BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Citizens from five Caribbean island nations will soon be able to travel to the Schengen area without needing a visa. This will open up to opportunities and advantages both for the EU and the nationals of these five countries.
"Travelling without a visa is not just a symbolic gesture – it will have a direct impact on citizens of these countries and on EU citizens, in the form of more people-to-people contacts and business opportunities," said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
On Friday, the European Commission proposed to add five Caribbean island nations (Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago), ten 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 third countries and territories whose nationals are exempt from the visa obligation. St Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda has had visa exemption since June 1, 2009.
The objective is to simplify travel to the Schengen area, as well as to Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania. A national from one of these countries would 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. This will make travel planning easier and reduce the travelling costs. Member states' limited consular presence in many of these countries has resulted in visa applicants often having to travel abroad to apply for a Schengen visa.
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. Moreover, specific categories of British citizens currently under the visa obligation (an estimated 300,000 people mostly residing in British Overseas Territories like Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands) will also be exempt.
It is now up to the European Parliament and to the Council of the European Union to take a final decision on the Commission proposal.
Currently, the Schengen area includes 22 EU 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 UK and Ireland do not participate in the Schengen cooperation and do not take part in the common visa policy. They therefore have separate visa arrangements with non-EU countries.