(from the Latin charta visa
, meaning "paper that has to be seen")
is a conditional authorization granted by a territory to a foreigner, allowing them to enter, remain within, or to leave that territory. Visas typically may include limits on the duration of the foreigner's stay, areas within the country they may enter, the dates they may enter, the number of permitted visits or an individual's right to work in the country in question. Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter a territory and thus are, in most countries, distinct from actual formal permission for an alien
to enter and remain in the country. In each instance, a visa is subject to entry permission by an immigration official
at the time of actual entry, and can be revoked at any time. Visa evidence most commonly takes the form of a sticker endorsed in the applicant's passport
or other travel document
but may also exist electronically. Some countries no longer issue physical visa evidence, instead recording details only in immigration databases
Russian visa issued in 1916
Tourist visa for John F. Kennedy
to travel to Brazil, issued by the Brazilian government in 1941
Brazilian multiple entry visa in a United States passport, with immigration stamps from Brazil, France, and the United States
Historically, immigration officials were empowered to permit or reject entry of visitors on arrival at the frontiers. If permitted entry, the official would issue a visa, when required, which would be a stamp
in a passport. Today, travellers wishing to enter another country must often apply in advance for what is also called a visa, sometimes in person at a consular office, by post, or over the internet. The modern visa may be a sticker or a stamp in the passport, an electronic record of the authorization, or a separate document which the applicant can print before leaving home and produce on entry to the visited territory. Some countries do not require visitors to apply for a visa in advance for short visits.
Visa applications in advance of arrival give countries a chance to consider the applicant's circumstances, such as financial security, reason for travel, and details of previous visits to the country. Visitors may also be required to undergo and pass security or health checks upon arrival at the port of entry.
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In western Europe in the late 19th century and early 20th century, passports
and visas were not generally necessary for moving from one country to another. The relatively high speed and large movements of people travelling by train would have caused bottlenecks if regular passport controls had been used.
Passports and visas became usually necessary as travel documents only after World War I
Long before that, in ancient times, passports and visas were usually the same type of travel documents. In the modern world, visas have become separate secondary travel documents, with passports acting as the primary travel documents.
Conditions of issue
Some visas can be granted on arrival or by prior application at the country's embassy or consulate
, or through a private visa service specialist who is specialized in the issuance of international travel documents. These agencies are authorized by the foreign authority, embassy, or consulate to represent international travellers who are unable or unwilling to travel to the embassy and apply in person. Private visa and passport services collect an additional fee for verifying customer applications, supporting documents, and submitting them to the appropriate authority. If there is no embassy or consulate in one's home country, then one would have to travel to a third country (or apply by post) and try to get a visa issued there. Alternatively, in such cases visas may be pre-arranged for collection on arrival at the border. The need or absence of need of a visa generally depends on the citizenship of the applicant, the intended duration of the stay, and the activities that the applicant may wish to undertake in the country he visits; these may delineate different formal categories of visas, with different issue conditions.
The issuing authority, usually a branch of the country's foreign ministry
or department (e.g. U.S. State Department
), and typically consular affairs officers, may request appropriate documentation from the applicant. This may include proof that the applicant is able to support himself in the host country (lodging, food), proof that the person hosting the applicant in his or her home really exists and has sufficient room for hosting the applicant, proof that the applicant has obtained health and evacuation insurance, etc. Some countries ask for proof of health status, especially for long-term visas; some countries deny such visas to persons with certain illnesses, such as AIDS
. The exact conditions depend on the country and category of visa. Notable examples of countries requiring HIV
tests of long-term residents are Russia
In Uzbekistan, however, the HIV test requirement is sometimes not strictly enforced.
Other countries require a medical test that includes an HIV test, even for a short-term tourism visa. For example, Cuban
citizens and international exchange students require such a test approved by a medical authority to enter Chilean territory.
The issuing authority may also require applicants to attest that they have no criminal convictions, or that they do not participate in certain activities (like prostitution or drug trafficking). Some countries will deny visas if passports show evidence of citizenship of, or travel to, a country that is considered hostile by that country. For example, some Arabic-oriented countries will not issue visas to nationals of Israel and those whose passports bear evidence of visiting Israel.
Many countries frequently demand strong evidence of intent to return to the home country, if the visa is for a temporary stay, due to potential unwanted illegal immigration
. Proof of ties to the visa applicant's country of residence is often demanded to demonstrate a sufficient incentive to return. This can include things such as documented evidence of employment, bank statements, property ownership, and family ties.
Transit visa, issued by Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara
in Lithuania to Susan Bluman in World War II.
Each country typically has a multitude of categories of visas with various names. The most common types and names of visas include:
For passing through the country of issue to a destination outside that country. Validity of transit visas are usually limited by short terms such as several hours to ten days depending on the size of the country or the circumstances of a particular transit itinerary.
- Airside transit visa, required by some countries for passing through their airports even without going through passport control.
- Crew member, steward, or driver visa, issued to persons employed or trained on aircraft, vessels, trains, trucks, buses, and any other means of international transportation, or ships fishing in international waters.
Short-stay or visitor visas
For short visits to the visited country. Many countries differentiate between different reasons for these visits, such as:
Visas valid for long term stays of a specific duration include:
- Student visa (F-1 in the United States), which allows its holder to study at an institution of higher learning in the issuing country. The F-2 visa allows the student's dependents to accompany them in the United States.
, for students doing fieldwork
in the host country.
- Temporary worker visa, for approved employment in the host country. These are generally more difficult to obtain but valid for longer periods of time than a business visa. Examples of these are the United States' H-1B and L-1 visas. Depending on a particular country, the status of temporary worker may or may not evolve into the status of permanent resident or to naturalization.
- Residence visa, granted to people obtaining long-term residence in the host country. In some countries, such as New Zealand, long-term residence is a necessary step to obtain the status of a permanent resident.
