1. Glen Munro, ‘’Visa-Free All-Africa Passport for 2018’’, The Voice, January 1, 2017
- The e-passport, which was unveiled at the 27th African Union (AU) Summit in Rwanda earlier this year, will allow holders to enter any of the 54 AU member states without a visa. The pan-African document is currently available to AU heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The plan is that member states will roll out the passport to all AU citizens by 2018.
- The electronic passport initiative grows out of the AU’s 50-year policy framework, Agenda 2063, a plan to create a continent with seamless borders. The agenda’s objective is also to mobilise Africa’s vast resources.
2. ‘’UAE’s Etihad Airways to Cooperate with Morocco to Attract 100,000 Chinese Tourists’’, MENA Financial Network, December 25, 2016
- The UAE's national airline, Etihad Airways, has announced that 'it will partner with the Moroccan National Tourist Office to attract 100,000 Chinese visitors each year by 2018. The project is supported by Morocco's policy of waiving the visa requirements for Chinese nationals entering Morocco starting June 2016.
- Since November 2016 the UAE has been granting visas on arrival to Chinese visitors, thus making Abu Dhabi a distinguished stopover for visitors on their way to Morocco. Earlier this month, ONMT Director, Abderrafie Zouite, revealed at a presentation held in Casablanca that Morocco has become one of the preferred destination for many Chinese tourists. 'Just a few years ago, we would receive 800 to 1,000 Chinese visitors a month, today we are at more than 6,000 a month,' Zouite added.
3. Jay Forte, ‘’Brazil Allows Foreign Students to Stay and Receive Work Visas’’, The Rio Times, December 24, 2016
- The resolution authorizing the work visa of foreigners was published in last Thursday’s edition (December 22nd), in the Diário Oficial da União (Official Gazette of the Union) and is already in force.
- According to the announcement, conversion of the visa from studies to work will not be automatic. The students will have to send the request to the General Immigration Coordination in the Ministry of Labor, which will analyze the cases and issue the authorizations.
- The announcement by authorities state that student can apply for the work visa after six months of the beginning of the course. In these cases, the new immigration status of the foreigner will be valid for one year and may be extended for the duration of the course, within the deadline stipulated by the educational institution.
4. Azad Ali, ‘’Barbados, China Sign Visa Waiver Agreement’’, Caribbean Life News, December 27, 2016
- The Barbados government has signed a reciprocal visa waiver agreement with China which will include holders of ordinary passports. The agreement was signed by Barbados Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean and Ambassador to China, Wang Le recently.
- The minister said there was also an agreement “on the establishment of Visa-Free Access to holders of passports issued by the office of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
5. ‘’Emiratis Exempted from Prior Entry Visas for Bahamas’’, The National, December 28, 2016
- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation announced that citizens can travel to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas without requiring prior entry visa and can stay for a period not exceeding 90 days.
- According to Ahmed Saeed Al Dhahiri, Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs at the Ministry, the UAE and the Bahamas have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on mutual visa waiver, which allows Emirati citizens with diplomatic special, mission and regular passports to enter the territory of the Bahamas without prior entry visa requirement. This has become effective from December 27.
6. Chris Cameron, ‘’Applicants’ Preference for Investment Option Reduces CIP Earnings’’, Antigua Observer, December 28, 2016
- More applicants to Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) are choosing to invest in real estate, businesses, and individual government-sponsored projects instead of the National Development Fund (NDF), CIP officials said.
- Antigua & Barbuda is expected to earn EC $80 million from its CIP this year, down from $100 million in 2015, according to Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Senator Lennox Weston.
7. Chris Cameron, ‘’ECLAC: A&B Fastest Growing C’bean Economy for 2016’’, Antigua Observer, December 28, 2016
- Antigua & Barbuda was the fastest growing economy in the Caribbean region in 2016 and resisted a wave of accelerating inflation, according to a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
- The Preliminary Overview of the Economies of Latin America and the Caribbean reported that Antigua’s 4.2 per cent growth rate was the largest in the Caribbean, and that Antigua held a static rate of inflation while inflation accelerated in the region.
8. Mariam Amini, ‘’Immigration fees jump for the first time since 2010, making it tougher for would-be Americans’’, CNBC, December 24, 2016
- For the first time since 2010, the Department of Homeland Security hiked a range of administrative fees for citizenship applications — in a few cases more than doubling the costs of key services. Any new petitions filed after Dec. 23 will not be accepted unless they include the higher fees.
