Border control

Border controls are measures taken by a country or a bloc of countries to monitor its borders[1] in order to regulate the movement of people, animals and goods.

The border gate between Phuentsholing, Bhutan and Jaigaon, India seen from Bhutan.
The border as seen from the Indian side.


States and rulers have always regarded the ability to determine who enters or remains in their territories as a key test of their sovereignty, but prior to World War I, border controls were only sporadically implemented.[2] In medieval Europe, for example, the boundaries between rival countries and centres of power were largely symbolic or consisted of amorphous borderlands, ‘marches’ and ‘debatable lands’ of indeterminate or contested status and the real ‘borders’ consisted of the fortified walls that surrounded towns and cities, where the authorities could exclude undesirable or incompatible people at the gates, from vagrants, beggars and the ‘wandering poor’, to ‘masterless women’, lepers, Gypsies or Jews.[3]

The concept of a travel document such as a passport needed to clear border controls in the modern sense has been traced back to the reign of Henry V of England, as a means of helping his subjects prove who they were in foreign lands. The earliest reference to these documents is found in a 1414 Act of Parliament.[4][5] In 1540, granting travel documents in England became a role of the Privy Council of England, and it was around this time that the term "passport" was used. In 1794, issuing British passports became the job of the Office of the Secretary of State.[4] The 1548 Imperial Diet of Augsburg required the public to hold imperial documents for travel, at the risk of permanent exile.[6] During World War I, European governments introduced border passport requirements for security reasons, and to control the emigration of people with useful skills. These controls remained in place after the war, becoming a standard, though controversial, procedure. British tourists of the 1920s complained, especially about attached photographs and physical descriptions, which they considered led to a "nasty dehumanisation".[7]

One of the earliest systematic attempts of a modern nation state to implement border controls to restrict entry of particular groups was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in America. This act aimed to implement discriminatory immigration controls on East Asians. The strict and racist border control policies had a negative impact not only on the Chinese alone but also on whites and other races as well which lasted for about thirty years.[8] The American economy suffered a great loss as a result of this Act.[9] The Act was a sign of injustice and unfair treatment to the Chinese workers because the jobs they engaged in were mostly menial jobs.[10]

A similarly discriminatory approach to border control was taken in Canada through the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, imposing what came to be called the Chinese head tax.

Decolonisation during the twentieth century saw the emergence of mass emigration from nations in the Global South, thus leading former colonial occupiers to introduce stricter border controls.[11] In the United Kingdom this process took place in stages, with British nationality law eventually shifting from recognising all Commonwealth citizens as British subjects to today’s complex British nationality law which distinguishes between British citizens, modern British Subjects, British Overseas Citizens, and overseas nationals, with each non-standard category created as a result of attempts to balance border control and the need to mitigate statelessness. This aspect of the rise of border control in the 20th century has proven controversial. The British Nationality Law 1981 has been criticised by experts,[lower-alpha 1] as well as by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations,[lower-alpha 2] on the grounds that the different classes of British nationality it created are, in fact, closely related to the ethnic origins of their holders.

The creation of British Nationality (Overseas) status, for instance, (with fewer privileges than British citizen status) was met with criticism from many Hong Kong residents who felt that British citizenship would have been more appropriate in light of the "moral debt" owed to them by the UK.[lower-alpha 3][lower-alpha 4] Some British politicians[lower-alpha 5] and magazines[lower-alpha 6] also criticised the creation of BN(O) status.

Ethnic tensions created during colonial occupation also resulted in discriminatory policies being adopted in newly independent African nations, such as Uganda under Idi Amin which banned Asians from Uganda, thus creating a mass exodus of the (largely Gujarati[17][18]) Asian community of Uganda. Such ethnically driven border control policies took forms ranging from anti-Asian sentiment in East Africa to Apartheid policies in South Africa and Namibia (then known as Southwest Africa under South African rule) which creates bantustans[lower-alpha 7] and pass laws[lower-alpha 8] to segregate and impose border controls against non-whites, and encouraged immigration of whites at the expense of Blacks as well as Indians and other Asians. Whilst border control in Europe and east of the Pacific have tightened over time,[11] they have largely been liberalised in Africa, from Yoweri Museveni’s reversal of Idi Amin’s anti-Asian border controls[lower-alpha 9] to the fall of Apartheid (and thus racialised border controls) in South Africa.

The development of border control policies over the course of the 20th century also saw the standardisation of refugee travel documents under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951[lower-alpha 10] and the 1954 Convention travel document[25] for stateless people under the similar 1954 statelessness convention.


There are multiple aspects of border control.


Quarantine policies exist to control the spread of disease. When applied as a component of border control, such policies focus primarily on mitigating the entry of infected individuals, plants, or animals into a country.[26]


Each country has its own laws and regulations for the import and export of goods into and out of a country, which its customs authority enforces. The import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden, in which case customs controls enforce such policies.[27] Customs enforcement at borders can also entail collecting excise tax and preventing the smuggling of dangerous or illegal goods. A customs duty is a tariff or tax on the importation (usually) or exportation (unusually) of goods.

In many countries, border controls for arriving passengers at many international airports and some road crossings are separated into red and green channels in order to prioritise customs enforcement.[28][29] Within the European Union’s common customs area, airports may operate additional blue channels for passengers arriving from within that area. For such passengers, border control may focus specifically on prohibited items and other goods that are not covered by the common policy. Luggage tags for checked luggage travelling within the EU are green-edged so they may be identified.[30][31] In most EU member states, travellers coming from other EU countries within the Schengen Area can use the green lane, although airports outside the Schengen Area or with frequent flights arriving from jurisdictions within Schengen but outside the European Union may use blue channels for convenience and efficiency.

Customs area

A customs area is an area designated for storage of commercial goods that have not cleared border controls for customs purposes. It is surrounded by a customs border. Commercial goods not yet cleared through customs are often stored in a type of customs area known as a bonded warehouse, until processed or re-exported.[32][33] Ports authorised to handle international cargo generally include recognised bonded warehouses.

For the purpose of customs duties, goods within the customs area are treated as being outside the country. This allows easy transshipment to a third country without customs authorities being involved.[32] For this reason, customs areas are usually carefully controlled and fenced to prevent smuggling. However, the area is still territorially part of the country, so the goods within the area are subject to other local laws (for example drug laws and biosecurity regulations), and thus may be searched, impounded or turned back.

The term is also sometimes used to define an area (usually composed of several countries) which form a customs union, a customs territory, or to describe the area at airports and ports where travellers are checked through customs.

Duty-free shops

Common at international airports and occasionally at seaports or land crossings, duty-free shops sell products tax-free to customers who have cleared exit border controls prior to boarding an international flight and, in some airports, to passengers arriving from overseas. Most countries impose limits on how much of each type of duty-free goods, may be purchased by each passenger. The airport with the most duty-free sales is Seoul Incheon Airport with US$1.85 billion in 2016.[34] Dubai International Airport is second, recording transactions worth $1.82 billion in 2016.[35]

Border security

Border security measures are border control policies adopted by a country or group of countries to fight against unauthorised travel or trade across its borders, to limit illegal immigration, combat transnational crime, and prevent wanted criminals from travelling.[36]

In India, border security focuses primarily on the Bangladeshi and Pakistani borders. In order to deter unlawful immigration and drug trafficking[37] from Bangladesh, India is constructing the India-Bangladesh barrier. On the Pakistani border, the Border Security Force aims to prevent the infiltration of Indian territory by terrorists from Pakistan and other countries in the west (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc.).

American border security focuses primarily on the Mexican-American border. Security along this border is composed of many distinct elements, including physical barriers, patrol routes, lighting, and the deployment of border patrol personnel. President Donald Trump's proposal to build a wall along the border was a major feature of his campaign, and he has since attempted to have Congress pay US$18 billion for its cost in the short term. Many citizens, including Democrats, and members of the Republican Party who do not support President Trump, argue the necessity of border escalation, asserting that other measures would be more effective at reducing illegal immigration than building a wall, including tackling the economic issues that lead to immigration being a relevant issue altogether, border surveillance or an increase in the number of customs agents.[38]

Similar to India's barrier with Bangladesh and the proposed wall between America and Mexico, Iran has constructed a wall on its frontier with Pakistan. The wall aims to reduce unauthorised border crossings[39] and stem the flow of drugs,[40] and is also a response to terrorist attacks, notably the one in the Iranian border town of Zahedan on 17 February 2007, which killed thirteen people, including nine Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials.[41]

Border security has, over the first two decades of the century, also become a major concern in the Schengen Area, specifically as a result of the European migrant crisis. The walls at Melilla and at Ceuta on Spain’s border with Morocco are a part of the trend towards increasing border security in response to an unprecedented rise in both refugees and economic migrants from countries in Sub Saharan Africa. Similar, though less drastic, measures have been taken on the Schengen area’s borders with Turkey in response to the refugee crisis created in Syria by terrorist organisations such as Daesh and the Syrian Free Army. The creation of European Union’s collective border security organisation, Frontex, is another aspect of the bloc’s growing focus on border security. Within the Schengen Area, border security has become an especially prominent priority for the Hungarian government under right-wing strongman[42][43] Viktor Orbán. Hungary completed the construction of 175 kilometres of fencing between with Serbia in September 2015 and on the border with Croatia in October 2015 to stop unauthorised border crossings.[44] In April 2016, Hungarian government announced construction of reinforcements of the barrier, which it described as "temporary".[45] In July 2016, nearly 1,300 migrants were "stuck" on the Serbian side of the border.[46] In August 2016, Orbán announced that Hungary will build another larger barrier on its southern border.[47] On April 28, 2017, the Hungarian government announced it had completed a second fence, 155 kilometres long with Serbia.[48][49] On September 24, 2015, Hungary began building fence on its border with Slovenia, in the area around TornyiszentmiklósPince border crossing.[50] The razor wire obstacle was removed two days later.[51] As of March 2016, everything is in place if Hungary decides to build a border barrier on the Hungarian–Romanian border – the military is "only waiting for the command from the government".[52]

Another example of border security is the Israeli anti-tunnel barrier along its border with the Gaza Strip, a part of the State of Palestine under the control of Hamas (a militant group backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, a Qatari-sponsored fundamentalist organisation). In order to curtail Hamas’s ability to build tunnels into Israeli-controlled territory, Israel have built a slurry wall. Similarly, Saudi Arabia has begun construction of a border barrier or fence between its territory and Yemen to prevent the unauthorized movement of people and goods. The difference between the countries' economic situations means that many Yemenis head to Saudi Arabia to find work. Saudi Arabia does not have a barrier with its other neighbors in the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose economies are more similar. In 2006 Saudi Arabia proposed constructing a security fence along the entire length of its 900 kilometre long desert border with Iraq in a multimillion-dollar project to secure the Kingdom's borders in order to improve internal security, control illegal immigration, and bolster its defences against external threats.[53] As of July 2009 it was reported that Saudis will pay $3.5 billion for security fence.[54] The combined wall and ditch will be 600 miles long and include five layers of fencing, watch towers, night-vision cameras, and radar cameras and manned by 30,000 troops.[55] Elsewhere in Europe, the Republic of Macedonia began erecting a fence on its border with Greece in November 2015.[56] On the land border between Palestine and the portion of the Sinai peninsula administered by the African nation of Egypt, the latter began construction of a border barrier in 2009 prompted by concern that militant organisations were making use of the Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels to move weapons and personnel between Gaza and Egypt.[57]

In 2003, Botswana began building a 480 kilometre long electric fence along its border with Zimbabwe. The official reason for the fence is to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease among livestock. Zimbabweans argue that the height of the fence is clearly intended to keep out people. Botswana has responded that the fence is designed to keep out cattle, and to ensure that entrants have their shoes disinfected at legal border crossings. Botswana also argued that the government continues to encourage legal movement into the country. Zimbabwe was unconvinced, and the barrier remains a source of tension.[58]

Border zones

Border zones are areas near borders that have special restrictions on movement. Governments may forbid unauthorised entry to or exit from border zones and restrict property ownership in the area. The zones function as buffer zones specifically monitored by border patrols in order to prevent illegal entry or exit. Restricting entry aids in pinpointing illegal intruders, since by nulla poena sine lege ("no penalty without a law"), any person could be present in the area near the border, and illegal intruders, such as illegal immigrants, smugglers or spies could blend in. However, if all unauthorised presence is forbidden, their mere presence of intruders allows the authorities to arrest them. Border zones between hostile states can be heavily militarised, with minefields, barbed wire and watchtowers. Some border zones are designed to prevent illegal immigration or emigration, and do not have many restrictions but may operate checkpoints to check immigration status. In most places, a border vista is usually included and/or required. In some nations, movement inside a border zone without a licence is an offence and will result in arrest. No probable cause is required as mere presence inside the zone is an offence, if it is intentional.[59] Even with a licence to enter, photography, making fires, and carrying of firearms and hunting are prohibited.

Examples of international border zones are the Border Security Zone of Russia and the Finnish border zone on the Finnish–Russian border. There are also intra-country zones such as the Cactus Curtain surrounding the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, the Korean Demilitarised Zone along the North Korea-South Korea demarcation line and the Frontier Closed Area in Hong Kong. Important historical examples are the Wire of Death set up by the German Empire to control the Belgium–Netherlands border and the Iron Curtain, a set of border zones maintained by the Soviet Union and its satellite states along their borders with Western states. One of the most militarised parts was the restricted zone of the inner German border. While initially and officially the zone was for border security, eventually it was engineered to prevent escape from the Soviet sphere into the West. Ultimately, the Soviet Bloc governments resorted to using lethal countermeasures against those trying to cross the border, such as mined fences and orders to shoot anyone trying to cross into the West. The restrictions on building and habitation made the area a "green corridor", today established as the European Green Belt.