- Asylum visa, issued to people who have suffered or reasonably fear persecution in their own country due to their political activities or opinion, or features, or association with a social group; or were exiled from their own country.
- Dependent visa, issued to certain family members of holder of a long-stay visa of certain other types (e. g., to spouse and children of a qualified employee holding a temporary worker visa).
Granted for those intending to settle permanently in the issuing country (obtain the status of a permanent resident with a prospect of possible naturalization in the future):
- Spouse visa or partner visa, granted to the spouse, civil partner or de facto partner of a resident or citizen of a given country to enable the couple to settle in that country.
- Family member visa, for other members of the family of a resident or citizen of a given country. Usually, only the closest ones are covered:
- Parents, often restricted to helpless ones, i. e. those who, due to their elderly age or state of health, need supervision and care;
- Children (including adopted ones), often restricted to those who haven't reached the age of maturity or helpless ones;
- Often also extended to grandchildren or grandparents, where their immediate parents or children, respectively, are for whichever reason unable to take care of them;
- Often also extended to helpless siblings.
- Marriage visa, granted for a limited period before intended marriage or conclusion of a civil partnership based on a proven relationship with a citizen of the destination country. For example, a German woman wishing to marry an American man would obtain a Fiancée Visa (also known as a K-1 visa) to allow her to enter the United States. A K1 Fiancée Visa is valid for four months from the date of its approval.
- Pensioner visa (also known as retiree visa or retirement visa), issued by a limited number of countries (Australia, Argentina, Thailand, Panama, etc.), to those who can demonstrate a foreign source of income and who do not intend to work in the issuing country. Age limits apply in some cases.
These are granted to officials doing jobs for their governments, or otherwise representing their countries in the host country, such as the personnel of diplomatic missions.
- A diplomatic visa in combination with a regular or diplomatic passport.
- Courtesy visas are issued to representatives of foreign governments or international organizations who do not qualify for diplomatic status but do merit expedited, courteous treatment – an example of this is Australia'sspecial purpose visa.
By method of issue
Normally visa applications are made at and collected from a consulate, embassy, or other diplomatic mission.
Also known as visas on arrival (VOA), they are granted at a port of entry. This is distinct from visa-free entry, where no visa is required, as the visitor must still obtain the visa on arrival before proceeding to immigration control.
- Almost all countries will consider issuing a visa (or another document to the same effect) on arrival to a visitor arriving in unforeseen exceptional circumstances, for example:
- Under provisions of article 35 of the Schengen Visa Code, a visa may be issued at a border in situations such as the diversion of a flight causing air passengers in transit to pass through two or more airports instead of one. In 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, causing significant disruption of air travel throughout Europe, and the EU responded by announcing that it would issue visas at land borders to stranded travellers.
- Under section 212(d)(4) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, visa waivers can be issued to travellers arriving at American ports of entry in emergency situations or under other conditions.
- Certain international airports in Russia have consuls on-duty, who have the power to issue visas on the spot.
- Some countries issue visas on arrival to special categories of travellers, such as seafarers or aircrew.
- Some countries issue them to regular visitors; there often are restrictions, for example:
- Belarus issues visas on arrival in Minsk international airport only to nationals of countries where there is no consular representation of Belarus.
- Thailand only issues visas on arrival at certain border checkpoints. The most notable crossing where visas on arrival are not issued is the Padang Besar checkpoint for passenger trains between Malaysia and Thailand.
Countries granting electronic visas universally
Countries granting electronic visas to select nationalities
Countries requiring electronic registration from most visa exempt visitors (excluding Australian eVisitor)
Countries that plan to introduce eVisas in the future)
An electronic visa (e-Visa or eVisa) is stored in a computer and is linked to the passport number so no label, sticker, or stamp is placed in the passport before travel. The application is done over the internet, and the receipt acts as a visa, which can be printed or stored on a mobile device.
maintains an eVisa program for visitors from certain countries arriving to Russian Far East, Saint Petersburg, Leningrad Region and Kaliningrad Region.
And will introduce a single electronic visa from 1 January 2021.
Authorities of Belarus
, Republic of the Congo
, Democratic Republic of the Congo
, Equatorial Guinea
, South Africa
have announced plans to introduce electronic visas in the future.
These lists are not exhaustive. Some countries may have more detailed classifications of some of these categories reflecting the nuances of their respective geographies, social conditions, economies, international treaties, etc.
In some countries that exempt visitors of certain nationalities from visa requirements, it is still necessary to receive prior authorization before arriving by air. These travel authorizations typically last for several years, and can be used multiple times. Airlines are required to verify that all passengers without a visa have obtained authorization before departure, or risk fines and the cost of a returning a passenger to their country of origin.
Entry and duration period
Visas can also be single-entry
, which means the visa is cancelled as soon as the holder leaves the country; double-entry
, or multiple-entry
, which permits double or multiple entries into the country with the same visa. Countries may also issue re-entry permits
that allow temporarily leaving the country without invalidating the visa. Even a business visa will normally not allow the holder to work in the host country without an additional work permit
Once issued, a visa will typically have to be used within a certain period of time.
In some countries, the validity of a visa is not the same as the authorized period of stay. The visa validity then indicates the time period when the entry is permitted into the country. For example, if a visa has been issued to begin on January 1 and to expire on March 30, and the typical authorized period of stay in a country is 90 days, then the 90-day authorized stay starts on the day the passenger enters the country (entrance has to be between 1 January and 30 March). Thus, the latest day the traveller could conceivably stay in the issuing country is 1 July (if the traveller entered on 30 March). This interpretation of visas is common in the Americas.
With other countries, a person may not stay beyond the period of validity of their visa, which is usually set within the period of validity of their passport. The visa may also limit the total number of days the visitor may spend in the applicable territory within the period of validity. This interpretation of visa periods is common in Europe.