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency charged with handling immigrant applications, said in a statement the proceeds will help cover detecting fraud, processing cases and a range of other administrative costs, in what USCIS called a "weighted average" price hike of 21 percent.
- Peter Boogaard, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, told CNBC that along with the new fees, "USCIS will also offer a reduced filing fee for certain naturalization applicants with limited means."
9. Caitlin Moscatello, ‘’U.S. Border Security Now Asking Foreign Travelers for Social Media Accounts’’, Condé Nast Traveler, December 27, 2016
- On December 20, the U.S. government began asking some foreign travelers entering the country to voluntarily share their social media accounts, in an attempt to prevent terrorism. The request is specifically being given to those arriving on the visa waiver program, who are given the option to select social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+, and then enter their account names for each when going through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization process.
- According to CBS News, the Office of Management and Budget approved adding the question regarding social media accounts this month, per the Department of Homeland Security. Customs and Border Protection agents will reportedly only be able to see what's publicly available on the accounts submitted by travelers.
10. Kenneth Rapoza, ‘’Here’s One Immigration Policy That Should Withstand President Donald Trump’’, Forbes, January 2, 2017
- The EB-5 visa program requires investors put up at least $500,000 in a project. The investment must lead to 10 new full time jobs. As a gift for the cash, foreign investors get American citizenship for themselves, their spouse and their children. The EB-5 program is a job creation program. It fits perfectly in the wheelhouse of the Trump mindset.
- No one knows how belligerent Trump will be on the immigration front. But if Trump sticks to his talk about creating jobs, and bringing in foreign investment, then there is nothing better in current immigration law than the EB-5.
11. Syed Samiul Basher Anik, ‘’No E-Token Necessary for Indian Visa’’, Dhaka Tribune, December 28, 2016
- Indian High Commission in Bangladesh has scrapped the e-token or prior appointment free visa system for Bangladeshi travellers that will come into effect from January 1.
- The Bangladeshi applicants seeking visas will need to have confirmed air, train or bus tickets (issued by authorised operators for Bangladesh-India bus services) with them when they apply. The date of journey should be after 7 days but within one month of submission of the visa application form.
12. ‘’Hong Kong Scraps Visa-on-Arrival for Indians’’, Khaleej Times, December 23, 2016
- "The Pre-arrival Registration for Indian Nationals will be implemented on January 23, 2017. The online service for 'Pre-arrival Registration for Indian Nationals' is now opened," the Hong Kong immigration department said in an announcement on its official website.
- "Indian nationals must apply for and successfully complete pre-arrival registration online before they can visit or transit the HKSAR visa-free (if seeking to enter the HKSAR during transit). Pre-arrival registration is not required for Indian nationals in direct transit by air and not leaving the airport transit area," it said.
- Hong Kong’s Immigration department assistant director Ma Chi-ming has been quoted by South China Morning Post as saying that Indian visitors should not enter fake data to try to enhance their chance of entering Hong Kong to seek economic asylum as they would bear legal consequences.
13. Marguerite Afra Sapiie & Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, ‘’Indonesia’s Free-Visa Policy Here to Stay’’, The Jakarta Post, December 30, 2016
- The government says the free visa policy will remain in place to boost tourism despite growing concern that some foreign tourists have exploited it to work illegally in the country.
- The [Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly] defended President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s signature policy, arguing it could propel Indonesia’s tourism, which has been lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbors. The free-visa policy is expected to bring 20 million foreign tourists annually by 2019.
- The Law and Human Rights Ministry is developing an app to track foreigners overstaying their 30-day free visa. Tourists entering Indonesia would get barcodes in their passports, which should be used whenever they purchase transportation tickets.
14. ‘’Iran, Iraq Eye Visa-Free Travels’’, Tasnim News Agency, December 24, 2016
- Iran’s Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Danaeifar said Tehran and Baghdad have been mulling a step to lift visa requirements for travelers from the two neighboring countries.
- “We have submitted our request for the removal of visa requirements to the Iraqi government,” he said, adding that the Iranian embassy is waiting for the Iraqi side to respond to the request. The diplomat went on to say that Iraqi officials are open to the idea of lifting visa restrictions for nationals from the two countries.
15. Prangthong Jitcharoenkul & Wassayos Ngamkham, ‘’Japan Envoy Issue Overstay Ban Threat’’, Bangkok Post, December 27, 2016
- The Thai embassy in Japan has warned Thai citizens of being blacklisted by authorities if they overstay their visas or work illegally in Japan. Since the Japan government adopted a visa waiver policy for 15-day stays for Thai nationals in July 2013, the number of Thais overstaying their visas and working illegally in Japan has been increasing, which concerns the authorities there.
