EspañolColombians and Peruvians will soon be packing their bags for Europe, after their respective leaders signed a deal with the European Union to allow their nationals to visit the union for up to 90 days without a visa.
Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Ollanta Humala of Peru concluded the deal on Wednesday during an ongoing summit between the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Brussels, Belgium.
From October, Colombians and Peruvians will have visa-free access to the 26 member-states of the Schengen agreement, which heavily reduces internal border controls for members of the European Union and associated territories.
However, the agreement will exclude the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, which will maintain visa requirements.
Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín thanked Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a statement for his role in spearheading the process.
Colombians and Peruvians join the citizens of 13 other countries in Latin America who don’t need a visa to travel to EU countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
However, even with the visa barrier removed, some Colombians highlighted the fact that the relatively high value of the euro will limit their ability to spend much time on the other side of the Atlantic:
“Now that they took away the Schengen visa, we just need to eliminate the euro to travel.”
Local media further lowered the expectations of those already packing their bags for Paris. Although a formality, every EU country will have to ratify the visa removal separately, a process which could stretch beyond October.
Santos also indicated that he will issue a formal request during the summit to Norway, Switzerland, and Iceland — countries which are not EU members, but form part of the Schengen territory — to eliminate visa requirements for Colombian nationals.
Official estimates indicate that approximately 475,000 Colombians already reside in Europe. Internationally, restrictions on the free movement of Colombians have relaxed as the country’s security situation has stabilized.
In 1995, 164 countries required Colombians to file visa requests, falling to 167 by 2004. After the new deal, 132 nations will still require visa applications from Colombian nationals.
Colombianos visitaremos a nuestros familiares gracias a exención de visa Schengen. Gestión del gob del presidente @JuanManSantos
— Cesar A. Escobar (@escobaugusto) June 10, 2015
“We Colombians can now visit our relatives thanks to the Schengen visa exemption. An act of the Santos administration.”
Approximately 200,000 Peruvians are meanwhile thought to reside in Europe, 80 percent of which are settled in Spain and Italy.
The Argentinean passport is the strongest in Latin America, securing its holders visa-free entry to 148 countries. Brazil is close behind (146), followed by Chile (141), Mexico and Uruguay (132), and Venezuela (128). The most-restricted passport in the region is that of Haiti, whose residents can only enter 46 countries without a visa.