Once in the country, the validity period of a visa or authorized stay can often be extended for a fee at the discretion of immigration authorities. Overstaying a period of authorized stay given by the immigration officers is considered illegal immigration
even if the visa validity period isn't over (i.e., for multiple entry visas) and a form of being "out of status" and the offender may be fined
, prosecuted, deported
, or even blacklisted
from entering the country again.
Entering a country without a valid visa or visa exemption may result in detention and removal (deportation or exclusion) from the country. Undertaking activities that are not authorized by the status of entry (for example, working while possessing a non-worker tourist status) can result in the individual being deemed liable for deportation—commonly referred to as an illegal alien
. Such violation is not a violation of a visa, despite the common misuse of the phrase, but a violation of status; hence the term "out of status".
Even having a visa does not guarantee entry to the host country. The border crossing authorities make the final determination to allow entry, and may even cancel a visa at the border if the alien cannot demonstrate to their satisfaction that they will abide by the status their visa grants them.
Some countries that do not require visas for short stays may require a long-stay visa for those who intend to apply for a residence permit
. For example, the EU does not require a visa of citizens of many countries for stays under 90 days, but its member states require a long-stay visa of such citizens for longer stays.
In certain circumstances, it is not possible for the holder of the visa to do this, either because the country does not have a mechanism to prolong visas or, most likely, because the holder of the visa is using a short stay visa to live in a country.
Visa run example
Some foreign visitors sometimes engage in what is known as a visa run: leaving a country—usually to a neighbouring country—for a short period just before the permitted length of stay expires, then returning to the first country to get a new entry stamp in order to extend their stay ("reset the clock"). Despite the name, a visa run is usually done with a passport that can be used for entry without a visa.
Visa runs are frowned upon by immigration authorities as such acts may signify that the foreigner wishes to reside permanently and might also work in that country; purposes that visitors are prohibited from engaging in and usually require an immigrant visa or a work visa. Immigration officers may deny re-entry to visitors suspected of engaging in prohibited activities, especially when they have done repeated visa runs and have no evidence of spending reasonable time in their home countries or countries where they have the right to reside and work.
To combat visa runs, some countries have limits on how long visitors can spend in the country without a visa, as well as how much time they have to stay out before "resetting the clock". For example, Schengen
countries impose a maximum limit for visitors of 90 days in any 180-day period. Some countries do not "reset the clock" when a visitor comes back after visiting a neighbouring country. For example, the United States does not give visitors a new period of stay when they come back from visiting Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean; instead they are readmitted to the United States for the remaining days granted on their initial entry.
Some other countries, e.g. Thailand, allow visitors who arrive by land from neighbouring countries a shorter length of stay than those who arrive by air.
In some cases, a visa run is necessary to activate new visas or change the immigration status of a person. An example would be leaving a country and then returning immediately to activate a newly issued work visa before a person can legally work.
In general, an applicant may be refused a visa if they do not meet the requirements for admission or entry under that country's immigration laws. More specifically, a visa may be denied or refused when the applicant:
- has committed fraud, deception, or misrepresentation in his or her current application as well as in a previous application
- has obtained a criminal record, has been arrested, or has criminal charges pending
- is considered to be a threat to national security
- does not have a good moral character
- has previous visa/immigration violations (even if the violations didn't happen in the country the applicant is seeking a visa for)
- had their previous visa application(s) or application for immigration benefits refused and cannot prove that the reasons for the previous refusals no longer exist or are not applicable any more (even if the refusals didn't previously happen in the country the applicant is seeking a visa for)
- cannot prove to have strong ties to their current country of nationality or residence (for those who are applying for temporary or non-immigrant visas)
- intends to reside or work permanently in the country she/he will visit if not applying for an immigrant or work visa respectively
- fails to demonstrate intent to return (for non-immigrants)
- fails to provide sufficient evidence/documents to prove eligibility for the visa sought after
- does not have a legitimate reason for the journey
- does not have adequate means of financial support for themselves or family
- does not have adequate medical insurance, especially if engaging in high risk activities (e.g. rock climbing, skiing, etc.)
- does not have travel arrangements (i.e. transport and lodging) in the destination country
- does not have health/travel insurance valid for the destination and the duration of stay
- is a citizen of a country to which the destination country is hostile or at war with
- has previously visited, or intends to visit, a country to which the destination country is hostile
- has a communicable disease, such as tuberculosis or ebola, or a sexually transmitted disease
- has a passport that expires too soon
Even if a traveller does not need a visa, the aforementioned criteria can also be used by border control officials to refuse the traveller's entry into the country in question.
The main reasons states impose visa restrictions on foreign nationals are to curb illegal immigration, security concerns, and reciprocity for visa restrictions imposed on their own nationals. Typically, nations impose visa restrictions on citizens of poorer countries, along with politically unstable and undemocratic ones, as it is considered more likely that people from these countries will seek to illegally immigrate. Visa restrictions may also be imposed when nationals of another country are perceived as likelier to be terrorists or criminals, or by autocratic regimes that perceive foreign influence to be a threat to their rule.
According to Professor Eric Neumayer
of the London School of Economics
"The poorer, the less democratic, and the more exposed to armed political conflict the target country is, the more likely that visa restrictions are in place against its passport holders. The same is true for countries whose nationals have been major perpetrators of terrorist acts in the past".
Some countries apply the principle of reciprocity
in their visa policy. A country's visa policy is called 'reciprocal' if it imposes visa requirement against citizens of all the countries that impose visa requirements against its own citizens. The opposite is rarely true: a country rarely lifts visa requirements against citizens of all the countries that also lift visa requirements against its own citizens, unless a prior bilateral agreement has been made.