In the area stretching inwards from its internal border with the mainland, Hong Kong maintains a Frontier Closed Area out of bounds to those without special authorisation. The area was established in the 1950s when Hong Kong under British occupation as a consequence of the Treaty of Nanjing during the Opium Wars, prior to the Transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. The purposes of the area were to prevent illegal immigration and smuggling; smuggling had become prevalent as a consequence of the Korean war. Today, under the one country, two systems policy, the area continues to be used to curtail unauthorised migration to Hong Kong and the smuggling of goods in either direction.

As a result of the partition of the Korean peninsula by America and the Soviet Union after World War II, and exacerbated by the subsequent Korean war, there is a Demilitarised Zone spanning the de facto border between North and South Korea. The Demilitarised Zone follows the effective boundaries as of the end of the Korean War in 1953. Similarly to the Frontier Closed Area in Hong Kong, this zone and the defence apparatus that exists on both sides of the border serve to curtail unauthorised passage between the two sides. In South Korea, there is an additional fenced-off area between the Civilian Control Line and the start of the Demilitarised Zone, further strengthening border security

Immigration policy

Immigration policy is the aspect of border control concerning the transit of people into a country, especially those that intend to stay and work in the country. Often, racial or religious bias is tied to immigration policy. Taxation, tariff and trade rules set out what goods immigrants may bring with them, and what services they may perform while temporarily in the country. Investment policy sometimes permits wealthy immigrants to invest in businesses in exchange for favourable treatment and eventual naturalisation. Agricultural policy may make exemptions for migrant farm workers, who typically enter a country only for the harvest season and then return home to a country or region in the Global South (such as Mexico or Jamaica from where America and Canada, respectively, often import temporary agricultural labour).[60] An important aspect of immigration policy is the treatment of refugees, more or less helpless or stateless people who throw themselves on the mercy of the state they try to enter, seeking refuge from actual or purported poor treatment in their country of origin. Asylum is sometimes granted to those who face persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

Special areas in Europe

Immigration policies in special areas in Europe can range from severely limiting migration, as in Greece's Mount Athos, to allowing most types of migration, such as the free migration[lower-alpha 11] policy in force in Svalbard. Similar policies are in force for Iran's Kish and Qeshm, Persian pronunciation: [ɢeʃm]) islands, and for Iraqi Kurdistan.

Diaspora communities

Certain countries adopt immigration policies designed to be favourable towards members of diaspora communities with a connection to the country. For example, the Indian government confers Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) status on foreign citizens of Indian origin to live and work indefinitely in India. OCI status was introduced in response to demands for dual citizenship by the Indian diaspora, particularly in countries with large populations of Indian origin. It was introduced by The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2005 in August 2005.[62] In the ASEAN region, a large portion of the Singaporean, Malaysian, and Bruneian population hold OCI status. Large OCI communities also exist in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as in many African nations (particularly South Africa, Madagascar, and members of the East African Community). OCI status exempts holders from immigration controls generally imposed upon others of the same nationality.

Similarly, Poland issues the Karta Polaka to citizens of certain northeast European countries with Polish ancestry.

A British Ancestry visa is a document issued by the United Kingdom to Commonwealth citizens with a grandparent born in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man who wish to work in the United Kingdom. Similar to OCI status, it exempts members of the country’s diaspora from usual immigration controls. It is used mainly by young Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and South Africans of British descent coming to UK to work and as a base to explore Europe.[63]

Some nations recognise a right of return for people with ancestry in that country. A notable example of this is the right of Sephardi Jews to acquire Spanish nationality by virtue of their community’s Spanish origins. Similar exemptions to immigration controls exist for people of Armenian origin seeking to acquire Armenian citizenship. Ghana, similarly, grants an indefinite right to stay in Ghana to members of the African diaspora regardless of citizenship.[64]

International zones

An international zone is a type of extraterritorial area not fully subject to any country’s border control policies. The term most commonly refers to the areas of international airports after border exit controls or before border entry controls. These areas often contain duty-free shopping, but they are not fully extraterritorial. It is usually possible to transfer between flights without needing either the passport check or visa otherwise needed to enter the country. In areas of conflict there may be international zones called green zones that form protective enclaves to keep diplomats safe. Countries in conflict may also have international zones separating each other. Some of the international zones are subject to international law.

Airport transit areas

The international zone in an international airport is the area where arriving international passengers have not formally entered the country by clearing arrival customs and immigration controls, and departing passengers have formally exited the country by clearing exit immigration control. Transit passengers can take connecting international flights in the international zone without clearing customs and immigration controls, and in most cases do not require a visa.[65][66][67] Some countries, however, require transit passengers of certain nationalities to hold a direct airside transit visa[68] even when they would not need to pass through border controls.

A major exception is the United States, where airports have no international transit zones. All passengers arriving on international flights are subject to customs and immigration inspections. Hence, transiting at a U.S. airport require at least a C-1 transit visa, or a travel authorisation for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travellers.

A common feature of the international zone is duty-free shopping for departing and transit passengers, and in some cases arriving passengers subject to duty-free allowances.

International zones in airports are fully under the jurisdiction of the country where they are located and local laws apply. Persons caught committing an unlawful act (e.g. possession of contraband such as illegal drugs) in the international zone are liable for prosecution.

Other examples

  • The United Nations' Headquarters are a series of complexes in New York City (America), Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), and Nairobi (Kenya)[69] that exist on international territory. The territories are administered by the United Nations, but are still subjected to most local and national laws.[70] The office in New York City is notable as it houses the main offices of the United Nations Secretariat and is the workplace of the Secretary General of the United Nations.
  • Longwood House on Saint Helena, where Napoléon Bonaparte spent the final years of his life in exile is owned by the French government despite being located on a British island. It is part of British territory.
  • EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg is an airport operated jointly by France and Switzerland. It is located 3.5 kilometres northwest of the city of Basel, 20 kilometres southeast of Mulhouse in France, and 46 kilometres southwest of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany. It is governed by a 1949 international convention. The headquarters of the airport's operations are located in Blotzheim, France.[71] The airport is located completely on French soil; however, it has a Swiss customs area connected to Basel by a 2.5 kilometre long customs road, thus allowing air travellers access into Switzerland bypassing French customs clearance. The airport is operated via a state treaty established in 1946 wherein the two countries (Switzerland and France) are granted access to the airport without any customs or other border restrictions. The airport's board has 8 members each from France and Switzerland and two advisers from Germany.[72] Geneva Airport in Switzerland has a French sector in a similar way.
  • Khmeimim Air Base in Syria is leased to the Russian government for a period of 49 years, with the Russian government having extraterritorial jurisdiction over the air base and its personnel.[73][74]
  • The Free City of Danzig was an international zone that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland) and nearly 200 towns and villages in the surrounding areas. It was created on 15 November 1920[75][76] in accordance with the terms of Article 100 (Section XI of Part III) of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles after the end of World War I. The Free City included the city of Danzig and other nearby towns, villages, and settlements that had been primarily inhabited by Germans. As the Treaty stated, the region was to remain separated from post-World War I Germany (the Weimar Republic) and from the newly independent nation of the Second Polish Republic ("interwar Poland"), but it was not an independent state.[77] The Free City was under League of Nations protection and put into a binding customs union with Poland.
  • The Tomb of Suleyman Shah is, according to Ottoman tradition, the grave (tomb, mausoleum) housing the relics of Suleyman Shah (c. 1178–1236), grandfather of Osman I (d. 1323/4), the founder of the Ottoman Empire , Devlet-i ʿAlīye-i ʿOsmānīye). This legendary tomb has since 1236 had three locations, all in present-day Syria. From 1236 until 1973, its first location was near castle Qal'at Ja'bar in present-day Raqqa Governorate , Syria. Under the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), breaking up the Ottoman Empire into Turkey, Syria and other states, the tomb site at castle Qal'at Ja'bar remained the property of Turkey. Article 9 of the Treaty of Ankara, signed by France and Turkey in 1921, states that the tomb of Suleyman Shah (at its first location) "shall remain, with its appurtenances, the property of Turkey, who may appoint guardians for it and may hoist the Turkish flag there".[78]
  • During the late Qing years, significant portions of Chinese territory, primarily along the coast, were surrendered as Concessions to occupying powers including many European powers as well as Japan. Each concession had its own police force, and different legal jurisdictions with their own separate laws. Thus, an activity might be legal in one concession but illegal in another. Many of the concessions also maintained their own military garrison and standing army. Military and police forces of the Chinese government were sometimes present. Some police forces allowed Chinese, others did not. In these concessions, the citizens of each foreign power were given the right to freely inhabit, trade, spread religious propaganda, and travel. They developed their own sub-cultures, isolated and distinct from the intrinsic Chinese culture, and colonial administrations attempted to give their concessions "homeland" qualities. Churches, public houses, and various other western commercial institutions sprang up in the concessions. In the case of Japan, its own traditions and language naturally flourished. Some of these concessions eventually had more advanced architecture of each originating culture than most cities back in the countries of the foreign powers origin. Chinese were originally forbidden from most of the concessions, but to improve commercial activity and services, by the 1860s most concessions permitted Chinese, but treated them like second-class citizens as they were not citizens of the foreign state administering the concession. They eventually became the majority of the residents inside the concessions. Non-Chinese in the concessions were generally subject to consular law, and some of these laws applied to the Chinese residents. Notable Concessions include the Shanghai International Settlement administered by the United Kingdom and America, the French Concession in Shanghai , the Kwantung Leased Territory, and the Beijing Legation Quarter.
  • Iraq has an international zone around the Republican Palace in central Baghdad in a crook of the Tigris River. This area was and still is the heavily fortified headquarters for the coalition and Iraqi Reconstruction Ministries. The official name started as the "Green Zone", al-minṭaqah al-ḫaḍrā’) but was later changed to the "International Zone" in June 2004 with the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.[79][80]
  • French, British, American and Soviet troops divided Vienna into four zones, and a small international zone of the historical centre of Vienna was governed in rotation by troops of those countries.
  • During the Cold War and division of Berlin, the Friedrichstraße station, despite being located entirely in East Berlin, S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains from West Berlin continued to serve the station. West Berliners were able to transfer between the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, or to long distance trains to the West without passing through East German border controls. The West Berlin section of the station featured an East German government-run Intershop, which sold duty-free and high-quality items at lower prices compared to the West. The station was also the site of a major border crossing between West and East Berlin, where West Berliners and other travellers with appropriate papers may enter East Germany.
  • No country has sovereignty over International waters. All states have the freedom of fishing, navigation, overflight, laying cables and pipelines, as well as research. Oceans, seas, and waters outside national jurisdiction are also referred to as the high seas or, in Latin, mare liberum (meaning free sea). The Convention on the High Seas, signed in 1958, which has 63 signatories, defined "high seas" to mean "all parts of the sea that are not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State" and where "no State may validly purport to subject any part of them to its sovereignty."[81] The Convention on the High Seas was used as a foundation for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in 1982, which recognised Exclusive Economic Zones extending 370 kilometres from the baseline, where coastal States have sovereign rights to the water column and sea floor as well as to the natural resources found there.[82] Ships sailing the high seas are generally under the jurisdiction of the flag state (if there is one);[83] however, when a ship is involved in certain criminal acts, such as piracy,[84] any nation can exercise jurisdiction under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction. International waters can be contrasted with internal waters, territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
  • The Antarctic Treaty System effectively makes the continent of Antarctica an international demilitarised zone de jure.
  • Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, the city of Jerusalem was supposed to become an International Zone. This was never implemented; the city was the scene of fierce fighting in 1948 which culminated in its partition between Israel and Jordan. Nineteen years later in 1967 the Jordanian-occupied part was captured and unilaterally annexed by Israel. However, the idea of an international zone in Jerusalem, encompassing at least the highly sensitive Old City of Jerusalem , continues to be floated by various would-be mediators. Whilst it is often asserted that the Zionist community favoured this plan, scholars such as Simha Flapan have determined that it is a myth that Zionists accepted the partition as a compromise by which the Jewish community abandoned ambitions for the whole of Palestine and recognised the rights of the Arab Palestinians to their own state. Rather, Flapan argued, acceptance was only a tactical move that aimed to thwart the creation of an Arab Palestinian state and, concomitantly, expand the territory that had been assigned by the UN to the Jewish state.[85][86][87][88][89] Baruch Kimmerling has said that Zionists "officially accepted the partition plan, but invested all their efforts towards improving its terms and maximally expanding their boundaries while reducing the number of Arabs in them."[90] Arab leaders and governments, for their part, rejected the plan of partition in the resolution and indicated that they would reject any other plan of partition.[91] The Arab states' delegations declared immediately after the vote for partition that they would not be bound by the decision, and walked out accompanied by the Indian and Pakistani delegates.[92] The plan was, however, not realised in the days following the 29 November 1947 resolution as envisaged by the General Assembly.[93] It was followed by outbreaks of violence in Mandatory Palestine between Palestinian Jews and Arabs known as the 1947–48 Civil War.[94] In 2011, Mahmoud Abbas stated that the 1947 Arab rejection of United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine was a mistake he hoped to rectify.[95] Western European nations by and large voted for the resolution, with the exception of the United Kingdom (the Mandate holder), Turkey and Greece. Elsewhere in Europe, Middle Eastern nations primarily voted against the partition, whilst the Soviet bloc voted, with the exception of Yugoslavia, in favour. The majority of Latin American nations voted for partition, with a sizeable minority abstaining. Asian countries voted against partition, with the exception of the Philippines.[96]
  • Dejima was a port near the Japanese city of Nagasaki that was ceded to Dutch administration between 1641 and 1854. During the Edo period, it was Japan’s only point of interaction with the outside world. The 25 local Japanese families who owned the land received an annual rent from the Dutch. Dejima was a small island, 120 metres by 75 metres,[97] linked to the mainland by a small bridge, guarded on both sides, and with a gate on the Dutch side. It contained houses for about twenty Dutchmen, warehouses, and accommodation for Japanese officials. The Dutch were watched by a number of Japanese officials, gatekeepers, night watchmen, and a supervisor with about fifty subordinates. Numerous merchants supplied goods and catering, and about 150 interpreters served. They all had to be paid by the Dutch East India Company. For two hundred years, foreign merchants were generally not allowed to cross from Dejima to Nagasaki. The Japanese were likewise banned from entering Dejima, except interpreters, cooks, carpenters, clerks and 'Women of Pleasure' from the Maruyama teahouses. These yūjo were handpicked from 1642 by the Japanese, often against their will. From the 18th century, there were some exceptions to this rule, especially following the policy of promoting European practical sciences implemented by Tokugawa Yoshimune. A limited number of Japanese were allowed to stay for longer periods, but they had to report regularly to the Japanese guard post. Once a year the Europeans were allowed to attend the festivities at the Suwa-Shrine under escort. Sometimes physicians such as Engelbert Kaempfer, Carl Peter Thunberg, and Philipp Franz von Siebold were called to high-ranking Japanese patients with the permission of the authorities.[98] Starting in the 18th century, with the rise of Rangaku, Dejima became known throughout Japan as a centre of medicine, military science, and astronomy.
  • The United Kingdom and France established "international zones" or "control zones" at both ends of the Channel Tunnel, which crosses underneath the English Channel. British authorities exercise authority within the control zone on the French side, and French authorities exercise authority within the control zone on the UK side. Violations in the control zone are treated as if they occurred within the territory of the adjoining state within that zone, and extradition is not required to remove a violator to the operating state for prosecution. Officers of the adjoining state may carry firearms within the control zone.[99]
  • The Free Territory of Trieste was an international zone bordering Italy and Yugoslavia, facing the north part of the Adriatic Sea, under direct responsibility of the United Nations Security Council in the aftermath of World War II, as a result of competing Italian and Yugoslav claims that arose from the conflict. Italy fought with the Axis powers during the war, and when the Fascist regime collapsed in 1943 and Italy capitulated, the territory was occupied by German forces who created the Operational Zone of the Adriatic Littoral, the capital of which was Trieste. The Yugoslav 4th Army and the Slovenian 9th Corps entered Trieste on 1 May 1945, after a battle in the town of Opicina. The 2nd Division (New Zealand) arrived on the next day and forced the surrender of the 2,000 German Army troops holding out in Trieste, who warily had refused to capitulate to partisan troops, fearing they would be executed by them. An uneasy truce developed between New Zealand and Yugoslav troops occupying the area until British Gen. Sir William Morgan proposed a partition of the territory and the removal of Yugoslav troops from the area occupied by the Allies. Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito agreed in principle on 23 May, as the British XIII Corps was moving forward to the proposed demarcation line. An agreement was signed in Duino on 10 June, creating the Morgan Line. The Yugoslav troops withdrew by 12 June 1945.[100][101] Consequently, the area was designated an international zone as part of a bid to maintain this truce after the end of the war. The Free Territory comprised an area of 738 km² around the Bay of Trieste from Duino/Devin in the north to Novigrad/Cittanova in the south, and had approximately 330,000 inhabitants. It bordered the new Italian Republic to the north, and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the south and to the east. The Free Territory was established on 10 February 1947 by a protocol of the Treaty of Peace with Italy in order to accommodate an ethnically and culturally mixed population in a neutral environment free from the rule of either country. The Free Territory was de facto given to its two neighbours in 1954 and this was formalised much later by the bilateral Treaty of Osimo of 1975, ratified in 1977.[102] During the late 1940s and in the years following the division of the Territory, up to 40,000 people[103] (mostly Italians) chose to leave the Yugoslav B zone and move to the A zone or Italy for various reasons: Some were intimidated into leaving, and some simply preferred not to live in Yugoslavia. In Yugoslavia, the people who left were called optanti ("choosing"), while they call themselves esuli ("exiles"). About 14,000 Italians chose to remain in the Yugoslav zone, currently divided between Slovenia and Croatia.
  • The Tangier International Zone was a 373 square kilometre protectorate controlled by several countries in the Moroccan city of Tangier and its environs between 1923 and 1956. Much like the Shanghai International Settlement, the government and administration of the zone was in the hands of a number of foreign powers.
  • Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada,[104] as the family had been living there since June 1940 after the occupation of the Netherlands by Germany. The maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital in which she was born was temporarily declared by the Canadian government to be extraterritorial,[105] thus ensuring that the princess would not owe any allegiance to Canada's ruling House of Windsor as a result of its jus soli nationality law.[106]
  • The Green Line separating Southern Cyprus and Northern Cyprus is considered an International Zone because the United Nations operate and patrol within the buffer zone. The buffer zone was established in 1974 due to ethnic tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The green line is a demilitarised zone and thus acts in the same way as the 38th parallel separating the Republic of Korea and North Korea. The United Nations currently has its headquarters for the UNFICYP at the abandoned Nicosia International Airport, where the majority of peacekeepers are based and where talks between the two governments are held.

