November 9, 2012
Vincentians to enjoy visa-free travel to Schengen area soon

Citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as those of 15 other island nations, will soon be able to travel to the 26 European countries, which make up the Schengen area, without a visa.{{more}}

The European Commission on Wednesday said it proposed to add five Caribbean nations (Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago), 10 Pacific Island Nations (Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) and Timor-Leste, to the list of countries and territories whose nationals are exempt from the visa obligation.

Citizens from these 16 nations will no longer require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) if he/she is in possession of a passport, be it for business, touristic or family visit purposes.

The Commission’s proposal foresees that the visa exemption will be reciprocated through Visa Waiver Agreements, ensuring a visa free regime for all EU citizens who wish to travel to these countries.

It is now up to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to take a final decision on the Commission proposal.

Wednesday’s proposal to transfer these 16 countries to the visa-free list by amending EU regulation is the result of the regular review process carried out by the European Commission. It is based on a case by case assessment of technical requirements and criteria relating, amongst others, to irregular migration, public policy and security, and to the European Union’s external relations with third countries, a press release from the European Commission said.

Currently, the Schengen area includes 22 European Union Member States and four associated States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Once nationals from these non-EU countries enter the Schengen area, they can move freely from one country to another. The visa waiver will also apply to Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus, which are not yet full members of the Schengen area.

The United Kingdom and Ireland do not participate in the Schengen cooperation and do take part in the common visa policy.

The Visa Waiver Agreement between the EU and the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is expected to be signed in about three to six months.