A fee may be charged for issuing a visa; these are often also reciprocal—hence, if country A charges country B's citizens US$50 for a visa, country B will often also charge the same amount for country A's visitors. The fee charged may also be at the discretion of each embassy. A similar reciprocity often applies to the duration of the visa (the period in which one is permitted to request entry of the country) and the number of entries one can attempt with the visa. Other restrictions, such as requiring fingerprints and photographs, may also be reciprocated. Expedited processing of the visa application for some countries will generally incur additional charges.
Government authorities usually impose administrative entry restrictions on foreign citizens in three ways - countries whose nationals may enter without a visa, countries whose nationals may obtain a visa on arrival, and countries whose nationals require a visa in advance. Nationals who require a visa in advance are usually advised to obtain them at a diplomatic mission of their destination country. Several countries allow nationals of countries that require a visa to obtain them online.
The following table lists visa policies of all countries by the number of foreign nationalities that may enter that country for tourism without a visa or by obtaining a visa on arrival with normal passport. It also notes countries that issue electronic visas to certain nationalities. Symbol "+" indicates a country that limits the visa-free regime negatively by only listing nationals who require a visa, thus the number represents the number of UN member states reduced by the number of nationals who require a visa and "+" stands for all possible non-UN member state nationals that might also not require a visa. "N/A" indicates countries that have contradictory information on its official websites or information supplied by the Government to IATA
. Some countries that allow visa on arrival do so only at a limited number of entry points. Some countries such as the European Union member states have a qualitatively different visa regime between each other as it also includes freedom of movement.
The following table is current as of 3 October 2019. Source:
Visa exemption agreements
Possession of a valid visa is a condition for entry into many countries, and exemption schemes exist. In some cases visa-free entry may be granted to holders of diplomatic passports even as visas are required by normal passport holders (see: Passport
Some countries have reciprocal
agreements such that a visa is not needed under certain conditions, e.g., when the visit is for tourism
and for a relatively short period. Such reciprocal agreements may stem from common membership in international organizations or a shared heritage:
- All citizens of European Union (EU) and EFTA member countries can travel to and stay in all other EU and EFTA countries without a visa. See Four Freedoms (European Union) and Citizenship of the European Union.
- The United States Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States without a visa (although a pre-trip entry permission, ESTA, is needed).
- Citizens of Canada and the United States do not require a visa to travel between the two countries. Historically, verbal declaration of citizenship, or, if requested by an officer, the presentation of one of over 8,000 different types of documents indicating US or Canadian citizenship was sufficient in order to cross the border. Since the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative came into effect in 2009, a passport, border crossing card, or enhanced driver's license is now required in order to enter the US from Canada by land, or a passport by air.
- Any Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) citizen can enter and stay as long as required in any other GCC member state.
- All citizens of members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), excluding those defined by law as undesirable aliens, may enter and stay without a visa in any member state for a maximum period of 90 days. The only requirement is a valid travel document and international vaccination certificates.
- Nationals of the East African Community member states do not need visas for entry into any of the member states.
- Some countries in the Commonwealth do not require tourist visas of citizens of other Commonwealth countries.
- Citizens of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations do not require tourist visas to visit another member state, with the exception of Malaysia and Myanmar; both countries require citizens of the other country to have an eVisa to visit. Until 2009, Burmese citizens were required to have visas to enter all other ASEAN countries. Following the implementation of visa exemption agreements with the other ASEAN countries, in 2016 Burmese citizens are only required to have visas to enter Malaysia.
- Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states mutually allow their citizens to enter visa-free, at least for short stays. There are exceptions between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- Nepal and India allow their citizens to enter, live, and work in each other's countries due to the Indo-Nepal friendship treaty of 1951. Indians do not require a visa or passport to travel to Bhutan and are only required to obtain passes at the border checkpoints, whilst Bhutan nationals holding a valid Bhutanese passport are authorized to enter India without a visa.
Other countries may unilaterally grant visa-free entry to nationals of certain countries to facilitate tourism, promote business, or even to cut expenses on maintaining consular posts abroad.
Some of the considerations for a country to grant visa-free entry to another country include (but are not limited to):
- being a low security risk for the country potentially granting visa-free entry
- diplomatic relationship between two countries
- conditions in the visitor's home country as compared to the host country
- having a low risk of overstaying or violating visa terms in the country potentially granting visa-free entry
To have a smaller worldwide diplomatic staff, some countries rely on other country's (or countries') judgments when issuing visas. For example, Mexico
allows citizens of all countries to enter without Mexican visas if they possess a valid American visa that has already been used. Costa Rica
accepts valid visas of Schengen
/EU countries, Canada
, South Korea
, and the United States (if valid for at least 3 months on date of arrival). The ultimate example of such reliance is Andorra
, which imposes no visa requirements of its own because it has no international airport and is inaccessible by land without passing through the territory of either France or Spain and is thus "protected" by the Schengen visa system.
Visa-free travel between countries also occurs in all cases where passports (or passport-replacing documents such as laissez-passer) are not needed for such travel. (For examples of passport-free travel, see International travel without passports
As of 2019, the Henley & Partners
passport index ranks the Japanese, Singaporean, and South Korean passports as the ones with the most visa exemptions by other nations, allowing holders of those passports to visit 189 countries without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival.
However, as of 6 June 2019, the Passport Index
ranks the United Arab Emirates passport
as the one with the most visa exemptions by other nations, allowing holders of this passport to visit 173 countries
without obtaining a visa in advance of arrival.
Normally, visas are valid for entry only into the country that issued the visa. Countries that are members of regional organizations
or party to regional agreements may, however, issue visas valid for entry into some or all of the member states of the organization or agreement:
- The Schengen Visa is a visa for the Schengen Area, which consists of most of the European Economic Area, plus several other adjacent countries. The visa allows visitors to stay in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. The visa is valid for tourism, family visits, and business.
- The Central American Single Visa (Visa Única Centroamericana) is a visa for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. It was implemented by the CA-4 agreement. It allows citizens of those four countries free access to other member countries. It also allows visitors to any member country to enter another member country without having to obtain another visa.
