Visa liberalisation: Strengthening ties between the EU and nationals of third countries


The European Migration Network (EMN) publishes study on the impact of visa liberalisation on EU Member States and Norway

Brussels, 22 March 2019. As of 2018, five Western Balkan countries and three Eastern Partnership countries benefit from visa liberalisation to the EU Schengen area. These countries are deemed safe and well-governed, and have been required to meet several criteria in policy areas such as border, migration and asylum management security, external relations and fundamental frights. The European Migration Network (EMN) has now released a study on the impact of visa liberalisation on countries of destination, providing insights to positive and negative trends in 25 EU countries and Norway[1] following visa liberalisation for nationals of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

According to the study, visa liberalisation led to an immediate increase in short-term travel to the countries of destination from visa-free countries and made it easier for third country nationals to travel to the EU and Norway to explore employment opportunities and request residence permits. Ukrainian national receive the highest number of residence permits. In 2017, their main country of destination was Poland with 545 000 permits issued for remunerated activities, followed by Czech Republic and Italy.

Although several Member States adopted additional or new measures to counter irregular migration, such as setting up joint police investigations, the study confirms that there is little evidence of a link between visa liberalisation and the facilitation of irregular migration or any increase in smuggling or trafficking in human beings. Some Member States, however, observed an increase in criminal activities, particularly by organised crime groups. This phenomenon is being closely monitored and failure to cooperate with EU Member States and Norway in this area may lead to the suspension of visa-free travel for nationals from third countries.

Visa-free travel is an important achievement in regional cooperation. The European Commission, EU Member States and Norway are collaborating with the visa-free Western Balkan and Eastern Partnership countries, who are actively taking measures to address existing challenges.

More information:


Visa liberalisation

  • Visa liberalisation is limited to short-term entries (a period of stay not exceeding 90 days in any 180 days period).
  • Covering the period 2007-17, the study captures trends before and after visa liberalisation.
    • Western Balkans: North Macedonia (visa liberalisation in 2009), Montenegro (2009), Serbia (2009), Albania (2010), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010);
    • Eastern Partnership: Moldova (2014), Georgia (2017) and Ukraine (2017).

The study is the result of a collaboration of migration and asylum experts representing EMN contact points across the EU.


More information

Visa liberalisation: European Commission reports on fulfilment of visa-free requirements by Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries (19 December 2018)