Passports and Visas - Review and Update

A permanent feature of the business traveller's everyday life, what's the latest concerning these open-sesames of business travel?

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Essential for travelling and obtaining access to different parts of the world, passports and visas are a permanent feature of every business traveller’s travel bag. Biometric passports, online and special visas, plus Brexit: we take stock of new developments you should know about regarding these two open-sesames. 

Popular with 81% of business travelers compared with 75% of leisure travelers, biometric screening has been instrumental in improving passenger flow through airports thanks to the use of electronic passports introduced some 15 years ago. Combined with automated check-in facilities - check-in kiosks and bag-drop points - these open-sesames enable travellers to reduce the time spent waiting at the check-in desk by 30%. Business class customers, often pressed for time and adverse to queues, also have access to express border control services such as PARAFE (Automated Fast-track Crossing System at External Schengen Borders). 

Next-generation passports

According to the digital security company Gemalto, chosen last year by the United Kingdom to provide its citizens with electronic passports, trends in travel documentation for 2017-20 include data pages in tamper-proof polycarbonate. Placed over the personal data page, this additional layer displays a code. Any attempt to replace the passport photo results in the code failing to appear. This significantly reduces the risk of fraud. Another major trend is e-passport data storage on smartphones, which could revolutionise the business traveller's everyday life. 

The top 10 best open-sesames

Depending on the country they are issued by, not all passports are equal. Some open the borders of other countries more easily, some can be obtained through a relatively simple application process, while others are less costly in terms of taxes. The Nomad Passport Index study conducted by the consultancy Nomad Capitalist put together a 2018 ranking of the best passports in the world. And the findings? Luxembourgers have the best open-sesame with a score of 177 countries accessible without a visa (1), followed by the Irish, the Swiss, the Portuguese then the Swedish. Among these top 5, we don't find the major business destinations such as England, China, Russia or the United States. Unfortunately, for these countries, procedures are not always so easy, especially when it comes to long stays. 

Visas, necessary procedures

Essential for some countries as well as for long stays, visas represent an additional administrative burden for business travelers and anyone involved in organising business trips. Some countries are trying to make this process easier with online applications or electronic authorisation, such as ESTA for entering the United States, the eVisitor for Australia, and ETA for Sri Lanka. Others create special visas in line with their economic and/or political policies. France, for example, is introducing a French Tech Visa (operational in April 2019) to attract talent from innovative companies based abroad, not only from the technology sector, by simplifying procedures. To cope with a declining birth rate and shortage of manpower, Japan has just passed a law, which came into force in April 2019, for the creation of new visas allowing foreign workers to remain in the country for five years. 

And what about Brexit?

While London (2), according to BCD Travel, remains Europe's leading business travel destination, what might the UK's future exit from the European Union change? Until a final agreement is signed, UK passport holders will be able to travel without a visa in the Schengen area, along with other countries such as Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway, for a period of three months. And reciprocally, passport holders of the same countries are exempt from visa requirements for entering the United Kingdom.

(1) Next in the top 10 most useful passport line-up come the Italians, the Spanish, the Finnish, the Danish, and the Germans with, at the end of the list, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

(2) In Europe, the city of London is followed by Vienna, Amsterdam, Zurich, and Paris. At an international level, New York is in first place followed by Shanghai, and Dubai.  

Published by Thi bao on 18/06/2019 Photo credit: © FatCamera

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