Possible common visa schemes
Potentially, there are new common visa schemes:
- An ASEAN common visa scheme has been considered with Thailand and the "CLMV" countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam opting in earlier. After talk arose of a CLMV common visa, with Thailand being omitted, Thailand initiated and began implementation of a trial common visa with Cambodia, but cited security risks as the major hurdle. The trial run was delayed, but Thailand implemented a single visa scheme with Cambodia beginning on December 27, 2012, on a trial basis.
- A Gulf Cooperation Council single visa has been recommended as a study submitted to the council.
- The Pacific Alliance, which currently consists of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, offer a common visa for tourism purposes only in order to make it easier for nationals from countries outside of the alliance to travel through these countries by not having to apply for multiple visas.
- An East African Single Tourist Visa is under consideration by the relevant sectoral authorities under the East African Community (EAC) integration program. If approved the visa will be valid for all five partner states in the EAC (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi). Under the proposal for the visa, any new East African single visa can be issued by any partner state's embassy. The visa proposal followed an appeal by the tourist boards of the partner states for a common visa to accelerate promotion of the region as a single tourist destination and the EAC Secretariat wants it approved before November's World Travel Fair (or World Travel Market) in London. When approved by the East African council of ministers, tourists could apply for one country's entry visa, which would then be applicable in all regional member states as a single entry requirement initiative. This is considered also by COMESA.
- The SADC UNIVISA (or Univisa) has been in development since Southern African Development Community (SADC) members signed a Protocol on the Development of Tourism in 1998. The Protocol outlined the Univisa as an objective so as to enable the international and regional entry and travel of visitors to occur as smoothly as possible. It was expected to become operational by the end of 2002. Its introduction was delayed and a new implementation date, the end of 2006, was announced. The univisa was originally intended to only be available, initially, to visitors from selected "source markets" including Australia, the Benelux countries, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is now expected that when the Univisa is implemented, it will apply to non-SADC international (long-haul) tourists travelling to and within the region and that it will encourage multi - destination travel within the region. It is also anticipated that the Univisa will enlarge tourist market for transfrontier parks by lowering the boundaries between neighbouring countries in the parks. The visa is expected to be valid for all the countries with trans frontier parks (Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe) and some other SADC countries (Angola and Swaziland). As of 2017, universal visa is implemented by Zambia and Zimbabwe. Nationals of 65 countries and territories are eligible for visa on arrival that is valid for both countries. This visa is branded KAZA Uni-visa programme after Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA). It is expected that other SADC countries will join the program in the future.
Previous common visa schemes
These schemes no longer operate.
- The CARICOM Visa was introduced in late 2006 and allowed visitors to travel between 10 CARICOM member states (Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago). These ten member countries had agreed to form a "Single Domestic Space" in which travellers would only have their passport stamped and have to submit completed, standardized entry and departure forms at the first port and country of entry. The CARICOM Visa was applicable to the nationals of all countries except CARICOM member states (other than Haiti) and associate member states, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the overseas countries, territories, or departments of these countries. The CARICOM Visa could be obtained from the Embassies/Consulates of Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago and in countries that have no CARICOM representatives, the applications forms could be obtained from the embassies and consulates of the United Kingdom. The common visa was only intended for the duration of the 2007 Cricket World Cup and was discontinued on May 15, 2007. Discussions are ongoing into instituting a revised CARICOM visa on a permanent basis in the future.
- A predecessor of the Schengen common visa was the Benelux visa. Visas issued by Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg were valid for all the three countries.
may be required to leave some countries. Many countries limit the ability of individuals to leave in certain circumstances, such as those with outstanding legal proceedings
or large government debts.
Despite this, the term exit visa
is generally limited to countries that systematically restrict departure, where the right to leave is not automatic. Imposing a systematic requirement for exit permission may be seen to violate
the right to freedom of movement
, which is found in the UDHR
and forms part of customary international law
Countries implementing exit visas vary in who they require to obtain one. Some countries permit the free movement of foreign nationals while restricting their own citizens.
Others may limit the exit visa requirement to resident foreigners in the country on work visas
, such as in the Kafala system
, Saudi Arabia
, and the United Arab Emirates
all have an exit visa requirement for alien foreign workers. This is part of their kafala
work visa sponsorship system. Consequently, at the end of a foreign worker's employment period, the worker must secure clearance from their employer stating that the worker has satisfactorily fulfilled the terms of their employment contract or that the worker's services are no longer needed. The exit visa can also be withheld if there are pending court charges that need to be settled or penalties that have to be meted out. In September 2018, Qatar lifted the exit visa requirement for most workers.
requires its citizens emigrating to the United States
on an H-1B visa
to present an exit permit issued by the Nepali Ministry of Labour. This document is called a work permit and needs to be presented to Nepali immigration to leave Nepal.
was the last remaining country of the former USSR
that required an exit visa, which was valid for a two-year period. The practice was abolished in 2019.
There had been explicit United Nations
complaint about this practice.
North Korea requires that its citizens obtain an exit visa stating the traveller's destination country and time to be spent abroad before leaving the country. Additionally, North Korean authorities also require North Korean citizens obtain a re-entry visa from a North Korean embassy or North Korean mission abroad before being allowed back into North Korea.
The government of the People's Republic of China requires its citizens to obtain a two-way permit
, issued by the People's Republic of China's authorities, prior to visiting to Hong Kong
or Macau. The two-way permit is a de facto
exit visa for Hong Kong- or Macau-bound trips for citizens of the People's Republic of China.
operates an Exit Permit scheme in order to enforce the national service
obligations of its male citizens and permanent residents.
Requirements vary according to age and status:
and South Korea
also require male citizens who are older than a certain age but have not fulfill their military duties to register with local Military Manpower Administration
office before they pursue international travels, studies, business trips, and/or performances. Failure to do so is a felony in those countries and violators would face less than 3 years of imprisonment.