Specific requirements

The degree of strictness of border controls varies across countries and borders. In some countries, controls may be targeted at the traveller's religion, ethnicity, nationality, or other countries that have been visited. Others may need to be certain the traveller has paid the appropriate fees for their visas and has future travel planned out of the country. Yet others may concentrate on the contents of the traveler's baggage, and imported goods to ensure nothing is being carried that might bring a biosecurity risk into the country.

Border vistas

A border vista or boundary vista is a defined cleared space between two areas of foliage located at an international border intended to provide a clear demarcation line between the two areas. Border vistas are most commonly found along undefended international boundary lines, where border security is not as much of a necessity and a built barrier is undesired, and are a treaty requirement for certain borders.

An example of a border vista is a six-metre cleared space around unguarded portions of the Canada–United States border.[107]

Similar clearings along the border line are provided for by many international treaties. For example, the 2006 border management treaty between Russia and China provides for a 15-metre-wide (49 ft) cleared strip along the two nations' border. [108]

Travel documents

Different countries impose varying travel document regulations and requirements as part of their border control policies and these may vary based on the traveller's mode of transport. For instance, whilst America does not subject passengers departing by land or most boats to any border control, it does require that passengers departing by air 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.[109]


Canada requires any Canadian Permanent Residents entering the country by air to use their Permanent Resident Card or a special document authorising their return.[110] No such requirement is imposed on a permanent resident entering by land or sea. Canadian citizens are prohibited from using a foreign passport to enter the country.[111]

Other countries, including most countries in Western Europe and China, permit (or in China's case require) citizens to utilise national identity cards to clear immigration when travelling between adjacent jurisdictions. As a consequence of awkward border situations created by the fall of the Soviet Union, certain former members of the USSR and their neighbours require few or no travel documents for travellers transiting across international boundaries between two points in a single country. For instance, Russia permits vehicles to transit across the Saatse Boot between the Estonian villages of Lutepää and Sesniki without any border control provided that they do not stop. Similar provisions are made for the issuance of Facilitated Rail Transit Documents by Schengen Area members for travel between Kaliningrad and the Russian mainland.

Indian Identity Certificate

The Indian government issues Identity Certificates to members of the large Tibetan exile community. Identity Certificates are generally issued upon request of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government in exile based in Dharamsala in northern India. This document is accepted as per most countries border control policies in lieu of a passport, although it is not a machine readable document. When issued to a Tibetan residing in India, it is invariably endorsed as being valid for return to India and therefore exempts the holder from requiring a visa to clear Indian border controls upon re-entry.

Non-citizen residents

Some countries issue travel documents to permanent residents (i.e. foreign citizens permitted to reside there indefinitely) or other non-citizens, usually for re-entry but also occasionally valid for international travel.

The American re-entry permit is an example of such a document. Valid for international travel, it is issued to lawful permanent residents temporarily expatriating overseas. Unlike the ”Green Card” issued to all permanent residents, this document is not mandatory. The American “Green Card”, on its own or in conjunction with a passport, is valid for international travel albeit not to the same extent as the re-entry permit. Both documents can be utilised to clear American border controls regardless of the bearers nationality, thus resulting in America not requiring permanent residents to hold a passport from their home country in order to remain lawfully present or to lawfully enter.

Singapore issues national identity cards to permanent residents in the same manner as it does to citizens, but additionally requires any permanent resident travelling abroad to hold a valid electronic re-entry permit and a passport or other travel document from their home country. Singapore permanent residents who are stateless are issued booklet-form Certificates of Identity in lieu of a passport.

Indonesia issues the Paspor Orang Asing to its stateless permanent residents.

Non-citizens in Latvia and in Estonia are individuals, primarily of Russian or Ukrainian ethnicity, who are not citizens of Latvia or Estonia but whose families have resided in the area since the Soviet era, and thus have the right to a non-citizen passport issued by the Latvian government as well as other specific rights. Approximately two thirds of them are ethnic Russians, followed by ethnic Belarussians, ethnic Ukrainians, ethnic Poles and ethnic Lithuanians.[112][113] Non-citizens in the two countries are issued special non-citizen passports[114][115][116] as opposed to regular passports issued by the Estonian and Latvian authorities to citizens. This form of legal discrimination is often labelled as xenophobic.[117]

Hong Kong and Macau issue permanent resident cards to all permanent residents including those without Chinese citizenship. They also issue the Hong Kong Document of Identity for Visa Purposes and Macau Travel Permit, respectively, to stateless permanent residents and to Chinese citizens temporarily residing in the region holding neither permanent residence of Hong Kong or Macau nor residence status in the mainland.

Similarly, Japanese North Koreans are issued a Japan Re-entry Permit for international travel.

National identity cards and birth certificates

Argentinian National ID card valid for travel to other Mercosur countries in lieu of a passport

Certain jurisdictions permit the use of national identity cards to clear border controls. For instance, when travelling between India and Nepal or Bhutan, Indian citizens may utilise national voter ID cards, ration cards, or national identity cards. Indian citizens may also obtain identity slips at the Indian consulate in Phuentsholing if they intend to proceed beyond city limits as Phuentsholing, the financial capital of Bhutan, is de facto within India’s visa and customs area. When travelling to India, citizens of Nepal and Bhutan can utilise similar documents. Children may use birth certificates as proof of identity.

In North America, American citizens may travel using passport cards, a form of voluntary identity card issued to American citizens. Children holding American or Canadian citizenship may travel to and from Canada using birth certificates under certain circumstances. In South America, many Mercosur countries reciprocally permit travel using identity cards.

In western Europe, travel using identity cards is relatively common for citizens of the European Economic Area and adjacent territories. This includes travel to and from Turkey for certain citizens of other countries in western Europe. Within the Schengen Area, there are limited border controls in place and national identity cards may be used to clear them.

Chinese Travel Document

The Chinese Government requires certain people to enter the mainland using a Chinese Travel Document. Some cases include:

  • When it is "inconvenient", "unnecessary", or not permitted to issue a People's Republic of China passport to Chinese nationals.[118]
  • Chinese nationals residing in Mainland China who lost their passport while travelling abroad may apply for this document as an emergency passport for returning to China.
  • Chinese nationals who are permanent residents of Hong Kong and Macau intending to enter Mainland China directly from other countries without a Home Return Permit.
  • Residents of the Taiwan area[lower-alpha 12] intending to enter Mainland China or Hong Kong directly from other countries, who are Chinese nationals according to Chinese law. Travelling to Hong Kong, however, requires a separate application for a visa-like entry permit.
  • Chinese nationals born abroad who acquired Chinese nationality at birth in accordance with the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China through jus sanguinis. The Chinese Travel Document is issued as a Chinese identification and travel document.
  • Chinese nationals born in China who do not have a Hukou in China and who have exited China using an exit permit. This could include a person who holds a non-Chinese passport.

Enhanced Driving Licence

An Enhanced Driving Licence is a document issued by provincial and state authorities in Canada and America that enables its bearer to clear border controls along the border between the two countries. It is not valid for air travel and does not permit its holder to clear border controls at airports. It also serves as a valid driving licence. Certain provinces and states may issue similar enhanced versions of regional identity cards issued to individuals who do not drive.

Quilantan entry

A ‘Quilantan’ or ‘Wave Through’ Entry is a phenomenon in American border control law authorising a form of non-standard but legal entry without any inspection of travel documents. It occurs when the border security personnel present at a border crossing choose to summarily admit some number of persons without performing a standard interview or document examination.[119]

Typically this can occur when an official border crossing is busy and an immigration officer waves a car through without first checking all passengers for their travel documents. If an individual can prove that they were waved into the United States in this manner, then they are considered to have entered with inspection despite not having answered any questions or received a passport entry stamp.[120]

This definition of legal entry does not apply to situations where foreigners entered the United States but have not crossed at a legal, manned border station. Thus it does not provide a path to legal residency for those who have entered into the United State by crossing accidental gaps in the borders around geological formations.[121]

Border areas

In certain cases, countries adopt border control policies imposing reduced border controls for frequent travellers intending to remain within a border area. For example, the relaxed border controls maintained by Bhutan for those not proceeding past Phuentsholing and certain other border cities enable travellers to enter without going through any document check whatsoever. The American Border Crossing Card issued to Mexican nationals enables Mexicans to enter border areas without a passport.[lower-alpha 13] Both America and Bhutan maintain interior checkposts to enforce compliance.

