St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday signed a short stay visa waiver agreement with the European Union.
This allows Vincentian passport holders to visit all EU Member States for up to 90 days within a six-month period without requiring a visa, as long as the purpose of the visit is not to carry out a paid activity.
Before the signing of the agreement, Vincentians had already enjoyed visa-free travel to the UK and Ireland.
Visa requirements will also be waived for four other countries that are not EU Member States, but are members of the Schengen Area — namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The full list of countries that allow visa-free access as a result of the agreement is: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The agreement, which was signed by Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Permanent Representative to the EU, Ambassador Len Ishmael during the EU-African Caribbean and Pacific Ministerial Meeting taking place in Brussels, took effect immediately.
Other Caribbean countries signing along with SVG were Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia as well as Trinidad and Tobago.
The new signatories are additions to the four other Caribbean Countries — The Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, along with St. Kitts and Nevis — which were granted visa waiver status in 2009 by the EU.
Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Mikael Barfod welcomed the signing.
“The signing of the visa waiver agreement removes the stress and hassle for Vincentians in seeking to obtain a visa each time they have to travel to Europe. The European Union is happy to extend such a courtesy to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in an effort to strengthen people to people contact,” he said.
As regards France and the Netherlands, the visa-free travel shall apply only to the European territory of these Member States.
The visa regime between the overseas territories, including those in the Caribbean, of these Member States and the countries granted visa waiver status remains subject to bilateral arrangements between the countries concerned or to national legislation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs in Kingstown, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves, announced the signing of the visa waiver agreement in Parliament on Thursday.
“St. Vincent and the Grenadines now joins 50 other countries that share the privilege of being able to enter the Schengen join for a period of up to 90 days without requirement of a visa,” he said.
He noted that before the agreement, Vincentians had to travel to other Caribbean nations, where there are shared embassies, to obtain those visas.
He said the agreement is part of the policy of the government of SVG to maximize the number of reciprocal visa waiver agreements that allow Vincentian passport holders to travel throughout the world with as little administrative difficulty as possible.
Gonsalves pointed out that SVG recently signed similar agreements with Brazil and Uruguay
He noted that while the agreement with the EU country took effective immediately after the signing, there may be some hiccups in the initial stages.
“… authorities from the European Union have advised that in the month or so after signature, there may be some administrative hiccups, there may be some airlines that have not been notified, there may be various border points because the Schengen area is so large and has so many points of entry, there may be some hiccups with this or that immigration officer or computer that has not been updated.
“So they have indicated that there may be some hiccups in the immediate aftermath of this signature and they advised that people travelling to the Schengen zone in the next few weeks should first contact the embassy of the country through which they intend to enter the Schengen zone and the airline that they plan to use to enter the area to ensure that everything has been sorted out administratively.
“But from a legal perspective, the visa waiver is now in effect,” Gonsalves said.
More information about the Schengen visa can be found on the website.
You may also visit the website of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.