Some countries, including the Czech Republic
require that an alien who needs a visa on entry be in possession of a valid visa upon exit. To satisfy this formal requirement, exit visas sometimes need to be issued. Russia requires an exit visa if a visitor stays past the expiration date of their visa. They must then extend their visa or apply for an exit visa and are not allowed to leave the country until they show a valid visa or have a permissible excuse for overstaying their visa (e.g., a note from a doctor or a hospital explaining an illness, missed flight, lost or stolen visa). In some cases, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can issue a return-Home certificate that is valid for ten days from the embassy of the visitor's native country, thus eliminating the need for an exit visa.
A foreign citizen granted a temporary residence permit in Russia needs a temporary resident visa to take a trip abroad (valid for both exit and return). It is also colloquially called an exit visa. Not all foreign citizens are subject to that requirement. Citizens of Germany, for example, do not require this exit visa.
In March 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic
, the United Kingdom required everyone leaving England to fill out an exit form detailing their address, passport number, destination, and reason to travel.
Permitted reasons to travel included for work or volunteering, education, medical or compassionate reasons such as weddings and funerals.
Travellers may be required to carry evidence to support their reason to travel.
The government of Cuba
announced in October 2012 its plans to remove exit visa requirements to be effective January 14, 2013, albeit with some exceptions.
Guatemala requires any foreigner who is a permanent resident to apply for a multiple 5-year exit visa.
The United States of America
does not require exit visas. Since October 1, 2007, however, the U.S. government requires all
foreign and U.S. nationals departing
the United States by air to hold a valid passport (or certain specific passport-replacing documents). Even though travellers might not require a passport to enter a certain country, they will
require a valid passport booklet (booklet only, U.S. Passport Card not accepted) to depart the United States in order to satisfy the U.S. immigration authorities.
Exemptions to this requirement to hold a valid passport include:
- U.S. Permanent Resident/Resident Alien Card (Form I-551);
- U.S. Military ID Cards when travelling on official orders;
- U.S. Merchant Mariner Card;
- NEXUS Card;
- U.S. travel document:
- Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571); or
- Permit to Re-Enter (Form I-327)
- Emergency Travel Document (e.g. Consular Letter) issued by a foreign embassy or consulate specifically for the purpose of travel to the bearer's home country.
- Nationals of Mexico holding one of the following documents:
- (expired) "Matricula Consular"; or
- Birth certificate with consular registration; or
- Certificate of Nationality issued by a Mexican consulate abroad; or
- Certificate of Military Duty (Cartilla Militar); or
- Voter's Certificate (Credencial IFE or Credencial para Votar).
In addition, green card
holders and certain other aliens must obtain a certificate of compliance (also known as a "sailing permit" or "departure permit") from the Internal Revenue Service
proving that they are up-to-date with their US income tax obligations before they may leave the country.
While the requirement has been in effect since 1921, it has not been stringently enforced, but in 2014 the House Ways and Means Committee
has considered beginning to enforce the requirement as a way to increase tax revenues.
The Henley Passport index (HPI) ranks passports according to how many destinations can be reached using a particular country's ordinary passport without requiring a visa ('visa-free'). All distinct destination countries and territories in the IATA
database are considered. However, since not all territories issue passports, there are far fewer passports ranked than destinations against which queries are made.
World Tourism Organization
Blank passport pages
Many countries require a minimum number of blank pages to be available in the passport being presented, typically one or two pages.
Endorsement pages, which often appear after the visa pages, are not counted as being available.
Many African countries, including Angola, Benin
, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo
, Republic of the Congo
, Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia, require all
incoming passengers to have a current International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis
, as does the South American territory of French Guiana
Some other countries require vaccination only if the passenger is coming from an infected area or has visited one recently.
An increasing number of countries have been imposing additional COVID-19 related health restrictions such as quarantine
measures and testing requirements
. Many countries will increasingly consider the vaccination status of travellers when deciding to allow them entry or not or require them to quarantine since recently published research shows that the Pfizer vaccine
effect lasts for six months or so.
Passport validity length
In the absence of specific bilateral agreements, countries requiring passports to be valid for at least 6 more months on arrival include Afghanistan, Algeria, Anguilla
Bhutan, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands
, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Curaçao, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel,
Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Peru.
Qatar, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Vanuatu, Venezuela, and Vietnam.
Countries requiring passports valid for at least 4 months on arrival include Micronesia and Zambia.
Countries requiring passports with a validity of at least 3 months beyond the date of intended departure include Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Nauru, Moldova and New Zealand. Similarly, the EEA
countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, all European Union
countries (except the Republic of Ireland) together with Switzerland also require 3 months validity beyond the date of the bearer's intended departure unless the bearer is an EEA or Swiss national.
Countries requiring passports valid for at least 3 months on arrival include Albania, Honduras, North Macedonia, Panama, and Senegal.
Bermuda requires passports to be valid for at least 45 days upon entry.
Countries that require a passport validity of at least one month beyond the date of intended departure include Eritrea, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Macau, the Maldives
and South Africa.
Other countries, such as Japan,
Ireland and the United Kingdom,
require a passport valid throughout the period of the intended stay.
A very few countries, such as Paraguay, just require a passport valid on arrival.
Some countries have bilateral agreements with other countries to shorten the period of passport validity required for each other's citizens
or even accept passports that have already expired (but not
Persona non grata
The government of a country can declare a diplomat persona non grata
, banning their entry into that country. In non-diplomatic use, the authorities of a country may also declare a foreigner persona non grata
permanently or temporarily, usually because of unlawful activity.
Israeli border control Entry Permit (issued as a stand-alone document rather than a stamp affixed in a passport)
do not allow entry to people with passport stamps
from Israel or whose passports have either a used or an unused Israeli visa, or where there is evidence of previous travel to Israel such as entry or exit stamps from neighbouring border posts in transit countries such as Jordan and Egypt.