- As of Jan 1 this year, based on data from Japanese authorities, the total number of foreigners who had overstayed their visas in Japan over the years was 62,818. Of these, up to 5,959 were Thai nationals, the third highest among illegal foreigners.
16. ‘’Citizens of More Countries to Visit Kazakhstan Visa-Free in 2017’’, The Times of Central Asia, December 28, 2016
- Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov said that starting from 1 January 2017, citizens of 45 more countries, including member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union, and the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Singapore and Monaco, will enjoy visa-free entry to Kazakhstan for up to 30 days from the date of entry to the country, the official website of the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan reported on December 27.
- Commenting on the adoption of new visa rules for foreign citizens on December 20, Minister Idrissov emphasized that the new rules aim at creating a comfortable, transparent and favorable visa regime for foreign citizens visiting Kazakhstan, and at improving the investment climate in the country aimed at attracting foreign investments as well as increasing private and business trips to Kazakhstan.
17. Feng Shuang, ‘’New Visa Aims to Lure Affluent Chinese to S Korea’’, ECNS, December 27, 2016
- South Korea will introduce a new five-year renewable visa in January to attract affluent Chinese tourists, against the backdrop of a decrease in Chinese arrivals in the second half of the year.
- The visa, which allows holders to return for stays of up to 30 days during the period of validation, is named hallyu, after the Korean pop culture wave. Chinese tourists who buy specialized four-day travel packages costing 17,350 yuan ($2,500) or more can apply.
18. ‘’Vietnam Anticipates Record Tourist Arrivals This Year’’, VN Express, December 22, 2016
- Vietnam National Administration of Tourism on Thursday announced 2016 would be a record year. The agency predicted it would log 10 million foreign tourists for the year this Sunday compared to the 7.9 million who visited in 2015.
- Nguyen Van Tuan, head of the national tourism administration, attributed the impressive growth to Vietnam’s efforts to relax its visa policy. Vietnam has already offered visa exemption to tourists from South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries, as well as extended visa-free programs through June of next year for travelers from Western Europe, including those from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
- Hoping to give the tourism industry a bigger push, the Vietnamese government has approved an online visa system for travelers on short holidays or casual business visits. The new visa rule, which is expected to come into effect this coming February, will not apply to all visitors, but limited to those from Vietnam’s top tourist source markets.
19. ‘’Vietnamese Citizens to Enjoy Visa-Free Travel to Uzbekistan’’, Bernama, December 27, 2016
- Vietnamese citizens will enjoy visa-free travel to Uzbekistan from April 1, 2017, said the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), Vietnam News Agency reported.”
- According to the VNAT, the move benefits Vietnamese citizens of over 55 years old for stays of up to 30 days. Entrance fee to the central Asian country is US$50.
20. Elias Hazou, ‘’Cypriot Passport Ranks 13th on Global Power Scale’’, Cyprus Mail, December 28, 2016
- The Cypriot passport ranks among the strongest in the world, as holders are able to travel to 146 countries without a visa. According to the updated Passport Index, Cyprus gets a Passport Power Rank of 13, and an Individual Power Rank of 36 globally.
- Its Global Mobility Score (for visa-free travel) of 146 ranks it above such countries as Lichtenstein, Monaco and Brazil.
21. ‘’Russia’s President: “Return of visa-free regime for Georgia citizens is possible”’’, Agenda.Ge, December 24, 2016
- "I do not rule out the possibility of the return of the visa-free regime for Georgian citizens coming to Russia. I think there is every reason for it," Putin said during his annual news conference.
- Currently Russian citizens don’t need to have a visa to come to Georgia, while Georgians need to obtain a visa to cross the Russian border. Georgia unilaterally abolished visa requirements for Russian citizens in 2011, which was followed by Russia simplifying its visa requirements for Georgians in 2013.
22. ‘’Visa-free Regime for Ukraine Will Be Introduced in First Half of 2017 – Mingarelli’’, Ukraine Today, December 27, 2016
- The visa-free travel regime for Ukraine would be introduced in the first half of 2017, together with the ultimate ratification of the EU-Ukraine association agreement, the EU envoy to Ukraine Hugues Mingarelli claimed, the Ukrainska Pravda reports.
- Although the EU envoy added he could not talk about any certain dates for finalising the bureaucratic procedures in the EU.
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