EC will continue efforts to achieve full visa recognition with USA and Canada

The European Commission has adopted its sixth report on certain third countries' maintenance of visa requirements in breach of the principle of reciprocity. The report shows that although progress towards full reciprocity has been achieved, there still a few cases in which "non-reciprocity" remains, as it is the case for Canada and the United States where there are certain visa requirements concerning citizens from some Member states.

The European Union holds some set of agreements under which not all citizens from third countries need a visa in order to travel to the Schengen area. Under this scheme, the EU has a common list of countries whose citizens must have a visa, the so-called 'negative list’, and a list of countries whose citizens are exempt from that requirement or 'positive list’.

The visa reciprocity mechanism tries to ensure that the countries in the positive list grant visa waiver to all EU citizens and treat all Member States in the same way, for the sake of the solidarity principle. Therefore, when a country on the positive list" introduces a visa requirement for one or more EU Member States, the Member State(s) concerned must notify the Commission which takes steps with the authorities of the third country to restore visa-free travel and reports to the European Parliament and the Council. The Commission can also propose to the Council retaliatory or retorsion measures vis-à-vis the third country in question.

With this aim, the European Commission has published the sixth report taking stock of steps taken to achieve reciprocity since the last report in October 2009.

State of EU visa reciprocity mechanism with third countries

  • The European Union will sign very soon two visa waiver agreements with Brasil: one on ordinary passport holders, the other on holders of diplomatic, service or official passports, which will ensure visa reciprocity. Upon their ratification, a considerable improvement for EU citizens will be achieved, in particular those of Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Malta who still had to apply for a visa to enter Brazil.
  • Brunei Darussalam grants all EU citizens a visa waiver, but it is valid only for 30 days, renewable twice for 30 days. Even though the current situation did not lead to problems for EU citizens so far, the Commission requested the authorities of Brunei Darussalam to grant EU citizens a 90-days visa waiver.
  • Since the reintroduction of the visa requirement by Canada for Czech citizens in July 2009, a path of measures has been established in order to allow Canada to lift the visa requirement again before the new Canadian asylum legislation will be implemented. Following the Canada-Czech Republic Experts Working Group meeting on 20 September in Prague, the Commission considers that some limited steps were made. The Commission will monitor closely the result-oriented implementation of the path of measures in early 2011.
  • The other remaining cases of non-reciprocity relate to the United States of America (a visa requirement is maintained for citizens of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Poland) and Canada (a visa requirement is in force for Bulgaria and Romania). In these cases, the U.S and Canada consider that the Member States concerned do not yet meet all criteria for visa exemption set in their legislation (e.g. that they are not issuing biometric passports or not meeting thresholds set for visa refusal and/or overstay rates). The Commission will pursue discussions with the two countries in order to achieve full visa reciprocity as soon as possible. The Commission also invites the European Parliament, the Council and the Member States to reflect on how to further address these cases of non-reciprocity.

The Commission has already issued several general reports regarding the implementation of the

visa reciprocity mechanism

and one ad-hoc report on the re-introduction of a visa requirement by Canada for Czech nationals. This ad-hoc report and the previous general report were adopted on 19 October 2009.