To circumvent this Arab League boycott of Israel
, the Israeli immigration services have now mostly ceased to stamp foreign nationals' passports on either entry to or exit from Israel (unless the entry is for some work-related purposes). Since 15 January 2013, Israel no longer stamps foreign passports at Ben Gurion Airport
. Passports are still (as of 22 June 2017) stamped at Erez
when passing into and out of Gaza
Iran refuses admission to holders of passports containing an Israeli visa or stamp that is less than 12 months old.
Entry Permit to Nagorno-Karabakh
issued in Yerevan
as a stand-alone document rather than a visa affixed in a passport
Several countries mandate that all travellers, or all foreign travellers, be fingerprinted
on arrival and will refuse admission to or even arrest travellers who refuse to comply. In some countries, such as the United States, this may apply even to transit passengers who merely wish to quickly change planes rather than go landside
Fingerprinting countries include Afghanistan,
Kenya (both fingerprints and a photo are taken),
Malaysia upon entry and departure,
Paraguay, Saudi Arabia,
Singapore, South Korea,
and the United States.
Many countries also require a photo be taken of people entering the country. The United States, which does not fully implement exit control
formalities at its land frontiers (although long mandated by its legislature),
intends to implement facial recognition
for passengers departing from international airports to identify people who overstay their visa.
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- ^ "2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Azerbaijan". U.S. Department of State. Office of the Inspector General. 30 March 2021. Retrieved 2 May 2021. Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killing; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and sometimes life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy; politically motivated reprisal against individuals outside the country; pervasive problems with the independence of the judiciary; heavy restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence against journalists, the criminalization of libel and slander, harassment and incarceration of journalists on questionable charges, and blocking of websites; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on freedom of movement; severe restrictions on political participation; systemic government corruption; police brutality against individuals based on sexual orientation; and existence of the worst forms of child labour. Significant human rights issues connected with the Nagorno-Karabakh armed conflict included unlawful killings, civilian casualties, and inhuman treatment. The government did not prosecute or punish the majority of officials who committed human rights abuses; impunity remained a problem.
- ^ "ECRI REPORT ON AZERBAIJAN (fifth monitoring cycle)" (PDF). European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI). Council of Europe. Retrieved 3 May 2021. there is a conflict-ridden domestic political discourse and Azerbaijan’s leadership, education system and media are very prolific in their denigration of Armenians. Political opponents are accused of having Armenian roots or of receiving funds from Armenian sources. An entire generation of Azerbaijanis has now grown up listening to constant rhetoric of Armenian aggression. According to a 2012 survey, 91% perceived Armenia as Azerbaijan’s greatest enemy. As a result, the Armenians living in the country need to hide their ethnic affiliation and there is no organisation of the Armenian minority in the country with which ECRI’s delegation could have met. The human rights activists Leyla and Arif Yunus, who worked inter alia towards reconciliation with Armenia, have been arrested and sentenced under controversial accusations to heavy prison terms.
- ^ The Caucasus: Frozen Conflicts and Closed Borders: Hearing Before The Committee On Foreign Affairs House Of Representatives One Hundred Tenth Congress Second Session(PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 February 2010. Retrieved 3 May 2021. Our goal is the complete elimination of Armenians. You, Nazis, already eliminated the Jews in the 1930s and 40s, right? You should be able to understand us.
- ^ Kucera, Joshua (5 July 2017). "Russia Complains To Azerbaijan About Discrimination Against Armenians". Eurasianet, an independent news organization. Retrieved 2 May 2021. Russia has formally complained to Azerbaijan about "ethnic discrimination" against Russian citizens of Armenian origin, saying that 25 Russians so far this year have been denied entry to Azerbaijan because they had Armenian names. #"Russian citizens arriving in Azerbaijan are truly discriminated against on ethnic grounds," the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on July 5. "We demand the cessation of this outrageous practice, inconsistent with the friendly relations between our two countries." Azerbaijan has long denied entry to citizens of all countries, not just Russians, whose names end in the standard Armenian surname suffixes -ian or -yan.
- ^ "Citing ethnicity, Azerbaijan bars photojournalist". Committee to Protect Journalists. Retrieved 2 May 2021. Diana Markosian, a freelance photographer for Bloomberg Markets magazine was denied entry to Azerbaijan last week by authorities who cited her ethnicity as a reason, international news reports said. On June 27, border guards at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku detained Markosian on arrival from the Latvian capital, Riga, then expelled her the next day, according to press reports and CPJ interviews. Markosian told CPJ that the border guards took her passport, saying that she had an Armenian last name and that they "needed to clarify something." Then they put her in the airport's transit zone where she spent 16 hours until she was put on a flight to Tbilisi, Georgia. Markosian holds both U.S. and Russian citizenship, she told CPJ. A government spokesman told the Baku-based news agency APA that Markosian was deported because authorities would be unable to provide her with "security" since she is an ethnic Armenian.
- ^ a b "Azerbaijan Country Page of the NCSJ (advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia) accessed 23 May 2010". Archived from the original on 8 March 2009. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
- ^ "Warning for the foreign nationals wishing to travel to the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 23 November 2017.
- ^ "List of foreign citizens illegally visited occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
- ^ Calder, Simon (24 April 2017). "Airline lobbying for a relaxation of draconian rules for London-Auckland travellers". The Independent. Retrieved 7 July 2018. Travellers heading west from the UK to New Zealand may soon be able to avoid the onerous requirement to clear US border control during the refuelling stop at Los Angeles airport (LAX). Unlike almost every other country in the world, the US insists on a full immigration check even for passengers who simply intend to re-board their plane to continue onwards to a foreign destination. Air New Zealand, which flies daily from Heathrow via Los Angeles to Auckland, says there are currently “strict requirements for travellers” in transit at LAX. Through passengers to Auckland on flight NZ1 or Heathrow on NZ2 must apply in advance for an ESTA (online visa) even though they have no intention of staying in the US. They also have to undergo screening by the Transportation Security Administration.
