaica, Russia
AMERICASNamed relevant territories: Qatar, Argentina, Guyana, European Union, United States, Poland, Uruguay, Taiwan
MIDDLE EASTNamed relevant territories: Oman, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Congo, Mexico, Qatar, Nepal
ASIANamed relevant territories: Hong Kong, Macau, Myanmar, India, Uzbekistan, France, Kyrgyzstan, China, Malaysia
AFRICANamed relevant territories: Rwanda, China, Mozambique, Namibia, St Kitts and Nevis, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Morocco, Indonesia, Liberia

Europe

On 4 October, Russia’s Director of the Latin American Department at the Foreign Ministry, Alexander Shchetinin, said that the nation was preparing to put in place a number of visa-free regimes for citizens of the Caribbean. “We’ve got [the] whole [of] South America visa-free, along with almost all Central America, and we are working on the Caribbean states now,” he said. On the side-lines of the 73rd UN General Assembly in September 2018, Russia signed visa-free travel agreements with Dominica and Suriname.

 

On 19 October, Russia’s Senate approved a bill to extend visa-free travel rights for persons who held a Fan ID to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The extension would allow fans to travel to Russia without a visa until 31 December 2018, and must now be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in order to become effective.

 

On 11 October, Sergey Markov, Secretary General of the Turkish-Russian Public Forum, said that Russia would not grant visa free travel to Turkish citizens so long as Turkey continued to host a high number of Syrian refugees. “[Russian] Security forces are saying that as long as Turkey has 3.5 million to 4 million Syrians, there will not be a visa-free regime,” he warned.

 

On 10 October, Serbia decided to re-impose visa requirements for citizens of Iran. A Government Decree, published in the nation’s Gazette, read: “The Government of the Republic of Serbia has decided to end its previous decision to abolish visas […] for the citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” This is said to follow significant waves of illegal Iranian immigrants entering Serbia as a means of accessing the European Union. On 17 October, it was reported that Iran would retaliatorily suspend visa-free travel for citizens of Serbia.

 

On 31 October, Belarus’ Council of the Republic of the National Assembly approved an agreement, signed between Belarus and Georgia, to allow short-term visa-free travel for ordinary passport holders of the two nations. The agreement, signed on 22 March 2018, enables travel for up to 90 days in any calendar year, beginning from the date of first entry.

 


Caribbean

In late October, the agreement between Jamaica and Russia to waive visa requirements for persons on short tourist or business visits came into force for Jamaica. The agreement, signed on 27 September 2018, envisions visa-free travel for up to 90 days. Russia is expected to open its doors to Jamaicans in November 2018.


Americas

On 2 October, Argentina’s Ambassador to Qatar, Carlos Hernandez, said that Argentina was preparing “one specific agreement on visa waver for all Qataris.” Argentinians are already allowed to visit Qatar without a visa, as are nationals from 80 other countries.

 

On 17 October, Guyana expressed concern to a vising European Union delegation that it was among a handful of nations in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) not to hold visa-free travel rights to the Schengen Area. Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, was particularly vociferous on the matter, stating: “We believe that it is discriminatory. Most CARICOM countries have visa free travel to some Schengen countries.”

 

In late October, the United States Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, called for the elimination of visa requirements for short-term travel for Polish citizens. She noted this as one of her priorities, identifying an 18-month timeline for its achievement.

 

On 29 October, Uruguay announced it had waived visa requirements for citizens of Taiwan for visits of 90 days or less. Uruguay had agreed to the waiver on 19 October 2018, but only made the announcement 10 days later. On 31 October, a spokesman from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said this would improve trade, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges.


Middle East

Beginning on 2 October, citizens of Oman were given the right to enter Iran without needing to apply for a visa. The move – a unilateral one on the part of Iran – was motivated by the “good relations” between the two nations and is expected to impact the tourism sector (especially the health tourism sector).

 

In reaction to having been ranked as one of two countries in the world with the lowest visa-free travel rights for its citizen, Iraq stated that it expects improvement in early 2019. On 11 October, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Mahjoub, said that: “The Foreign Ministry continues its efforts and we’ve signed a few memorandums of understanding about our diplomatic, service, and ordinary passports and traveling for tourism visa free.”

