Which Countries Have Bilateral Visa Waivers?


Tired of the confusion surrounding the Bilateral Visa Waiver Treaties, I decided to do some focused research to try and settle some niggling questions once and for all.  I have summarized the results of my research in a Table.

A Table Summarizing the Bilateral Visa Waiver Treaties

The Table below lists the countries in the Schengen zone that have Bilateral visa waiver treaties with the CANZUKUS countries.  Read More

Bilateral Visa Waivers

The Entry/Exit System

The Entry/Exit System is planned for introduction with the European Travel Information and Authorization System in 2024.

I verified column (e) of the Table by referencing the EU document ‘List of Member States’ bilateral visa waiver agreements‘ confirming which bilateral treaties will be encoded into the Entry/Exit System.  Interestingly, this EU list does not match perfectly with the known position of several countries. This is highlighted in the Table.

Weird Stuff

Australia has a government website ‘Smart Traveller‘ which lists Spain as a bilateral signatory.  Spain effectively repudiated the agreement many years ago thru a gazette notice and did not propose Australia to the EU when the Exit/Entry System rules were finalized.

Conversely, Smart Traveller does not list Portugal and the Australian Treaty database cites the treaty as ‘no longer in force’ 19 July 1999.  But Portugal listed Australia as an in-force agreement for coding into the Entry Exit System.  The Portugese consul lists the 1963 Bilateral Treaty on their website here but the Ministry of Internal Administration only list the Decree No. 8/2002  in force at 30 March 2002 which effectively nullifies the bilateral.  However, in breaking news, yet to be confirmed, a new Regulatory Decree No. 2/2022 may reverse this.

If you intend to rely upon Portugal for an extra 90 days it might be useful to get written confirmation from the Portugese Consul General in Sydney. Having said that – the EU bilateral list was assembled for hard-coding into the Entry/Exit System so perhaps it wouldn’t matter what they say?

I believe these and other anomalies exist because France, Spain and Portugal have all at various times caveated a number of their agreements with the sneaky proviso that the additional bilateral days are deemed to start upon crossing the external borders of the Schengen zone.  In other words, with this verbal sleight of hand, you get NO additional days.  Spain has gazetted confirmation that US citizens visiting Spain do indeed get an extra 90 days here.  I cannot find similar for Kiwis and Canucks.

A few more funnies.  Read More

The Bilateral Treaties are Not All the Same

The bilateral visa waiver treaties appear similar in format and introductory text, but the details are sometimes different.  They all look the same but the terms absolutely are not. Most people seem to assume the Bilateral Treaty give a stock standard 90 day visa waiver.   In many cases yes. But Australia-Belgium is 2 months. Australia-Italy allows return after one month. Germany has unlimited exit/entry. Sweden includes Nordic countries.  Watch this space for updates as I explore the treaties I have not yet personally vetted.

For those Kiwis contemplating France, you should try reading your bilateral.  In the France case for NZ, the bilateral treaty promises that you don’t have to obtain a visa in advance.  No more.  No mention at all of 90 days.  So good luck.  But happily with the new Exit/Entry System on the cusp of go-live, regardless of the content of the actual treaty – the hard-coded provisions that guide border guards will be as per the coding in the Exit/Entry System.  So, 90 days from France for Kiwis. Vive La France!

Why do People Have Trouble Using the Bilateral Visa Waivers?

I suspect part of the problem with border officials recognizing the bilateral treaties is that they were generally concluded up to 40 years before said border official was even born. If someone waved a 70 year old typewritten document authored decades before the Schengen zone was ever contemplated in my face and claimed it was still valid I too would be skeptical.

The fact is that even our Governments get it wrong.  Spain is still listed on the Australian Government website.  And not everyone pays attention to the content/interpretation of the bilateral.  They are not all identical. Some offer 90 days. Some offer 60 days. And many with 90 days are interpreted differently. France – yes 90 days from entering the Schengen zone. Sweden – yes 90 days from entering the Nordic countries.

May I suggest rather than trying to convince a border official to trust a document he has never seen that instead you show him a copy in his language of the EU document from the Official Journal of the EU available on the net titled List of Member States’ bilateral visa waiver agreements.  In addition,prepare your documentation using Google Translate so your case is made in the language of the Border Officials.  It may also help to read about others experience in Schengen-Shuffle and elsewhere.  I documented my experience in Italy here.


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