- ^ "How to enter Afghanistan. The Entry Requirements for Afghanistan - CountryReports". Countryreports.org.
- ^ Nordland, Rod (19 November 2011). "In Afghanistan, Big Plans to Gather Biometric Data". Nytimes.com.
- ^ "Argentina strengthens migratory control". Archived from the original on 2 December 2013.
- ^ "Cambodia Foreign Entry Requirements". Us-passport-information.com.
- ^ "China to Start Fingerprinting Foreign Visitors". Air Canada. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 7 July 2018. Effective April 27, 2018, border control authorities at all of China’s ports of entry, including its airports, will start collecting the fingerprints of all foreign visitors aged between 14 and 70. Diplomatic passport holders and beneficiaries of reciprocal agreements are exempted..
- ^ "Äthiopien: Reise- und Sicherheitshinweise". Auswaertiges-amt.de.
- ^ 
- ^ "Japan fingerprints foreigners as anti-terror move". Reuters. 20 November 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2017 – via Reuters.
- ^ "Anger as Japan moves to fingerprint foreigners - World". Theage.com.au. 26 October 2007.
- ^ "Immigration & Visas FAQs". Kenya Airports Authority. Retrieved 6 May 2019. Will visitors still have their digital photo and fingerprints taken at the immigration desk on arrival? Yes, the need to have photos and fingerprints taken upon arrival is to authenticate that the person who applied for the Visa is the same person at the port of entry
- ^ "Malaysia". CountryReports. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
- ^ "Saudi Arabia mandates fingerprints and biometrics for foreigners - SecureIDNews". secureidnews.com. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- ^ F_161. "S Korea to scan fingerprints of suspicious foreign visitors - People's Daily Online". peopledaily.com.cn. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
- ^ "National News Bureau of Thailand".
- ^ AfricaNews (14 January 2019). "Gemalto awarded Uganda's new e-Immigration solution with fast-track border crossing eKiosks at Entebbe Airport". Africanews. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- ^ Brown, Theresa Cardinal (9 May 2016). "Biometric Entry-Exit Update: CBP Developing Land Border Process". Bipartisan Policy Center. Retrieved 25 April 2019. While a requirement for a biometric entry-exit system has been in law for over a decade, it is not yet a reality. Many reasons for the long gestating development have been documented in BPC’s 2014 report Entry-Exit System: Progress, Challenges, and Outlook, including the technological, operational, and cost challenges of creating exit systems and infrastructure where none exist today. However, many critics, especially in Congress, simply accused the Department of Homeland security of dragging its feet... the major operational, logistical, and technical challenge in implementing exit capability at our ports has been the land borders. Unlike airports and seaports, the land border environment is not physically controlled, there is no means to get advance information on who is arriving, and the sheer volume of travel—both vehicular and pedestrian—creates challenges in any system to not further exacerbate delays. While biometric exit for land vehicular traffic is still in the “what if” stage, CBP is moving ahead and piloting systems and technology to use with the large population of pedestrian crossers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
- ^ Lipton, Eric (21 May 2013). "U.S. Quietly Monitors Foreigners' Departures at the Canadian Border". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2019. Long demanded by lawmakers in Congress, it is considered a critical step to developing a coherent program to curb illegal immigration, as historically about 30 percent to 40 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States arrived on tourist visas or other legal means and then never left, according to estimates by Homeland Security officials.
- ^ LIPTON, Eric (15 December 2006). "Administration to Drop Effort to Track if Visitors Leave". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 April 2019. Efforts to determine whether visitors actually leave have faltered. Departure monitoring would help officials hunt for foreigners who have not left, if necessary. Domestic security officials say, however, it would be too expensive to conduct fingerprint or facial recognition scans for land departures.
- ^ Campoy, Ana. "The US wants to scan the faces of all air passengers leaving the country". Quartz. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- ^ "ICAO Document 9303: Machine Readable Travel Documents, Part 9: Deployment of Biometric Identification and Electronic Storage of Data in MRTDs, 7th edition" (PDF). 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- ^ "Iris Scan Implemented at Doha International Airport". Archived from the original on 8 January 2012.
- ^ "Iris Scanner Could Replace Emirates ID In UAE". SimplyDXB. 11 June 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2018. The breach of privacy is probably the biggest threat to the biometric technique of iris recognition. Secondly, a device error can false reject or false accept the identity which can also have some heinous consequences. Lastly, the method isn’t the most cost-effective one. It is complex and therefore expensive. Furthermore, the maintenance of devices and data can also be relatively burdensome. However, thanks to the oil money and spending ability of Dubai, they are economically equipped to effectively embrace this system.
- ^ Roberts, Jeff John (12 September 2016). "Homeland Security Plans to Expand Fingerprint and Eye Scanning at Borders". Fortune. Fortune Media IP Limited. Retrieved 24 April 2019. Unlike with documents, it’s very hard for a traveler to present a forged copy of a fingerprint or iris. That’s why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to vastly expand the amount of biometric data it collects at the borders. According to Passcode, a new program will ramp up a process to scan fingers and eyes in order to stop people entering and exiting the country on someone else’s passport.
- ^ "Singapore tests eye scans at immigration checkpoints". Reuters. 6 August 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2019. Singapore has started scanning travellers’ eyes at some of its border checkpoints, its immigration authority said on Monday, in a trial of expensive technology that could one day replace fingerprint verification.
- ^ Lee, Vivien (6 August 2018). "5 Reasons We Prefer Iris Scans To Fingerprint Checks At Our Borders In Singapore". Retrieved 24 April 2019. The iris technology could potentially scan irises covertly, as opposed to the scanning of thumbprints which necessitates active participation.
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