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September’s Visa-Free Digest

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

EUROPENamed relevant territories: Russia; Belarus; China; European Union; Kosovo
CARIBBEAN Named relevant territories: Commonwealth of Dominica; Russia
MIDDLE EAST Named relevant territories: Russia; Turkey
ASIANamed relevant territories: Sri Lanka; China; India; Taiwan; Philippines; Brunei; Thailand; Indonesia; Vietnam; Myanmar; India; Mongolia; South Korea; Malaysia
AFRICANamed relevant territories: Angola; Zambia 

Europe

On 3 August, President Putin signed into law an extension of the visa-free regime it put into place for holders of Fan IDs for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Holders of Fan IDs will be able to enter Russia visa-free until 31 December 2018, and their family members will be able to obtain visas to Russia without having to pay a fee.

 

On 10 August, a visa-free travel agreement between Belarus and China came into force. The agreement, signed on 10 June 2018, allows ordinary passport holders to visit for periods of up to 30 days, and for no more than a cumulative 90 days per year. Visas are still required for persons undertaking educational or professional activities.

 

On 29 August, the Members of Parliament (MEPs) of the European Union voted in favour of granting ordinary Kosovar passport holders visa-free travel to the member states. The move follows a proposal by the European Commission, and the European Council is now also due a vote on the matter. The MEP vote came in the context of Kosovo being recognised as an independent state by all but five of the EU’s member states (Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain).


Caribbean

The Commonwealth of Dominica and Russia are working towards a visa-free agreement for holders of Russian diplomatic and service passports, and for holders of Dominican diplomatic, service, and regular passports. The agreement envisions stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. On 27 August 2018, the Russian Government endorsed the agreement, which must now be readied for signature. Russian ordinary passport holders can already enter Dominica without a visa for up to 21 days.


Middle East

On 15 August, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, announced that Russia was ready to remove visa requirements for Turkish businesspersons, officials, and diplomats, as well as truck drivers. On 30 August, a spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Maria Zaharova, said that consultations on the visa-free regime would take place in autumn 2018. Visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey was abolished after Turkey downed a Russian fighter plane in December 2015.


Asia

On 6 August, the Government of Sri Lanka appointed a task force to assess whether it could establish a visa-free regime for visitors from countries that are boosting local tourism. John Amaratunga, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Tourism, specifically identified China, India, and certain European and West Asian countries as potential beneficiaries. There is hope that the regime will be implemented from October to November and from March to April (Sri Lanka’s off-peak months for tourism).

 

On 6 August, Taiwan reiterated its calls to the Philippines to reciprocate the visa-free travel regime it recently established for Filipino citizens. “We wish the Philippine side will also give us similar treatment on the visa-waiver programme. Until now we’re still in discussions,” said the Director of the Economic Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines (TECOP), Alfred Y.H. Wang. At present, citizens of the Philippines can remain in Taiwan for up to 14 days, thanks to a temporary visa-free regime due to expire on 31 July 2019. They must hold a passport with six months’ validity from the date of entry into Taiwan, a ticket demonstrating plans for a return or onward journey, clean criminal records for Taiwan, and evidence of accommodation.

 

On 31 August, following a cross-departmental meeting held by Taiwanese Minister Chang Jing-sen, a proposal was made to decrease the number of times citizens from Brunei, the Philippines, and Thailand can enter Taiwan in a year without obtaining a visa. Currently, citizens from these three nations can enter Taiwan up to six times per year. The proposal envisions reducing this to twice a year. Concerns over involvement in sex trade are at the heart of the proposal. The cross-departmental meeting was also held to discuss including citizens from Indonesia and Vietnam in the list of nations whose citizens can visit Taiwan without a visa.

 

On 8 August, Myanmar launched a visa-on arrival regime for citizens of India. The move is due to be followed by the cancellation of visa requirements for citizens of Japan and South Korea in October 2018, as well as the inauguration of a visa-on-arrival regime for citizens of China, Hong Kong, and Macau – also in October 2018. Visas-on-arrival issued to persons from China, Hong Kong, and Macau will come at a cost of US$50, and travellers will also need to show access to US$1,000.

 

On 15 August, the Prime Minister of Mongolia, Ukhnaa Khurelsukh, and the newly-appointed South Korean Ambassador to Mongolia, Jeong Jae Nam, discussed the possibility of removing visa requirements for short-term stays for citizens of their two nations. Both Mongolia and South Korea would benefit from a visa-free travel regime, particularly as it relates to tourism and illegal overstays in South Korea.

 

On 19 August, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Bin Mohamad, said that the country had no concrete plan to waive visa requirements for citizens of China. He noted that Malaysia was “not yet ready” for the increase in the number of Chinese tourists that would follow a visa waiver regime (an expected 10 million people per year). The statement was made during the Prime Minister’s first official visit to China.

 

On 22 August, reports emerged that South Korea was mulling over the termination of the visa-free travel regime it established for citizens of Thailand in 1981. South Korea, said the reports, is concerned about the growing number of refugees and illegal visa overstays from Thailand (currently, the regime allows stays of up to 90 days). The news was however dismissed by Thai authorities.


Africa

On 9 August, the visa waiver agreement between Angola and Zambia came into effect, resulting in 30-day visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic, official, and ordinary passports. Visa-free travel is extendable, but must not exceed 90 days in a year. The agreement was originally signed in January 2018, and is part of a series of cooperation agreements, including one to build a common railway line near the border between the two nations.

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