Similarly, Schengen states which share an external land border with a non-EU member state are authorised by virtue of the EU Regulation 1931/2006 to conclude or maintain bilateral agreements with neighbouring third countries for the purpose of implementing a local border traffic regime.[124] Such agreements define a border area on either side of the border, and provide for the issuance of local border traffic permits to residents of the border area. Permits may be used to cross the EU external border within the border area, are not stamped on crossing the border and must display the holder's name and photograph, as well as a statement that its holder is not authorised to move outside the border area and that any abuse shall be subject to penalties.

Agricultural restrictions

In certain countries, border control focuses extensively on curtailing and regulating the import of foreign agricultural products. Australian border controls, for example, restrict virtually all food products, certain wooden products and other similar items.[125][126][127] Similar restrictions exist in Canada, America and New Zealand.


Border controls in many countries in the Greater India region prioritise mitigating trade in narcotics. For instance, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia impose mandatory death sentences on individuals caught smuggling restricted substances across their borders. For example, Muhammad Ridzuan Ali was executed in Singapore on 19 May 2017 for drug trafficking.[128] India and Malaysia are focusing resources on eliminating drug smuggling from Myanmar and Thailand respectively. The issue stems largely from the high output of dangerous and illegal drugs in the Golden Triangle as well as in regions further west such as Afghanistan.

A similar problem exists east of the pacific, and has resulted in countries such as Mexico and America tightening border control in response to the northward flow of illegal substances from regions such as Colombia. The Mexican Drug War and similar cartel activity in neighbouring areas has exacerbated the problem.


Most countries impose visa requirements on foreign nationals, and depending on the country's border control strategy these can be liberal or restrictive.

Many countries in the Greater India region have liberalised their visa controls in recent years to encourage transnational business and tourism. For example, India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka have introduced electronic visas to make border control less of a bureaucratic hurdle for business travellers and tourists. Malaysia has introduced similar eVisa facilities, and has also introduced the eNTRI programme to expedite clearance for Indian citizens and Chinese citizens from the mainland. Thailand regularly issues visas on arrival to many non-exempt visitors at major ports of entry in order to encourage tourism. Indonesia, in recent years, has progressively liberalised its visa regime, no longer requiring visas or on-arrival visas from most nationals, while Singapore has signed visa waiver agreements with many countries in recent years and has introduced electronic visa facilities for Indians, Eastern Europeans, and mainland Chinese. This trend towards visa liberalisation in the Greater India region is part of the broader phenomenon of globalisation and has been linked to heightened economic growth.[129]

Certain countries, predominantly but not exclusively in western Europe and the Americas, issue working holiday visas for younger visitors to supplement their travel funds by working minor jobs. These are especially common in members of the European Union such as Austria, and elsewhere in western Europe such as Switzerland and Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia issues a special category visa for people on religious pilgrimage. Similar policies are in force in other countries with significant religious sites.

Certain jurisdictions impose special visa requirements on journalists in order to curtail the freedom of foreign reporters and news organisations to report on controversial topics. Countries that impose such visas include Cuba, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, America and Zimbabwe.

Substitute visas

Many countries let individuals clear border controls using foreign visas. For instance, the following countries accept American visas in lieu of their own:

  •  Albania — 90 days;
  •  Antigua and Barbuda — 30 days; USD 100 visa waiver fee applies.
  •  Belize — 30 days; USD 50 visa waiver fee applies.
  •  Bosnia and Herzegovina — 30 days;[130]
  •  Canada — up to 6 months; only for citizens of Brazil, arriving by air with Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA).
  •  Chile — 90 days; for nationals of China only.
  •  Colombia — 90 days; applicable to certain nationalities only.
  •  Costa Rica — 30 days or less if the visa is about to expire; must hold a multiple entry visa.
  •  Dominican Republic — 90 days;
  •  El Salvador — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Georgia — 90 days within any 180-day period;
  •  Guatemala — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Honduras — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Jamaica — 30 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  Mexico — 180 days;[131][132]
  •  Montenegro — 30 days;
  •  Nicaragua — 90 days; not applicable to all nationalities.
  •  North Macedonia — 15 days;
  •  Oman — certain nationalities can obtain an electronic Omani visa if holding a valid US visa.
  •  Panama — 30/180 days; must hold a visa valid for at least 2 more entries.
  •  Peru — 180 days; applicable to nationals of China and India only.
  •  Philippines — 7 days for nationals of China from the mainland; 14 days for nationals of India.
  •  Qatar — Non-visa-free nationals can obtain an electronic travel authorization for 30 days if holding a valid US visa.
  •  São Tomé and Príncipe — 15 days;
  •  Serbia — 90 days;
  •  South Korea — 30 days;
  • Republic of China[lower-alpha 12] — certain nationalities, including Indian citizens, can obtain an online travel authority if holding a valid American visa.
  •  Turkey — certain nationalities can obtain an electronic Turkish visa if holding a valid US visa.
  •  UAE — Visa on arrival for 14 days; for nationals of India only. (Also applicable for Indian Citizens holding US Green Card.)[133]

In the Philippines, in addition to American visas, nationals of India and China can use several alternative visas to clear border controls. Nationals of China from the mainland travelling as tourists and holding a valid visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, America, or a Schengen Area state may enter and stay without a visa for up to 7 days. Nationals of India holding a valid tourist, business or resident visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom, America, or a Schengen Area state may enter and stay without a visa for up to 14 days. They may enter from any port of entry.[134]

South Korea lets passengers in transit enter for up to thirty days utilising an American, Australian, Canadian, or Schengen visa.

Bermuda has ceased to issue its own visas and instead requires that travellers either clear immigration visa-free in one of the three countries (America, Canada, and the United Kingdom) to/from which it has direct flights, or hold a visa for one of them.

Electronic Travel Authorisations

An Electronic Travel Authorisation or Electronic Travel Authority is a kind of pre-arrival registration, which is not officially classified as a visa, required for foreign travellers to a country who normally do not require a visa under some circumstances. Different from a proper visa which the traveller normally has no recourse if rejected, if an ETA is rejected the traveller can choose to apply for a visa instead. Many countries require individuals who do not require a visa to enter to hold an Electronic Travel Authorisation instead.

Sri Lanka

Travellers to Sri Lanka must get an Electronic Travel Authorisation prior to getting a visa on arrival at the entry port, except for a few countries where the ETA is exempted, and for a few countries where a visa must be got in advance. Citizens of India, Pakistan, and other countries in the northwestern part of Asia receive discounted ETAs.[135]

United Kingdom

Citizens of the following countries in the Arabian peninsula can obtain an Electronic Visa Waiver, or EVW, online to enter the United Kingdom:[lower-alpha 14][136]


Development of the Electronic Travel Authority system commenced in January 1996. It was first implemented in Singapore on a trial basis on 11 September 1996, for holders of Singapore and US passports travelling on Qantas and Singapore Airlines. Implementation of online applications began in June 2001.[137][138] The current ETA came into effect on 23 March 2013 replacing older ETAs (subclass 976, 977 and 956) while offering a single authorization for both tourist and business purposes.[139]

The ETA allows the holder to visit Australia for unlimited times, up to 3 months per visit, in a 12-month period for tourism or business purposes. There is no visa application charge but a service charge of AU$20 applies for applications lodged online. At the time of travel to, and entry into, Australia, all holders of an ETA must be free from tuberculosis and must not have any criminal convictions for which the sentence or sentences (whether served or not) total 12 months or more.[140]

Holders of the following passports can apply online:[141]

Hong Kong

Indian nationals and Chinese nationals from areas controlled by the Republic of China[lower-alpha 12] do not require a visa to enter Hong Kong, but must apply for a pre-arrival registration (PAR) prior to arrival. If not successful, Indian travellers may apply for a visa instead. ROC nationals are eligible only if they were born in Taiwan or entered Hong Kong as an ROC citizen before, otherwise they should instead apply for an entry permit (a de facto visa) to enter Hong Kong using their Republic of China passport. They may alternatively enter Hong Kong using a Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents issued by mainland Chinese authorities without any additional permit.

North America

East of the Pacific, both America and Canada have introduced electronic travel authorisations. Travellers from visa-free countries entering Canada by air, except American nationals (including those with and without full citizenship), must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorisation prior to arrival but not if arriving by land or sea. Travellers under the American Visa Waiver Programme are required to obtain permission through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation if arriving America by air or cruise but not if entering by land or by ferry, using a passport issued by the Government of Bermuda to a British Overseas Territories Citizen, or if entering as a Canadian citizen.

Travellers from Brazil normally require a visa to enter Canada, but are eligible to apply for an ETA if they have held a Canadian visa within the 10 years prior to applying, or if they currently hold a valid non-immigrant American visa. Such travellers still may not enter Canada by land or sea without a valid Canadian visa.

Exit controls

India and China, like most countries, implement border controls at both entry and exit, and consequently stamp passports upon exit

Whilst most countries implement border controls both at entry and at exit, some jurisdictions do not. For instance, USA and Canada do not implement exit controls at land borders and collect exit data on foreign nationals through airlines and through information sharing with neighbouring countries’ entry border controls. These countries consequently don't issue exit stamps even to travellers who require stamps on entry. Similarly, Australia, Singapore and South Korea have eliminated exit stamps even though they continue to implement brief border control checks upon exit for most foreign nationals.

Exit visas

Some countries in Europe maintain controversial exit visa systems in addition to regular border controls. For instance, Uzbekistan requires its own citizens to obtain exit visas prior to leaving for countries other than fellow CIS nations in eastern Europe. Several countries in the Arabian peninsula require exit visas for foreign workers under the Kafala System meaning "sponsorship system"). Russia occasionally requires foreigners who overstay to obtain exit visas since one cannot exit Russia without a valid visa. Czechia has a similar policy.[142] Similarly, a foreign citizen granted a temporary residence permit in Russia needs an exit visa to take a trip abroad (valid for both exit and return). Not all foreign citizens are subject to that requirement. Citizens of Germany, for example, do not require this exit visa.

Certain Asian countries have policies that similarly require certain categories of citizens to seek official authorisation prior to travelling or emigrating. This is usually either as a way to enforce national service obligations or to protect migrant workers from travelling to places where they may be abused by employers. Singapore, for instance, operates an Exit Permit scheme in order to enforce the national service obligations of its male citizens and permanent residents.[143] These restrictions vary according to age and status.[144] South Korea and the Taiwan region[lower-alpha 12][145] in China have similar policies. India, on the other hand, requires citizens who have not met certain educational requirements (and thus may be targeted by human traffickers or be coerced into modern slavery) to apply for approval prior to leaving the country and endorses their passports with ”Emigration Check Required”. Nepal similarly requires citizens emigrating to the United States on an H-1B visa to present an exit permit issued by the Ministry of Labour. This document is called a work permit and needs to be presented to immigration to leave the country.[146] In a bid to increase protection for the large amount of Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, and Nepali citizens smuggled through Indian airports to the middle east as underpaid labourers, many Indian airline companies require travellers to obtain an ‘OK to Board’ confirmation sent directly from visa authorities in certain GCC countries directly to the airline and will bar anyone who has not obtained this endorsement from clearing exit immigration.

Nationality and travel history

Many nations implement border controls restricting the entry of people of certain nationalities or who have visited certain countries. For instance Georgia refuses entry to holders of passports issued by the Republic of China.[147] Similarly, since April 2017 nationals of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Iran have been banned from entering the parts of eastern Libya under the control of the Tobruk government.[147][148][149] America does not currently issue new visas to nationals of Iran, North Korea, Libya, Somalia, Syria, or Yemen pursuant to restrictions imposed by the Trump administration.[150] In the case of the American policy, restrictions are conditional and can be lifted if the countries affected meet the required security standards specified by the Trump administration, and dual citizens of these countries can still enter if they present a passport from a non-designated country. As a consequence of the occupation of Palestine and the discriminatory policies imposed upon Palestinians by Israel, the majority of Arab countries, as well as Iran and Malaysia, ban Israeli citizens,[147] however exceptional entry to Malaysia is possible with approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs.[151] Certain countries may also restrict entry to those with Israeli stamps or visas in their passports.

In some cases, border control policies target stateless individuals, or individuals holding nationality statuses without right of abode, including individuals with Republic of China (ROC) passports without a national ID, and British Subjects or British Overseas Citizens without indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. ROC nationals without ID numbers do not, for instance, have access to the American Visa Waiver Programme, or to visa free access to the Schengen Area or Japan. Other countries, such as India which allows all Chinese nationals to apply for eVisas, don't make such a distinction. Singapore imposes strict controls on stateless individuals and refugees, and reduces length of stay for British nationals without right of abode in the United Kingdom, but does not distinguish between ROC passports with and without national ID numbers.

As a result of tension over the Artsakh dispute, Azerbaijan currently forbids entry to Armenian citizens as well as to individuals with proof of travel to Artsakh.

Free travel areas

Certain neighbouring countries may agree to fully or partially abolish border controls between them.

Central America-4 Border Control Agreement

The Central America-4 Border Control Agreement abolishes border controls for land travel between El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. However, this does not apply to air travel.

Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, is an organisation composed of former members of the Soviet Union, whose members eliminate many trade and visa related border controls.

Union State of Russia and Belarus

The Union State of Russia and Belarus is a supranational union of Russia and Belarus (two CIS members), which eliminates all border controls between the two nations. However, each country continues to maintain its own visa policies, thus resulting in non-citizens of the two countries generally being barred from travelling directly between the two.

Western Europe

The two most significant free travel areas in Western Europe are the Schengen area, in which very little if any border control is generally visible, and the Common Travel Area (CTA), which partially eliminates such controls for nationals of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Between countries in the Schengen Area, and to an extent within the CTA on the British Isles, internal border control is often virtually unnoticeable, and often only performed by means of random car or train searches in the hinterland, while controls at borders with non-member states may be rather strict.

