Why Schengen-Style Multi-Country Visa Are Becoming Popular Across The World 2024

Why Schengen-Style Multi-Country Visa Are Becoming Popular Across The World 2024

Schengen-Style Visas For Asia & Africa? Exploring A New Era Of Multi-Country Travel
Image credit: Delpixel/Shutterstock

Visa applications can be time-consuming, with embassies evaluating documents, biometrics, and travel history. The US and Schengen visas have gained a global reputation for their thorough and extensive processes. However, in the wake of the pandemic, there has been a global surge in tourism and many countries are seeking to streamline visa processes to boost tourism and the local economies. Visas are being reimagined through new schemes and policies, with many nations bringing in the Schengen-style unified multi-country visa.

Traditionally, visa-free travel between all countries is unrealistic due to diplomatic considerations. However, regions are exploring a similar approach to the Schengen Area, a border-free zone that enables easy travel through just one visa for 29 countries! Travelling across Europe is simplified as travellers can visit France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and more just by acquiring the Schengen visa.

Popular travel destinations in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Southern Africa plan to replicate this idea and create a more welcoming environment for tourists by simplifying the process with a unified multi-entry visa for these regions. This unified Schengen-style visa opens the doors to multiple destinations, reimagining how we travel to breathtaking countries like Thailand, Malaysia, UAE, Zimbabwe, and Qatar.

Regions planning the Schengen-style unified multi-country visa

Middle East – GCC Grand Tours

schengen style multi country visa
The Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates | Image credit: Melnikov Dmitriy/Shutterstock

The Middle East is the front-runner in launching its Schengen-style unified visa. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprised of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, currently requires separate e-visas for each member country.

To streamline travel, these nations are collaborating to launch a unified visa, officially known as the GCC Grand Tours. This e-visa will permit a stay for up to 30 days within the GCC region of the Middle East, allowing tourists to explore beyond popular destinations like Abu Dhabi and Dubai without the hassle of multiple visa applications. The Schengen-style unified GCC Grand Tours visa is expected to be available by the end of 2024, and travel companies are likely to launch tour packages covering several Middle Eastern countries once implemented.

Southern Africa – Univisa

The Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia
The Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia. | Image credit: Heinz-Peter Schwerin/Shutterstock

Five southern African countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are members of the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TCA), a vast nature reserve spread across the Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park, and Victoria Falls. While these countries already offer a limited Univisa programme allowing travel between Zambia and Zimbabwe, the new initiative plans to expand it into a full Schengen-style multi-entry visa, granting access to all five nations.

The KAZA TFCA is the second-largest nature and landscape conservation organisation in southern Africa, stretching along the five nations. The Schengen-style visa will eliminate the need for separate visas and allow seamless exploration of southern Africa’s diverse wildlife, mighty waterfalls, expansive savannas, and breathtaking landscapes.

Southeast Asia

Railay beach, Krabi, Thailand | Image credit: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock

Thailand is proposing a Schengen-style visa programme for Southeast Asia. This initiative, if implemented, could potentially allow border-free travel between Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Laos. The proposed single visa initiative aims to attract long-haul travellers to extend their stay and explore the wonders of Southeast Asia across six countries.

This is being discussed at a time when Thailand also has several visa-free regimes ongoing for multiple nationalities and Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos have e-visa/visa-on-arrival policies.

Benefits of the Schengen-style multi-country

Imagine a single visa that unlocks the wonders of multiple countries! This is the promise of a Schengen-style multi-country visa, a concept gaining traction in several regions. The benefits include:

Simplified application process

Image credit: UladzimirZuyeu/Shutterstock

Applying for visas can be time-consuming, gathering required documents and navigating various application processes. When applying for visas to multiple countries, the process becomes more cumbersome. A unified Schengen-style multi-country visa streamlines this by allowing one application for many destinations.

Explore multiple countries with a single visa

Multi-country Schengen-style visas allow tourists to cover several countries on a single trip with a single visa. This is particularly exciting for regions like Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and southern Africa, where diverse cultures and breathtaking landscapes are often spread across borders.

Reduced visa-related costs

Visas are costly, adding a significant expense to our international travel budget. For instance, the UAE visa costs approximately INR 7,000 (USD 83), the Qatar visa is INR 2,300 (USD 37), and the Saudi Arabia visa is INR 7,500 (USD 89). Applying for all three visas will cost about INR 17,000 (USD 203).

In contrast, the Schengen visa costs approximately INR 8,000 (USD 95) and permits entry to 29 European countries. The aim of the Schengen-style visa is to offer a cost-effective solution to this expense.

Longer vacations

The Schengen-style visa will lead to extended stays, as travellers will be encouraged to spend longer vacations across the region. It is unlikely for a tourist to just spend a few days when the visa unlocks access to more destinations.

The Middle East plans to take advantage of this opportunity by offering travel packages covering the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, with two- to three-night stays in three of these countries. The travel packages will be offered for AED 4-5000 (approximately USD 1,089 – 1,361), inclusive of stay, visa cost, and tours.

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(All currency conversions were done at the time of writing)

(Feature image credit: Delpixel/Shutterstock)

Related: Must-See Countries In Western Europe For Your Schengen Visa Travel

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– What is the idea behind Schengen-style visas for other regions?
The idea behind Schengen-style visas is to encourage travellers to explore other countries besides the popular ones in the region by offering visa-free travel in the territories through one unified visa. This will help boost the economy and offer smoother travel options to international tourists.

– When will the Middle East release its Schengen-style GCC Grand Tours visa?
The Middle East plans on granting the Schengen-style GCC Grand Tours visa by the end of 2024.

– How do multi-country visa programmes benefit the region?
The Schengen-style multi-country visa programmes will benefit the regions by offering an easier visa application process and accessibility to multiple countries through just one visa.

The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication.
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Written By

Priyaja Bakshi

Priyaja Bakshi

Digital Writer – Growth, Travel

Priyaja took her love for reading to the next level by majoring in English and minoring in Journalism ..Read More

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