 

On 23 October, Iraq decided to implement a visa-on-arrival system for citizens of Lebanon. The visa-on-arrival, which is granted without applicants needing to pay a fee, allows Lebanese citizens to enter Iraq multiple times for up to six months.

 

On 30 October, the United Arab Emirates and Congo signed a Memorandum of Understanding to initiate a mutual visa-free regime for their citizens. Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the move was “part of an initiative by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to strengthen the stature of the UAE passport.”

 

On 31 October, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico inaugurated visa-free travel for citizens of their two nations. The relevant Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the two nations on 11 October 2018 and was described as “historical” by the UAE’s Ambassador to Mexico, Ahmed Hatem Al Menhali. Visa-free travel is expected to boost Mexican attendance at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2018, which will be held in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain from 12 to 22 December 2018, and will see Mexico’s CD Guadalajara perform in the tournament.

 

In late October, Qatar and Nepal signed an agreement to enable visa-free travel for persons holding special passports. The agreement was signed by Pradeep Gyawali, Foreign Minister for Nepal, and Sheikh Mohmmad Abdul Rahman Al Thani, Foreign Minister for Qatar.


Asia

Beginning on 1 October, citizens from Hong Kong and Macau were given the right to enter Myanmar visa free under a pilot scheme due to remain in place until 30 September 2019. Mistaken early reports suggested citizens from China’s two special administrative regions would only be allowed to enter via a visa-on-arrival facility available at the airports of Yangon, Mandalay, or Nay Pyi Taw. In reality, the visa-free regime allows stays of up to 30 days only for those travelling for purposes of tourism.

 

On 3 October, India’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee asked the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, to assist India in obtaining a same-day ‘visa-free corridor’ to Pakistan’s Kartarpur Sahib shrine – a sacred spot for India’s Sikh community. “Decision of such kind will help in prevailing peace and prosperity in the region. We would like you to take up the matter in the United Nations General Assembly to resolve this,” read the request.

 

On 6 October, Uzbekistan announced a visa-free regime for citizens of France, allowing stays of up to 30 days. According to the announcement, the regime came into force on 5 October 2018. France is the first member state of the European Union to obtain visa-free travel rights to Uzbekistan, a country that is undergoing a period of liberalisation. In December 2016, the country decided to waive or ease access to visas for citizens of 27 nations, but the decision was reversed prior to its implementation amid security concerns.

 

In mid-October, public debate in Kyrgyzstan was fuelled by a proposal to remove visa requirements for tourist groups from China. Chinese nationals are seen as a significant source of income, as they constitute one of the largest groups of international travellers. However, there is concern in Kyrgyzstan, voiced by entities such as the State Migration Service and the State Committee for National Security, that Chinese workers may pose as tourists to enter the country illegally.

 

On 18 October, Malaysia’s Human Resource Minister, M. Kula Segaran, said that India was mulling over the possibility of giving Malaysians visa-free entry rights for a period of up to 14 days. The matter of visa-free travel was discussed with India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj. Malaysia says its citizens are interested in visiting India’s temples and religious sites, but that they are obstructed by the high cost of an Indian visa.


Africa

On 25 October, Rwanda announced that holders of ordinary passports from China, Mozambique, Namibia, St Kitts and Nevis, and the United Arab Emirates could enter Rwanda visa-free. The announcement followed a Cabinet decision made on 24 October.

 

On 26 October, Ethiopia announced it would formalise a visa-on arrival regime for all African citizens commencing 9 November 2018. Once in force, the regime will make Ethiopia the second country in Africa to implement visa-free travel for all African nationals, after the Seychelles.

 

On 26 October, Morocco and Indonesia penned a Memorandum of Understanding, which immediately came into force, to allow visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports. The Memorandum was signed by the two countries’ Deputy Foreign Ministers.

 

In late October, Liberia and the United Arab Emirates signed a Memorandum of Understanding for visa-free entry for persons travelling on diplomatic passports. The Memorandum also allows visa-free entry for persons with Liberian service passports entering the United Arab Emirates.

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