Greater India

India and Nepal maintain a similar arrangement to the CTA and the Union State of Russia and Belarus. Indians and Nepalis aren't subject to any migration controls in each other’s countries and there are few controls on land travel by citizens across the border.

India and Bhutan also have a similar system. The border between Jaigaon, in the Indian state of West Bengal, and the city of Phuentsholing is essentially open, and although there are internal checkpoints, Indians are allowed to proceed throughout Bhutan with a voter’s ID or an identity slip from the Indian consulate in Phuentsholing. Similarly, Bhutanese passport holders enjoy free movement in India.

Whilst not as liberal as the policies concerning the Indo-Nepalese and Indo-Bhutanese borders, Thailand and Cambodia have begun issuing combined visas to certain categories of tourists applying at specific Thai or Cambodian embassies and consulates in order to enable freer border crossings between the two countries.[152] The policy is currently in force for nationals of America and several European (primarily EU and GCC) and Oceanian countries as well as for Indian and Chinese nationals residing in Singapore.[153]

Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement

The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement is not a free travel area. However, citizens and Australian permanent residents receive free indefinite visas with work rights at immigration control points in airports and sea ports.

The arrangement came into effect in 1973, and allows citizens of each country to reside and work in the other country, with some restrictions. Other details of the arrangement have varied over time. From 1 July 1981, all people entering Australia (including New Zealand citizens) have been required to carry a passport. Since 1 September 1994 Australia has had a universal visa requirement, and to specifically cater for the continued free movement of New Zealanders to Australia the Special Category Visa was introduced for New Zealanders.

Gulf Cooperation Council

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, allow each other's citizens freedom of movement in an arrangement similar to the CTA and to that between India and Nepal. Such benefits are partially suspended for Qataris as a result of the Saudi-led blockade of the country.

Expedited border controls

Certain countries and trade blocs establish programmes for high-frequency and/or low risk travellers to expedite border controls, subjecting them to lighter or automated checks, or priority border control facilities. In some countries, citizens or residents have access to automated facilities not available to foreigners.

British Isles

United Kingdom

ePassport gates are operated by the UK Border Force and are located at immigration checkpoints in the arrival halls of some airports across the United Kingdom, offering an alternative to using desks staffed by immigration officers. The gates use facial recognition technology to verify the user's identity by comparing the user's facial features to those recorded in the photograph stored in the chip in their biometric passport.

British citizens, European Economic Area citizens and citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and America as well as Chinese citizens of Hong Kong and the Taiwan area[lower-alpha 12] who are enrolled in the Registered Traveller Service,[154] can use ePassport gates, provided that they are aged either 18 and over or 12 and over travelling with an adult and holding valid biometric passports.

ePassport gates are available at the following locations:

Republic of Ireland

The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service operates eGates at Dublin Airport for arrivals at Terminal 1 (Piers 1 and 2) and Terminal 2. They are currently available to citizens of Switzerland and the European Economic Area with electronic passports aged 18 or over. There are proposals to extend the service to non-European citizens. Irish Passport Cards can not be used.

East Asia

Hong Kong & Macau

The e-Channel is an automated border control facility available at airports in Hong Kong and Macau, and at land borders between the mainland and the Special Administrative Regions. It is open to Chinese citizens with permanent residence in the appropriate regions, and to selected foreign nationals. A similar automated entry system, eGate, exists in Taiwan providing expedited border control for Chinese citizens of Taiwan and other areas controlled by the Republic of China[lower-alpha 12] as well as certain classes of residents and frequent visitors. Users simply scan their travel documents at the gate and are passed through for facial recognition.[155]


Along with the introduction of J-BIS, an "Automated gate" (自動化ゲート) was set up at Terminal 1 and 2 at Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Chubu Centrair Airport and Kansai Airport.[156] With this system, when a person enters or leaves the country, rather than having to be processed by an examiner there, a person can use a machine at the gate, thereby making both entry and departure simpler and easier, as well as more convenient.[157] Japanese people with valid passports, foreigners with both valid passports (this includes refugees with valid travel certificates and re-entry permits) and re-entry permits can use this system.[157]

South Korea

South Korea maintains a programme known as the Smart Entry Service, open for registration by South Koreans aged 7 or above and by registered foreigners aged 17 or above.[158] Foreign nationalities eligible to register include Singaporean citizens, American citizens,[159] and Chinese citizens from Hong Kong, Macau and the Taiwan area[lower-alpha 12] (excluding holders of passports issued by the Republic of China to individuals without a ROC identity card).[160]

North America

North America has a range of expedited border control programmes.


CARIPASS is a voluntary travel card programme that will provide secure and simple border crossings for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) citizens and some legal residents of CARICOM nations.[161] The CARIPASS initiative is coordinated by the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS), and seeks to provide standardised border control facilities within participating Caribbean communities.[162]

CARIPASS is accepted as a valid travel document within and between participating member states and will allow cardholders to access automated gate facilities at immigration checkpoints that will use biometric technology to verify the user.[163]

The following CARICOM jurisdictions are participating in the programme:[164]


NEXUS is a joint Canadian-American expedited border control programme for low risk travellers holding Canadian or American citizenship or permanent residence. Membership requires approval by Canadian and American authorities and entitles members to dedicated RFID-enabled lanes when crossing the land border. A NEXUS card can also be utilised as a travel document between the two countries and entitles passengers to priority border control facilities in Canada and Global Entry facilities in America.

Free and Secure Trade or FAST is a similar programme for commercial drivers and approved importers, reducing the amount of customs checks conducted at the border and expediting the border control process.

Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents who are approved by Canadian authorities but not by the Americans can join CANPASS, which provides similar border control benefits but solely in Canada.

Global Entry and SENTRI

Global Entry is an American programme for frequent travellers that enables them to utilise automated border control facilities and priority security screening. In addition to Americans and Permanent Residents, the programme is open to Indian,[165] Singaporean,[166] and South Korean citizens amongst others.

SENTRI is a similar programme for American and Mexican citizens that additionally allows members to register their cars for expedited land border controls. When entering America across the Canadian border, it can be used as a NEXUS card, but not the other way around.

Global Entry members (as well as NEXUS and SENTRI card holders with a Known Traveller Number) are eligible to use automated Global Entry facilities at certain airports to clear border control more efficiently. Enrolled users must present their machine-readable passport or permanent residency card, and submit their fingerprints to establish identity. Users then complete an electronic customs declaration, and are issued a receipt instructing them to either proceed to baggage claim, or to a normal inspection booth for an interview.[167]

Participants may clear American border control by utilising automated kiosks located at the following airports (all airports below are in the United States () or its territories unless otherwise stated):[168]

The * indicates there are no enrollment centres at these sites.

Viajero Confiable

Viajero Confiable is a Mexican programme similar to Global Entry that allows expedited border controls in Mexico.



SmartGates located at major Australian airports allow Australian ePassport holders and ePassport holders of a number of other countries to clear immigration controls more rapidly, and to enhance travel security by performing passport control checks electronically.[169] SmartGate uses facial recognition technology to verify the traveller's identity against the data stored in the chip in their biometric passport, as well as checking against immigration databases. Travellers require a biometric passport to use SmartGate as it uses information from the passport (such as photograph, name and date of birth) and in the respective countries' databases (i.e. banned travellers database) to decide whether to grant entry or departure from Australia or to generate a referral to a customs agent.[170] These checks would otherwise require manual processing by a human which is time-consuming, costly and potentially error-prone.[171]

New Zealand

In New Zealand, a SmartGate system exists at Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown airports,[172] enabling holders of biometric passports issued by New Zealand, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States to clear border controls using automated facilities. The system can currently only be used by travellers 12 years of age or older, however a trial is under way that may potentially lower the age of eligibility to use eGate for people with an eligible ePassport from 12 years of age to 10 years of age. New Zealand eGates utilise biometric technology, comparing the picture of your face in your ePassport with the picture it takes of you at the gate in order to confirm your identity. To make sure eGate can do this, travellers must make sure they look as similar to their ePassport photos as possible and remove glasses, scarves and hats that they were not wearing when their passport picture was taken. eGate can handle minor changes in your face, for example if the travellers' weight or hair has changed. Customs, Biosecurity and Immigration officials utilise information provided at eGates, including photos, to clear travellers and their items across New Zealand's border. Biometric information is kept for three months before destruction but other information, including about movements across New Zealand's border is kept indefinitely and handled in accordance with the Privacy Act 1993, or as the law authorises. This might include information being used by or shared with other law enforcement or border control authorities.

From 1 July 2019 visitors from the 60 Visa Waiver countries will require a New Zealand electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA). This is an online application and a further toolkit and requirements for airlines and travel agents can be downloaded from the New Zealand Immigration website.[173]


The enhanced-Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) is available at all checkpoints for Singapore citizens, permanent residents, foreign residents with long-term passes and other registered travellers. Foreign visitors whose fingerprints are registered on arrival may use the eIACS lanes for exit clearance. In addition, the Biometric Identification of Motorbikers (BIKES) System is available for eligible motorcyclists at the land border crossings with Malaysia.

APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC)

The APEC Business Travel Card, or ABTC, is an expedited border control programme for business travellers from APEC economies (excluding Canada and U.S.A.). It provides visa exemptions and access to expedited border control facilities. ABTC holders are eligible for expedited border control at Canadian airports but not for any visa exemptions.

ABTCs are generally issued only to citizens of APEC member countries, however Hong Kong issues them to Permanent Residents who are not Chinese citizens, a category primarily consisting of British, Indian, and Pakistani citizens.

The use of ABTCs in China is restricted as a result of the one country, two systems and one China policies. Chinese citizens from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are required to use special internal travel documents to enter the mainland. Similar restrictions exist on the use of ABTC for Chinese citizens of other regions entering Taiwan. (see: Internal border controls).

Internal border controls


Some countries maintain border controls within their own territory. These are not uncommon in some parts of Asia. For example, minority regions in India and China often require special permits (i.e. Restricted Area Permits, Protected Area Permits, Tibet Travel Permits, or Alien Travel Permits) for foreign nationals to enter in addition to visas where required. In some cases, these restrictions are not limited to foreigners. For instance, certain minority areas of India additionally require Indian citizens to possess an Inner Line Permit to enter. Similarly, the Tibet Autonomous Region (Tibetan: བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས།) in China requires Chinese citizens from Taiwan to obtain TTPs and ATPs even though Chinese citizens from the mainland, Hong Kong, and Macau are exempt.

Internal air and rail travel within non-autonomous portions of India and mainland China also generally requires travel documents to be checked by government officials as a form of interior border checkpoint. For such travel within India, Indian citizens may utilise their Voter ID, National Identity Card, passport, or other proof of Indian citizenship whilst Nepali nationals may present any similar proof of Napali citizenship. Meanwhile, for such travel within mainland China, Chinese nationals from the mainland are required to use their national identity cards.

Within China, extensive border controls are maintained for those travelling between the mainland, special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and areas controlled by the Republic of China.[lower-alpha 12] Foreign nationals need to present their passports or other types of travel documents when travelling between these areas. For Chinese nationals (including those with British National (Overseas) status), there are special documents[lower-alpha 15] for travel between these territories. Similar arrangements, in the form of the Mainland Travel Permit for Taiwan Residents issued by mainland authority and similar permits issued by Taiwan authorities exist for travel between Taiwan and territories controlled by the People’s Republic of China. Internal border controls in the Chinese Special Administrative Regions have also meant that immigrants from the mainland require a One Way Travel Permit, the issuance of which is controlled by the mainland government, thus giving that region of China greater control over emigration rather than by Hong Kong or Macau as would be expected of border controls aimed at curtailing immigration.

Another example is the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which have maintained their own border controls[174] since joining Malaysia in 1963. The internal border control is asymmetrical; while Sabah and Sarawak impose immigration control on Malaysian citizens from other states, there is no corresponding border control in Peninsular Malaysia, and Malaysians from Sabah and Sarawak have unrestricted right to live and work in the Peninsular. For social and business visits less than three months, Malaysian citizens may travel between the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak using the Malaysian identity card (MyKad) or Malaysian passport, while for longer stays in Sabah and Sarawak they are required to have an Internal Travel Document or a passport with the appropriate residential permit.

Meanwhile, in Bhutan, a microstate accessible by road only through India, there are interior border checkposts (primarily on the Lateral Road) and, additionally, certain areas require special permits to enter, whilst visitors not proceeding beyond the border city of Phuentsholing do not need permits to enter for the day (although such visitors are de facto subject to Indian visa policy since they must proceed through Jaigaon). Individuals who are not citizens of India, Bangladesh, or the Maldives are not allowed to proceed past Phuentsholing by land and are instead required to arrive by air at the country's sole international airport in Paro, which has flights from India and other countries in the Greater India region such as Thailand, Singapore, and Nepal.

The most restrictive internal border controls are in North Korea. Citizens are not allowed to travel outside their areas of residence without explicit authorisation, and access to the capital city of Pyongyang is heavily restricted.[175][176] Similar restrictions are imposed on tourists, who are only allowed to leave Pyongyang on government-authorised tours to approved tourist sites.


An example from Europe is the implementation of border controls on travel between Svalbard, which maintains a policy of free migration as a result of the Svalbard Treaty and the Schengen Area, which includes the rest of Norway. Other examples of effective internal border controls in Europe include the closed cities of certain CIS members, areas of Turkmenistan that require special permits to enter, restrictions on travel to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan, and (depending on whether Northern and Southern Cyprus are considered separate countries) the Cypriot border. Similarly, Iraq's Kurdistan region maintains a separate and more liberal visa and customs area from the rest of the country, even allowing visa free entry for Israelis whilst the rest of the country bans them from entering. Denmark also maintains a complex system of subnational countries with autonomous customs policies, since they aren't within the European Union like the Danish mainland. These are Greenland and the Faroe Islands. These areas do not maintain strict immigration controls with the Schengen Area, but border controls are sporadically enforced for customs purposes.

