Africa: Common business visa proposed for Eastern, Southern African countries

What is the change? The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is taking steps toward a common regional multiple-entry business visa.

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What does the change mean? A common visa for the COMESA bloc would allow business travelers in the region to move freely among the 19 member countries with one multiple-entry visa.

  • Implementation time frame: Ongoing. The target for implementation is 2018.
  • Visas/permits affected: A proposed COMESA Business Visa.
  • Who is affected: Nationals of the COMESA member countries traveling in the region for business.
  • Business impact: A common business visa would facilitate trade and business travel and eliminate the need to obtain visas for multiple-country trips within the region.

Background: The common multiple-entry business visa is a step toward COMESA’s goal of removing barriers to the free movement of goods, services and people in the region. In October, COMESA leaders issued a communiqué following the annual summit of COMESA heads of state and governments underscoring the priority of relaxing and gradually eliminating visa requirements to boost business, trade and investment within the region.

COMESA comprises the following 19 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa with a combined population of 390 million: Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

BAL Analysis: A common regional business visa would be a positive step toward visa liberalization and follows the trend within Africa to remove visa barriers. Earlier this year, Benin, Ghana and Namibia all announced they would remove visas for all African Union business travelers, and Senegal eliminated business visas for all travelers.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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