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Schengen visa waiver for Vincentians takes effect

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Vincentian citizens have now joined 50 other countries around the world in being allowed to travel to the 22 European states of the Schengen zone without requiring a visa.{{more}}

This was announced yesterday, by Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves during Parliament – which he described as the “culmination of a lengthy process.”

“I have been advised that Ambassador Dr Len Ishmael of our Embassy of the Eastern Caribbean States and Missions to the European Union has signed a Schengen visa waiver agreement for holders of Vincentian passports, allowing them to travel freely to the 26 countries of the Schengen area,” said Gonsalves.

The Schengen zone comprises 26 countries, which include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The Vincentian passport will now allow visa-free entry into the Schengen zone for a period of up to 90 days in any six-month period.

Gonsalves added that prior to this visa waiver agreement, Vincentians had to obtain Schengen visas to travel to these countries at great personal expense.

“This visa waiver agreement is part and parcel of the policy of St Vincent and the Grenadines 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.”

He did, however, point out that officials from the European Union have advised that within the next month or so, there may be “administrative hiccups,” including various airlines and border points that have not yet received notification of the waiver update.

“They have 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 make sure everything has been sorted out administratively.”

Acknowledging that the more countries an individual’s passport allows them visa-free travel into, the more valuable it becomes, Gonsalves insisted that the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is still very firmly against ‘citizenship for sale’ schemes.

He asserted that Vincentian citizenship is “not something to be sold to the highest bidder; to those who come hither and tither with all sorts of ulterior motives and have the potential to bring our country’s good name into disrepute.

“Some things are priceless, and our citizenship is one of those things.”

Gonsalves was also mindful to note that the waiver does not apply to overseas territories of the countries within the Schengen zone. Using Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Martin as examples, he explained that being overseas departments of France, they do not fall under the visa waiver agreement.

“We have long had other arrangements and continue to try to facilitate travel to those overseas departments as easily as possible.”

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves also commented on this development in visa-free travel, describing it as one of “immense, practical significance.”. He said that it is a “huge advantage to Vicentians, especially those involved in business and the creative arts.

Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago also signed the short stay visa waiver with the EU yesterday, joining The Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and St Kitts/Nevis, which were granted visa waiver status with the EU in 2009. (JSV)

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