In addition to the numerous closed cities of Russia,[177] parts of 19 subjects[lower-alpha 16] of the Russian Federation are closed for foreigners without special permits and are consequently subject to internal border controls.[178]

Israeli checkpoints (mahsom, hajez) also constitute a significant example of internal border controls. Spread throughout the State of Israel and the areas of the State of Palestine under de facto Israeli control, internal checkpoints are a key feature of Israeli and Palestinian life, and Israel’s internal border controls are amongst the most restrictive in the world.

An unusual example of internal border controls pertains to customs enforcement within the Schengen area. Even though borders are generally invisible, the existence of areas within the Schengen area but outside the European Union Value Added Tax Area, as well as jurisdictions such as Andorra which are not officially a part of the Schengen area but can not be accessed without passing through it, has resulted in the existence of sporadic internal border controls for customs purposes. Additionally, as per Schengen area rules,[179] hotels and other types of commercial accommodation must register all foreign citizens, including citizens of other Schengen states, by requiring the completion of a registration form by their own hand. This does not apply to accompanying spouses and minor children or members of travel groups. In addition, a valid identification document has to be produced to the hotel manager or staff.[180] The Schengen rules do not require any other procedures; thus, the Schengen states are free to regulate further details on the content of the registration forms, and identity documents which are to be produced, and may also require the persons exempted from registration by Schengen laws to be registered. A Schengen state is also permitted to reinstate border controls with another Schengen country for a short period where there is a serious threat to that state's "public policy or internal security" or when the "control of an external border is no longer ensured due to exceptional circumstances".[181] When such risks arise out of foreseeable events, the state in question must notify the European Commission in advance and consult with other Schengen states.[182] In April 2010 Malta introduced temporary checks due to Pope Benedict XVI's visit.[183] It reimposed checks in 2015 in the weeks surrounding the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In response to the European migrant crisis, several countries set up internal controls.

In 2019, Denmark, worried about the bombings in Sweden, introduced passport controls to Swedish citizens for the first time since the 1950s.[184]

Another complex border control situation in Europe pertains to the United Kingdom. Whilst the crown dependencies are within the Common Travel Area, neither Gibraltar nor the sovereign British military exclaves of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are. The former maintains its own border control policies, thus requiring physical border security at its border with the Schengen Area as well as the implementation of border controls for travellers proceeding directly between Gibraltar and the British mainland. The latter maintains a relatively open border with Southern Cyprus, though not with Northern Cyprus. Consequently, it is a de facto member of the Schengen Area and travel to or from the British mainland requires border controls.

The Peace Lines in Northern Ireland are a de facto internal border security measure to separate Catholic/Republican communities and Protestant/Unionist communities from each other. They have been in place in some form or another since the end of The Troubles.

American territories

Multiple types of internal border controls exist in America. These include the maintenance of autonomous or separate immigration policies in each of America’s major territories in the Pacific, i.e. Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Each of these territories maintains its own visa exemptions, and there are consequently immigration and customs checks on travel between the these territories and the American mainland.

The US Virgin Islands are a special case, falling within America’s immigration zone but being a customs free territory. As a result, there are no immigration checks between the two but there travellers arriving in Puerto Rico or the American mainland directly from the Virgin Islands are subject to border control for customs inspection. America also maintains interior checkpoints, similar to those maintained by Bhutan, along its borders with Mexico and Canada, subjecting people to border controls even after they have entered the country. The city of Hyder, Alaska has also been subject to internal border controls since the United States chose to stop regulating arrivals in Hyder from British Columbia. Since travellers exiting Hyder into British Columbia are subject to Canadian border controls, it is theoretically possible for someone to accidentally enter Hyder from Canada without their travel documents and then to face difficulties since both America and Canada would subject them to border controls that require travel documents.

Realm of New Zealand

Tokelau, Niue, and the Cook Islands (Cook Islands Māori: Kūki 'Āirani)[185] maintain independent and less restrictive border controls from New Zealand. The Cook Islands further maintain a separate nationality law. Additionally, border controls for Tokelau are complicated by the fact that the territory is, for the most part, only accessible via Samoa.

Prescreening border controls


The American government operates border preclearance facilities at a number of ports and airports in foreign territory. They are staffed and operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers. Travelers pass through U.S. Immigration and Customs, Public Health, and Agriculture inspections before boarding their aircraft, ship, or train. This process is intended to streamline border procedures, reduce congestion at ports of entry, and facilitate travel between the preclearance location and U.S. airports unequipped to handle international travellers.

These facilities are present at the majority of major Canadian airports, as well as selected airports in Bermuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Abu Dhabi[186] and Ireland.[187] Facilities located in Canada accept NEXUS cards and American Passport Cards (land/sea entry only) in lieu of passports. A preclearance facility is currently being planned at Dubai International Airport[188]

Citizens of the Bahamas who enter America through either of the two preclearance facilities in that country enjoy an exemption from the general requirement to hold a visa as long as they can sufficiently prove that they do not have a significant criminal record in either the Bahamas or America. All Bahamians applying for admission at a port-of-entry other than the pre-clearance facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International airports are required to be in possession of a valid visa.[189]

Preclearance facilities are also operated at Pacific Central Station, the Port of Vancouver, and the Port of Victoria in British Columbia, and there are plans to open one at Montreal Central Station in Quebec.

Hong Kong

West Kowloon railway station

A component of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link, West Kowloon Station will contain a “Mainland Port Area”, essentially enabling passengers and goods to clear mainland Chinese immigration on Hong Kong soil.

Shenzhen Bay Control Point

The Shenzhen Bay Control Point is a Hong Kong immigration facility co-located with mainland Chinese facilities at Shenzhen Bay Port. It is located in the Chinese mainland on land leased from the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province. It essentially enables travellers to clear both mainland and Hong Kong border controls in one place, thus eliminating any need for border control on the Hong Kong side of the Shenzhen Bay Bridge.

Singapore and Malaysia

Woodlands Train Checkpoint

For cross-border rail passengers, Singaporean exit and Malaysian entry preclearance border controls are co-located at the Woodlands Train Checkpoint in Singapore, whilst Malaysian exit controls are located separately at Johor Bahru Sentral railway station in Malaysia.

Johor Bahru – Singapore Rapid Transit

The upcoming Rapid Transit System (RTS) connecting Singapore and Johor Bahru will feature border control preclearance both on the Singaporean side and on the Malaysian side. This will enable passengers arriving in Singapore from Malaysia or vice versa to proceed straight to their connecting transport, since the RTS will link to both the Singapore MRT system (Thomson-East Coast MRT Line) and Johor Bahru Sentral. Unlike the preclearance systems adopted by the United States and Hong Kong, but similar to the United Kingdom’s juxtaposed controls, this system will mitigate arrival border controls on both sides of the border.[190][191]

Malaysia and Thailand

The Padang Besar railway station in Padang Besar, Malaysia has co-located border control facilities for both Malaysia and Thailand, although the station is wholly located inside Malaysian territory (albeit just 200 metres south of the Malaysia-Thailand border). The facilities for each country operate from separate counters inside the railway station building at the platform level.[192] Passengers entering Thailand clear Malaysian and Thai border formalities here in Malaysian territory before boarding their State Railway of Thailand trains which then cross the actual borderline several minutes after departing the station. Passengers from Thailand entering Malaysia are also processed here, using the same counters as there are no separate counters for processing entries and exits for either country.

United Kingdom


French entry border control for ferries between Dover and Calais or Dunkerque take place at the Port of Dover, whilst French exit and British entry border control takes place at Calais and Dunkerque.


Border control for rail travel between the United Kingdom and the Schengen Area features significant prescreening. This includes customs and immigration prescreening on both sides of the Eurotunnel, and immigration-only prescreening for the Eurostar between the United Kingdom and stations located in Belgium and France. Eurostar and Eurotunnel passengers departing from the Schengen area go through both French or Belgian exit border control and British entry border controls before departures, while passengers departing from the United Kingdom undergo French border controls on British soil.

The following juxtaposed rail border controls are currently in operation:

In Belgium[193]
  • Brussel-Zuid/Bruxelles-Midi
In France[194]
  • Bourg-St-Maurice
  • Calais-Fréthun
  • Coquelles
  • Lille-Europe
  • Moûtiers
  • Paris-Nord
In the UK[194]
  • Ashford International
  • Cheriton
  • Ebbsfleet International
  • St Pancras International

Informal prescreening

In some cases countries can introduce controls that functions as border controls but aren't border controls legally and don't need to be performed by government agencies. Normally they are performed and organised by private companies, based on a law that they have to check that passengers don't travel into a specific country if they aren't allowed to. Such controls can take effect in one country based on the law of another country without any formalised border control prescreening agreement in force. Even if they aren't border controls they function as such. The most prominent example is airlines which check passports and visa before passengers are allowed to board the aircraft. Also for some passenger boats such check are performed before boarding.

Border control organisations

Border controls are usually the responsibility of specialised government organisations. Such agencies may oversee various aspects of border control, such as customs, immigration policy, border security, quarantine, and other such aspects. Official designations, jurisdictions and command structures of these agencies vary considerably, and some countries split border control functions across multiple agencies.


Border Security Force

The Border Security Force, or BSF, is the primary border defence organisation of India. It is one of the five Central Armed Police Forces of the Union of India, it was raised in the wake of the 1965 War on 1 December 1965, "for ensuring the security of the borders of India and for matters connected there with".[195][196] From independence in 1947 to 1965, the protection of India's international boundaries was the responsibility of local police belonging to each border state, with little inter-state coordination. BSF was created as a Central government-controlled security force to guard all of India's borders, thus bringing greater cohesion in border security. BSF is charged with guarding India's land border during peacetime and preventing transnational crime. It is a Union Government Agency under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs.[197] It currently stands as the world's largest border guarding force.[198]

Assam Rifles

The Assam Rifles, one of India's oldest continuously existent paramilitary units, has been responsible for physical controls on the border between India and Myanmar since 2002.[199] The boder area between India, Myanmar, and China is largely made up of minority groups, many of which are transboundary communities. Consequently, enforcing border controls is a challenge for all three countries, and porous sections of the border between India and Myanmar have historically been common since Myanmar was formerly a part of the British Indian Empire.

Indo–Tibetan Border Police

The Indo–Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is charged with maintaining border controls on India’s side of the extensive border between minority regions of India and China. In September 1996, the Parliament of India enacted the "Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force Act, 1992" to "provide for the constitution and regulation" of the ITBP "for ensuring the security of the borders of India and for matters connected therewith".[200][201] The first head of the ITBP, designated Inspector General, was Balbir Singh, a police officer previously belonging to the Intelligence Bureau. The ITBP, which started with 4 battalions, has since restructuring in 1978,undergone expansion to a force of 56 battalions as of 2017 with a sanctioned strength of 89,432.[202]


The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, or ICA, is the border control agency of the Singapore Government.[205] It is a department in the Ministry of Home Affairs.[206] ICA is responsible for securing Singapore's checkpoints against the entry of undesirable goods and people.[207] On 31 July 2018, the ICA designated Marvin Sim as its commissioner, effective from 3 September of that year.[208] The agency is in charge of maintaining all border checkpoints[lower-alpha 17] in Singapore. In addition, ICA handles anti-terrorism operations and is responsible for many visa and residence related aspects of border control.


The Directorate General of Immigration is the primary agency tasked with border control in Indonesia.


The Immigration Department of Malaysia is a department of the Federal Government of Malaysia which provides services to Malaysian Citizens, Permanent Residents and Foreign Visitors.[209]

The functions of the department are as follows:

1. Issuing of passports and travel documents to Malaysian Citizens and Permanent Residents.

2. Issuing of visas, passes and permits to Foreign Nationals entering Malaysia.

3. Administering and managing the movement of people at authorised entry and exit points.

4. Enforcing the Immigration Act 1959/63, Immigration Regulations 1963 and Passport Act 1966 .


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the department of the Government of Canada with responsibility for matters dealing with immigration to Canada, refugees, and Canadian citizenship.

Canada Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency or CBSA is the primary organisation tasked with maintaining Canada’s border controls. The Agency was created on 12 December 2003,[lower-alpha 18] amalgamating Canada Customs (from the now-defunct Canada Customs and Revenue Agency) with border and enforcement personnel from the Department of the CIC and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

IRCC's mandate emanates from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act. The Minister of IRCC is the key person to uphold and administer the Citizenship Act of 197 and its subsequent amendments. The minister will work closely with the Minister of Public Safety in relation to the administration of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.[211]

Canadian Air Transport Security Authority

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) is the Canadian Crown corporation responsible for security screening of people and baggage and the administration of identity cards at the 89 designated airports in Canada. CATSA is answerable to Transport Canada and reports to the Government of Canada through the Minister of Transport.[212]


Iranian Immigration & Passport Police

The Immigration & Passport Police Office is a subdivision of Law Enforcement Force of Islamic Republic of Iran with the authority to issue Iranian passports and deals with Immigrants to Iran.[213] The agency is member of ICAO's Public Key Directory (PKD).[214]

Islamic Republic of Iran Border Guard Command

Islamic Republic of Iran Border Guard Command, commonly known as NAJA Border Guard, is a subdivision of Law Enforcement Force of Islamic Republic of Iran (NAJA) and Iran's sole agency that performs border guard and control in land borders, and coast guard in maritime borders. The unit was founded in 2000, and from 1991 to 2000, the unit's duties was done by of Security deputy of NAJA. Before 1991, border control was Gendarmerie's duty.[215]

North Korea

Border Security Command and Coastal Security Bureau are collectively responsible for restricting unauthorised cross-border (land and sea) entries and exits, in the early 1990s the bureaux responsible for border security and coastal security were transferred from the State Security Department to the Ministry of People's Armed Forces. Sometime thereafter, the Border Security Bureau was enlarged to corps level and renamed the Border Security Command. Previously headquartered in Chagang Province, the Border Security Command was relocated to P’yŏngyang in 2002.[216]

United Kingdom

HM Revenue and Customs

Customs administration related to border controls in the United Kingdom largely fall within the jurisdiction of HM Revenue and Customs.

