Visa-Free travel under threat: Dominica, Caribbean nations affected by UK policy shift

This move, slated to take place during current week, is expected to be the first phase in the wider implementation of the recently initiated Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system.

Visa-Free travel under threat: Dominica, Caribbean nations affected by UK policy shift
Visa-Free travel under threat: Dominica, Caribbean nations affected by UK policy shift

In a significant reshuffling of immigration protocols, the UK government plans to rescind the existing visa-waiver agreement with certain Caribbean countries, primarily those offering Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programmes, according to a trusted source within the UK Home Office.

This move, slated to take place during current week, is expected to be the first phase in the wider implementation of the recently initiated Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system.

As per Home Office officials, the aim of this policy change is to enhance national security and streamline immigration procedures. Following the initial phase, these Caribbean countries are projected to be incorporated into the ETA system by the end of 2023, although the specifics of this transition remain undisclosed at this point.

Following the same, The UK has decided to put a temporary halt on the visa waiver agreement with the Commonwealth of Dominica in its first step following the pre-launch of ETA. As per reports, this decision comes as the UK plans to add Dominica among other Caribbean nations to the list of eligible countries for ETA.

The ETA was introduced by the UK on Tuesday, which requires people travelling to the UK without a visa to require an electronic document. It allows individuals to enter and stay in a country for a specific period of time.

To get an ETA, an individual typically needs to fill out an online application form with personal information, such as their name, passport details, and purpose of travel.

This upcoming shift in UK policy appears to be following the feat of Canada in 2017. That year, Canada made the strategic decision to rescind the visa-free waiver agreements with countries that are part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in two distinct phases.

The decision, much like the UK’s current plan, aimed to streamline immigration procedures and bolster national security. The move was viewed as a significant step in modernising Canada’s immigration framework, and it seems the UK is keen to replicate this success with the implementation of its own Electronic Travel Authorisation system.

Canada removed visa waiver with Caribbean countries in two waves. In the first wave, on June 27, 2017, Canada revoked visa-free travel for Antigua and Barbuda. In the second wave, Canada removed visa waiver for all other countries within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.

The reasons for the removal of visa waiver for Caribbean countries were not explicitly stated by the Canadian government. However, it is likely that the decision was made to enhance its immigration process.

As of June, 2023, Canada reintroduced visa-free travel to eligible travellers from 13 new countries which included OECS countries including Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and others. Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia who have previously held a Canadian visitor visa within the last 10 years, or currently hold a valid United States nonimmigrant visa, may be eligible to apply for an eTA instead of a visa.

Looking forward, the UK Home Office is expected to extend its policy revamp beyond the initial group of countries. In its subsequent phase, the visa-free travel agreements with other OECS or additional Caribbean nations are likely to be revoked.

As with the first stage, these nations will then be incorporated into the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system, further expanding the UK’s modernised immigration framework.

This move underscores the UK government’s commitment to fortifying national security and improving immigration management, echoing the successful strategy previously employed by Canada. The specific timeline and the list of countries to be affected in this next phase are yet to be confirmed.