Easing Travel Visa Restrictions – Which Countries Are Leading The Way?
Countries across the world are exploring how to open their doors more widely to tourism and international business. Making visa processes simpler and less expensive can be an important factor in attracting more visitors, which in turn can give a welcome boost to the economy. Which countries are in the process of making changes in hopes of benefiting from more foreign footfall?
India already issues online eVisas, which makes the application process faster and more accessible for travellers from countries which qualify for the scheme. Due to it’s success, they have recently announced an extension of the maximum stay length, as well as number of entries allowed on both tourist and business eVisas.
This depends on the nationality of the applicant – for UK citizens this was previously valid for 4 months with a double entry allowance. This will soon be extended to a 1 year validity with multiple entries, applicable to both tourist and business eVisas. Other nationalities will also enjoy increased travel to India on the same visa, with the number of countries which can access the services growing regularly.
Since the introduction of eVisas to India in November 2014, the number of countries eligible for this service has more than trebled. There are currently 166 citizenships which can take advantage of the online eVisa service. Alongside the introduction of better transport links throughout the country, the simplified visa system has been a major contributing factor to the increase in visitors India has seen year on year.
Keen to share their rich history and culture with the rest of the world, Russia have already started to make changes to visa requirements for those living in the Middle East. As of 17th February 2019, the requirements for a pre-travel visa for UAE citizens wishing to travel to Russia have been scrapped. The government is already shifting it’s focus to those nationalities which currently have to endure a long and often expensive pre-travel visa process.
A UK citizen wishing to travel to Russia must apply by obtaining a travel voucher and attend a visa centre in person to submit biometrics to have a visa applied to their passport. There are instances where those on board a cruise ship can enter St. Petersburg exclusively for a maximum of 3 days without obtaining a pre-travel visa. The Russian government have expressed the desire to expand this scheme.
There is a goal to offer a full eVisa service across the board by 2021, but there is work to be done to ensure that Russia can maintain their current high level of security through this system. The FIFA World Cup saw over 3 million tourists travel to Russia on their special visa-free scheme introduced for the event. Due to it’s success, it seems to have given momentum for the desire to reach a more streamlined application process.
It’s unclear what form the new framework will take, but with an aim to attract more tourists from across the globe, it will likely be a much quicker, simpler and cost-effective experience.
40 countries were part of the first wave of nationalities eligible for the new Vietnamese eVisa back in February 2017. Since then, a further 41 countries have been added to the scheme. With an average waiting time of just 3 days to receive an approval for your travel through this application method, Vietnam has seen an increase in tourism which the government is hoping to boost even further.
There has been a special focus on visitors from Europe specifically, since the average European tourist is likely to spend more than travellers from other regions during their trip. 2018 saw a massive 20% increase in the numbers of visitors to Vietnam compared to the previous year.
Vietnam’s tourist industry is currently the 4th fastest growing in the world. By extending their visa policies, the country hopes to build upon this success even more in the coming years.
Thailand launched their new eVOA (eVisa On Arrival) scheme this February, with 21 nationalities currently eligible to apply. This type of eVisa is applied for before your departure, paid online and then collected from a special desk in arrivals when you reach Thailand. This is only available for 4 major airports in the country, but is a big move towards easing the queues for entry visas which would regularly see visitors waiting for up to 2 hours. You can apply online in as little as 24 hours before your departure.
UK citizens can visit Thailand for 30 days visa-free, but can apply for a pre-travel visa if they wish to stay in the country for an extended period of time, or make several trips to the country within a short period of time.
How can I check if I need a travel visa?
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