UK Visas and Immigration

UKVI operates the visa aspect of the United Kingdom’s border controls, managing applications from foreign nationals seeking to visit or work in the UK, and also considers applications from businesses and educational institutions seeking to become sponsors for foreign nationals. It also considers applications from foreign nationals seeking British citizenship.

Border Force

The Border Force is in charge[lower-alpha 19] of physical controls and checkpoints at airports, land borders, and ports. Since 1 March 2012, Border Force has been a law-enforcement command within the Home Office, accountable directly to ministers. Border Force is responsible for immigration and customs at 140 rail, air and sea ports in the UK and western Europe, as well as thousands of smaller airstrips, ports and marinas.[219] The work of the Border Force is monitored by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.

Immigration Enforcement

Immigration Enforcement is the organisation responsible for enforcing border control policies within the United Kingdom, including pursuing and removing unlawfully present immigrants.


Most aspects of American border control are handled by various divisions of the Department of Homelend Security (DHS).

US Customs and Border Protection

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a division of the DHS, is America's primary border control organisation, charged with regulating and facilitating international trade, collecting import duties, and enforcing American trade, customs and immigration regulations.[220][221] It has a workforce of more than 58000 employees.[lower-alpha 20] It has its headquarters in Washington, DC.[224]

Transport Security Administration

The Transport Security Administration, or TSA, is a division of the DHS responsible for conducting security checks at American airports and other transport hubs, including overseas preclearance facilities (with the notable exception of those in Canada, where CATSA conducts security checks prior to CBP immigration screening). For passengers departing by air from America, TSA screening is the only physical check conducted upon departure.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is the organisation responsible for enforcing immigration laws within American territory, focusing largely on removing individuals who entered the country unlawfully. Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) allows ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of sworn U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Under 287(g), ICE provides state and local law enforcement with the training and subsequent authorisation to identify, process, and when appropriate, detain immigration offenders they encounter during their regular, daily law-enforcement activity.[225] The 287(g) program is extremely controversial; it has been widely criticised for increasing racist profiling by police and undermining community safety because unlawful immigrant communities are no longer willing to report crimes or talk to law enforcement.[226]

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is responsible for various aspects of border control relating to immigration, including reviewing visa petitions and applications as well as processing asylum claims.


Physical controls on the internationally recognised portions of Pakistan's international borders are managed by dedicated paramilitary units (the Pakistan Rangers on the border with India, and the Frontier Corps elsewhere). The Pakistan-administered side of the Line of Control between the Indian and the Pakistan controlled parts of Kashmir is patrolled by the Pakistan Army.

Pakistan Rangers

The Pakistan Rangers are a paramilitary law enforcement organisation in Pakistan and have a primary mission of securing important sites such as Pakistan's International Border with India as well as employed in internal security operations, and providing assistance to the police in maintaining law and order. Rangers is an umbrella term for the Pakistan Rangers – Punjab, headquartered in Lahore, responsible for guarding Punjab Province's 1,300 km long IB with India, and the Pakistan Rangers – Sindh, headquartered in Karachi, defending Sindh Province's ~912 km long IB with India. The forces operate under their own separate chains of command and wear distinct uniforms. Most famously each evening, the Pakistan Rangers – Punjab together with their Indian counterparts in the BSF, participate in an elaborate flag lowering ceremony at Wagah border crossing near Lahore.

Frontier Corps

The Frontier Corps, is an umbrella term for the two western provincial auxiliary forces part of the paramilitary forces of Pakistan along the western provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and are the direct counterparts to the Rangers of the eastern provinces (Sindh and Punjab). The Frontier Corps comprises two separate organisations: FC NWFP stationed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly known as the North-West Frontier Province), and includes the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and FC Balochistan stationed in Balochistan province. Each subdivision is headed by a seconded inspector general, who is a Pakistan Army officer of at least major-general rank, although the force itself is under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry.[227] With a total manpower of approximately 80,000,[228] the task of the Frontier Corps is to help local law enforcement in the maintenance of law and order, and to carry out border patrol and anti-smuggling operations.[229] Some of the FC's constituent units such as the Chitral Scouts, the Khyber Rifles, Swat Levies, the Kurram Militia, the Tochi Scouts, the South Waziristan Scouts, and the Zhob Militia have regimental histories dating back to British colonial times and many, e.g. the Khyber Rifles, have distinguished combat records before and after 1947.

Pakistan Customs

Customs-related border security measures in Pakistan are the responsibility of Pakistan Customs.

Schengen Area


Frontex[230][231] (from French: Frontières extérieures for "external frontiers"), is a controversial and beleaguered multilateral border control organisation of the Schengen Area headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, operating in coordination with the border and coast guards of individual Schengen Area member states. According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the British Refugee Council, in written evidence submitted to the UK House of Lords inquiry, Frontex fails to demonstrate adequate consideration of international and European asylum and human rights law including the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and EU law in respect of access to asylum and the prohibition of refoulement.[232] In September 2009, a Turkish military radar issued a warning to a Latvian helicopter conducting an anti-migrant and anti-refugee patrol in the eastern Aegean Sea to leave the area as it is in Turkish airspace. The Turkish General Staff reported that the Latvian Frontex aircraft had violated Turkish airspace west of Didim.[233] According to a Hellenic Air Force announcement, the incident occurred as the Frontex helicopter —identified as an Italian-made Agusta A109— was patrolling a common route used by people smugglers near the small isle of Farmakonisi.[234] Another incident took place on October 2009 in the airspace above the eastern Aegean sea, off the island of Lesbos.[235] On 20 November 2009, the Turkish General Staff issued a press note alleging that an Estonian Border Guard aircraft Let L-410 UVP taking off from Kos on a Frontex mission had violated Turkish airspace west of Söke.[233] As part of the Border and Coast Guard a Return Office was established with the capacity to repatriate immigrants residing illegally in the union by deploying Return Intervention Teams composed of escorts, monitors, and specialists dealing with related technical aspects. For this repatriation, a uniform European travel document would ensure wider acceptance by third countries. In emergency situations such Intervention Teams will be sent to problem areas to bolster security, either at the request of a member state or at the agency's own initiative. It is this latter proposed capability, to be able to deploy specialists to member states borders without the approval[lower-alpha 21] of the national government in question that is proving the most controversial aspect of this European Commission plan.[236]

Direction centrale de la police aux frontières

The Direction centrale de la police aux frontières (DCPF) is a directorate of the French National Police that is responsible for border control at certain border crossing points and border surveillance in some areas in France.[237] They work alongside their British counterparts at Calais, and along the Channel Tunnel Rail Link with the British Transport Police. The DCPF is consequently largely responsible for Schengen Area border controls with the United Kingdom.

Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects

Direction générale des douanes et droits indirects (DGDDI), commonly known as les douanes, is a French law enforcement agency responsible for levying indirect taxes, preventing smuggling, surveilling borders and investigating counterfeit money. The agency acts as a coast guard, border guard, sea rescue organisation and a customs service.[238] In addition, since 1995, the agency has replaced the Border Police in carrying out immigration control at smaller border checkpoints, in particular at maritime borders and regional airports.[239]

Finnish Border Guard

The Finnish Border Guard, including the coast guard, is the agency responsible for border control related to persons, including passport control and border patrol. The Border Guard is a paramilitary organization, subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior in administrative issues and to the President of the Republic in issues pertaining to the president's authority as Commander-in-Chief (e.g. officer promotions). The Finland-Russia border is a controlled external border of the Schengen Area, routinely patrolled and protected by a border zone enforced by the Border Guard. Finland's borders with Norway and Sweden are internal Schengen borders with no routine border controls, but the Border Guard maintains personnel in the area owing to its search and rescue (SAR) duties. There are two coast guard districts for patrolling maritime borders. In peacetime, the Border Guard trains special forces and light infantry and can be incorporated fully or in part into the Finnish Defence Forces when required by defence readiness. The Border Guard has police and investigative powers in immigration matters and can independently investigate immigration violations. The Border Guard has search and rescue (SAR) duties, both maritime and inland. The Guard operates SAR helicopters that are often used in inland SAR, in assistance of a local fire and rescue department or other authorities. The Border Guard shares border control duties with Finnish Customs, which inspects arriving goods, and the Finnish Police, which enforces immigration decisions such as removal.

Swedish border police

The border control is handled by a special group in the police force. Sweden has natural land borders only to Norway and Finland, where there are no border controls, so border surveillance is not done there apart from customs control. Therefore, border control is focused on some fixed control points, during the border control-less Schengen period until 2015 mainly airports. The introduction of full border control from Denmark and the continent in 2015 put a heavy load on the border police who had to check 8000 cars and 50 trains per day coming over the Öresund Bridge, and 3000 cars in Helsingborg and more in other ferry ports. The police quickly educated several hundred semi-authorised border control guards who had to ask the real officers to take over any doubtful case. The customs office and the coast guard can not do formal border controls, but can stop people in doubtful cases and ask police to take over.


Hong Kong

The Immigration Department of Hong Kong is responsible for border controls of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regions, including internal controls with the rest of China. After the People's Republic of China resumed sovereignty of the territory in July 1997, Hong Kong's immigration system remained largely unchanged from its British predecessor model. In addition, visa-free entry acceptance regulations into Hong Kong for passport holders of some 170 countries remain unchanged before and after 1997.


The Immigration Department of Macau, under the Public Security Police Force, is the government agency responsible for immigration matters, whilst the Public Security Police Force itself is responsible for enforcing immigration laws in Macau.[240]


Border security in Mainland China are the responsibility of National Immigration Administration of the People's Republic of China, formerly the Exit & Entry Administration[241]), a unit of the Ministry of Public Security of the People's Republic of China. Customs related border controls are largely within the purview of the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China.

Areas controlled by the Republic of China

In areas controlled by the Republic of China,[lower-alpha 12] the National Immigration Agency, a subsidiary organisation of the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for border control. The agency is headed by the Director General. The current Director-General is Hsieh Li-kung.[242]

The agency was established in early 2007 and its job includes the care and guidance of new immigrants, exit and entry control, the inspection on illegal immigrants, the forcible deportation of unlawful entrants, and the prevention of trafficking in persons.[243] The agency also deals with persons from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau who do not hold household registration in the areas controlled by the ROC.

Immigration law

Immigration law refers to the national statutes, regulations, and legal precedents governing immigration into and deportation from a country. Strictly speaking, it is distinct from other matters such as naturalisation and citizenship, although they are often conflated. Immigration laws vary around the world, as well as according to the social and political climate of the times, as acceptance of immigrants sways from the widely inclusive to the deeply nationalist and isolationist. Countries frequently maintain laws which regulate both the rights of entry and exit as well as internal rights, such as the duration of stay, freedom of movement, and the right to participate in commerce or government.

National laws regarding the immigration of citizens of that country are regulated by international law. The United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights mandates[244] that all countries allow entry to their own citizens.

Comparison of immigration visa categories by country or territory

This section is an attempt to classify and bring together information about immigration legislation on a number of countries with high immigration.

Country or Area Separate article on Country's Immigration Law Employer Sponsored Work Visa Independent Work Visa Businessperson, Self-employed or Entrepreneur Investor Ph.D. or Scientist Spouse By birth while both of parents are foreign nationals Studying as a migration route Illegal Migrant Citizenship Special arrangements
 US United States nationality law Through H1B lottery, many applicants failed to receive a settlement after 6 years and had to leave the country. [245] EB-1 Extraordinary Ability – for internationally recognized scientists, sportsman etc. EB-5: minimum investment of $500,000 PhDs are generally allowed to apply for an employer-independent EB2 visa Available After 5 years of permanent residence. Green Card Lottery
 United Kingdom British nationality law Tier 2 – settlement (ILR) after 5 years. A limit on number of Tier 2 migrants per year coming from outside the country was introduced by new government which makes it more difficult to find an employer willing to sponsor the visa if applying from outside the UK. (practically not available since April 2011) Tier 1 General – settlement (ILR) after 5 years. A limit on 1000 Tier 1 migrants per year introduced by new government. Besides that the migration legislation changes on average every six months which makes Britain not attractive for skilled migrants looking for a second nationality. Tier 1 Entrepreneur Tier 1 Investor There is no specific category here but it is easier for universities (as opposed to businesses) to acquire a Tier 2 sponsorship licence. ILR is provided after 5 years in marriage or partnership and living in the country. British citizenship can be obtained as a right for anybody who was born in the UK before 1983. After 1983, it can only be obtained by birth if at least one parent was settled there. It is also available as of right for people of whom one parent is a British citizen otherwise than by descent".[246] All other classes of British Nationality do not confer right of abode in the UK to the holder. Tier4 Full-time students at university education are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week. Others are allowed to work up to 10 hours per week. After 10 years of continuous presence in the country on residential visas ILR is provided. There is a cap on the duration of staying in the country on a student visa. After 20 years of continuous illegal but proven presence in the country ILR is provided. A foreigner may apply for naturalisation after having had indefinite leave to remain for one year in addition to 5 years of residency, or (treaty nationals) may apply after having been resident in the United Kingdom for 5 years. Treaty nationals, may enter the UK to work, provide services or self-employment or study or reside there as self-sufficient migrant.

Some commonwealth citizens have right of abode in the UK, which for most practical purposes gives them the same rights as British Citizens in the UK.

 Canada Canadian nationality law Official information[247] Available but Canada reduced the number of jobs in demand. E.g. software engineers are now unable to use this route.[248] Federal skilled worker
 Australia Australian nationality law Available[249] Skilled Independent visa (Subclass 189)and Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190)
 New Zealand New Zealand nationality law Available
 South Africa South African nationality law Corporate worker permit.


General work permit, Quota work permit, exceptional skills work permit and Intra-company transfer work permit.[251] Business permit. Minimum foreign capital investment ZAR 2,5 Million into book value of business which may be reduced on application. Minimum of 5 South African citizens/residents to be employed.


See Business permit.


No specific category. May fall under Exceptional Skills or Quota work permit.[254] Spousal visa. Proof of cohabitation and shared finances.


Not applicable. Children born in South Africa to foreign nationals will obtain the same status as their parents. Study is viewed in isolation in relation to the course of study. No benefits obtained promoting continued stay. Arrest, detention, court to decide on outcome.


Citizenship may be applied for after 5 years of permanent residence.


 Isle of Man Similar to British Tier1 General, but does not lead to EU nationality Similar to British Tier1 Entrepreneur, but does not lead to EU nationality
 South Korea South Korean nationality law If you have lived more than 5 years under a D-7, D-8, D-9, E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, E-7 or F-2 visa.[258] If you have internationally recognized extraordinary ability in science, business, culture, sports or education. If you are over 60 and receive income via pension from overseas.[258] If you invest $2 million. If you invested only $500,000, you need to stay more than 3 years on a D-8 visa. If you invest $500,000 in real estate of Jeju, Incheon Free Economic Zone, Busan's Haeundae, Pyeongchang or Yeosu, you are given a F-2 residence visa and 5 years later, F-5 permanent residence.[259] If you have a Ph.D. in a high-tech field and are employed by a Korean firm, earning 4 times the average GNI in Korea. If you only have a bachelor's in a high-tech field or a recognized technical certificate issued in Korea, you need to have stayed for at least 3 years and earn 4 times the average GNI in Korea.[258] If you have stayed in Korea for more than 2 years under a F-2 visa and are the spouse of a Korean or foreigner with a F-5 permanent residence visa. If you were born to parents who are stateless or were found abandoned within the territory of South Korea as a child, you will automatically get Korean citizenship. If you meet the requirements for naturalization. See South Korean nationality law. If you previously had Korean nationality or either of your parents or grandparents had Korean nationality in the past, you are immediately eligible for a F-4 visa, a practically permanent residence visa that is renewable every 2 years.[260] If the Korean government recognizes that you made an important contribution to the nation, you are eligible for F-5 permanent residence.[258]
 Hong Kong General Employment Policy (GEP); will receive Right of Abode (ROA) in Hong Kong, after 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong. General Points Test (GPT) Capital Investment Entrant Scheme (CIES); you need to invest HK$10 million except on real estate;[261] will receive Right of Abode (ROA) in Hong Kong, after 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong. passing General Points Test (GPT) within Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS)[262] Person under 21 years of age born in Hong Kong of foreigner with HK Permanent ID Card, will receive Right of Abode (ROA) in Hong Kong, but not Chinese nationality.[263] Foreigner who is a Hong Kong Permanent ID Card holder may naturalise as Chinese national with HKSAR Passport, if applicant has settle in Hong Kong or Chinese territory, has near relatives of Chinese nationals, and other legitimate reasons.[264] Mainland China issued a daily quota of 150 One Way Permits to mainland Chinese for Hong Kong settlement;[265] will receive Right of Abode (ROA) in Hong Kong, after 7 years continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong; plus the right to apply for a HKSAR Passport.
 India Indian nationality law After 12 years of residence (of which 1 year should be continuous)
 Israel Israeli nationality law Not available Law of Return
 European Union Citizenship of the European Union Varies by member state See Blue Card (European Union)
 Austria May be available in the future, called Rot-Weiß-Rot-Card
 Cyprus It is considered to be very unlikely to get nationality through work route Not available
 Czech Republic Not available
 Denmark Available: Danish Green Card
 France Not available
 Germany Not available There are programs for Continental Refugees and Repatriates but the rules are severely tightened to prevent as little new migrants as possible to benefit from them.
 Ireland Not available Available
 Luxembourg Luxembourgian nationality law[266]
 Netherlands Dutch nationality law
 Poland [267]
 Romania Special arrangements for citizens of Moldova
 Spain Not available
 Sweden [268] [269]
 Norway Norwegian nationality law Min 4 years, see Norwegian nationality law#Naturalisation as a Norwegian citizen for more details. Min 7 years, see Norwegian nationality law#Naturalisation as a Norwegian citizen for more details. Citizens of other Nordic Council countries may naturalise after a two-year residence
Country or Area Separate article on Country's Immigration Law Employer Sponsored Work Visa Independent Work Visa Businessperson, Self-employed or Entrepreneur Investor Ph.D. or Scientist Spouse By birth while both of parents are foreign nationals Studying as a migration route Illegal Migrant Citizenship Special arrangements

Comparison table of different countries' immigration law

Country Requirements and restrictions before settlement Requirements and restrictions after settlement Can a resident visa holder's dependant work? Possibility of one's parents to immigrate following settlement? Is it guaranteed that immigration legislation would not be changed retrospectively and were there retrospective changes of immigration law previously? Access to social benefits before settlement Access to social benefits after settlement Can legitimately naturalised persons be deprived of their nationality? Must an applicant forgo other nationalities in order to naturalise? Are citizens who naturalise in foreign countries deprived of their original nationality?
 US No No No, but foreign earnings are liable to taxation.
 United Kingdom No more than 180 days spent overseas within 5 years, no more than 90 days per trip. Settlement would be cancelled after a certain number of days spent abroad Yes A single parent can immigrate if one is the sole supporter. It has been changed retrospectively in the past and likely to change retrospectively in the future No access to public funds. Yes Dual nationals may be deprived of their nationality for engaging in terrorism. No No
 Canada No
 New Zealand
 Israel [270] Yes, unless citizenship obtained by Law of Return
 Germany Yes, unless the prior nationality held was one of the European Union, Norway, or Switzerland; or if the applicant cannot approach the authorities of their previous country for reasons of personal safety. Yes, unless the nationality acquired is one of the European Union, Switzerland, or Norway; or if the applicant obtained permission from the German government prior to submitting an application for naturalisation.
 Ukraine Yes
 Norway Norwegian nationality law Yes Yes, unless the applicant cannot approach the authorities of their previous country for reasons of personal safety, or if the authorities demand a fee considered too high. Yes
 Russia Yes No
 Azerbaijan Yes
 China Yes Yes
 Denmark Yes
 Japan Yes Yes
 India Yes


Certain border control policies of various countries have been the subject of controversy and public debate.

Immigrant investor programmes

Immigrant investor programmes, pejoratively referred to as golden visas, are border control policies designed to attract foreign capital and business people by providing the right of residence and citizenship in return. These are also known as citizenship-by-investment programmes. While several countries currently offer investors citizenship or residence in return for an economic investment, the concept is relatively new and was only brought to the focus around 2006.[271][272][273] The roots of such programmes have been traced back to the 1980s when tax havens in the Pacific and Caribbean began "cash-for-passport" programmes that facilitated visa-free travel and provided tax advantages.[274] For example, in 1984, St Kitts and Nevis began its programme which offered not only permanent residency but citizenship to foreign nations.[275] The issuing of golden visas has expanded dramatically during the 21st century, with around 25% of all countries issuing such visas as of 2015.[276] Statistics on the issuing of golden visas ares scarce, but the IMF estimated in 2015 that the vast majority of golden visas are issued to Chinese nationals.

Immigrant investor programmes usually have multiple criteria that must be fulfilled for the investment to qualify, often pertaining to job creation, purchasing of real estate, non-refundable contributions or specific targeted industries.[277] Most of these programmes are structured to ensure that the investment contributes to the welfare, advancement and economic development of the country in which the applicant wishes to reside or belong to. It is more often more about making an economic contribution than just an investment.[278] The United States EB-5 visa programme requires overseas applicants to invest a minimum of anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, depending on the location of project, and requires at least 10 jobs to be either created or preserved.[279] When these criteria are met, the applicant and their family become eligible for a green card. There is an annual cap of 10,000 applications under the EB-5 arrangement. Some countries such as Malta and Cyprus also offer citizenship ("so-called golden passports") to individuals if they invest a certain sum.[280] Greece's Golden Visa Program. The current investment threshold is 250,000 EUR for the purchase or long term lease of property. This arrangement offers a permanent residence permit and free entry to the EU and Schengen Area to aliens, as long as they retain ownership of the investment property. The Malta Individual Investor Programme,[281] which Henley & Partners was contracted in 2014 by the Government of Malta to design and implement, is similarly capped at 1,800 applicants. Applicants are subject to a thorough due diligence process which guarantees that only reputable applicants acquire Maltese citizenship. Moreover, applications from countries where international sanctions apply may not be accepted. Applications from a particular country can also be excluded on the basis of a Government policy decision.[281] The minimum investment for this programme is $870,000 with a non-refundable contribution of $700,000.[277] Portugal's golden visa was introduced during the Great Recession in order to help attract investment in the country's housing market. By 2016 the country had issued 2,788 golden visas, of which 80% had gone to Chinese nationals.[282] A large majority of users of such programmes are wealthy Chinese seeking legal security and a better quality of life outside their home country. More than three-quarters of the applicants to Canada's (since cancelled) immigrant investor programme were Chinese.[283][284] The Quebec Immigrant Investor Programme is a Canadian programme which allows investors who intend to settle in the province of Quebec to invest money in Canada.[285] The Quebec government said it would accept a maximum of 1,750 applications to the Immigrant Investor Programme during the period from January 5 to 20, 2015. Applicants with an intermediate-advanced knowledge of French are not subject to the cap, and may apply at any time.[286][287] The programme has been associated with the lack of housing affordability in Vancouver.[288] The countries with the top ranked immigrant investor programmes in the world are Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, Austria, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Latvia, Monaco, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Grenada, Abkhazia, Saint Lucia, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dominica.[289][290]

The issuing of so-called golden visas has sparked controversy in several countries. A lack of demonstrable economic benefits, and security concerns, have been among the most common criticisms of golden visas. In 2014 the Canadian government suspended their golden visa programme (although, as of 2017, Quebec maintains their own golden visa programme).[291] The golden visas has been criticised by members of the European Parliament for disfavouring the concept of citizenship[292] and in 2014 the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution that an EU passport should not have a "price tag".[293]

Discriminatory practices

Discriminatory border control practices by numerous jurisdictions have attracted controversy.


Since the implementation of added security measures in the aftermath of the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks, reports of discrimination against people perceived to be Muslim by American border security officers have been prevalent in the media.[294] The travel restrictions implemented during the Trump presidency primarily against Muslim majority countries have provoked controversy over whether such measures are a legitimate Border security measure or unethically discriminatory.


Starting primarily in the 1990s, the Bhutanese government implemented strict restrictions on Nepali residents and implemented internal border control policies to restrict immigration or return of ethnic Nepalis. This policy shift effectively ended previously liberal immigration policies with regards to Nepalis and counts amongst the most racialised border control policies in Asia.


Border control, both on entry and on exit, at Israeli airports rate passengers' potential threat to security using factors including nationality, ethnicity, and race.[295][296] Instances of discrimination against Arabs, people perceived to be Muslim, and Russian Jews amongst others have been reported in the media.[297][298] Security at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport relies on a number of fundamentals, including a heavy focus on what Raphael Ron, former director of security at Ben Gurion, terms the "human factor", which he generalised as "the inescapable fact that terrorist attacks are carried out by people who can be found and stopped by an effective security methodology."[299] As part of its focus on this so-called "human factor," Israeli security officers interrogate travellers, profiling those who appear to be Arab based on name or physical appearance.[300] Even as Israeli authorities argue that racist, ethnic, and religious profiling are effective security measures, according to Boaz Ganor, Israel has not undertaken any known empirical studies on the efficacy of the technique of racial profiling.[301]

Australian offshore detention centres

Beginning in 2001, Australia implemented border control policies featuring the detention of asylum seekers and economic migrants who arrived unlawfully by boat in nearby islands in the Pacific. These policies are controversial and in 2017 the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea declared the detention centre at Manus Island to be unconstitutional.[302][303] The adherence of these policies to international human rights law is a matter of controversy.

North Korean refugees in China

China does not currently recognise North Korean defectors as refugees and subjects them to immediate deportation if caught. The China-DPRK border is fortified and both sides aim to deter refugees from crossing. This aspect of Chinese border control policy has been criticised by human rights organisations.[304][305]

Restrictions on Northern Cypriot airspace

As a result of Northern Cyprus's sovereignty dispute with Southern Cyprus, the South (a member of the European Union) has imposed restrictions on the North's airports, and pressure from the European Union has resulted in all countries other than Turkey recognising the South's ability to impose a border shutdown on the North, thus negating the right to self determination of the predominantly Turkish Northern Cypriot population and subjecting their airports to border controls imposed by the predominantly Greek South.[306] As a result, Northern Cyprus is heavily dependent on Turkey for economic support and is unable to develop a functioning economy.[307]

See also


  1. For example, Ann Dummett, an activist for racial equality, criticised the legislation, saying that "there is no indication at all in our nationality law of ethnic origin being a criterion. But the purpose of the law since 1981, and the manner in which it is implemented, make sure that ethnic origin is in fact and in practice a deciding factor."[12] Ms Dummett also said that "the 1981 Nationality Act in effect gave full British citizenship to a group of whom at least 96% are white people, and the other, less favourable forms of British nationality to groups who are at least 98% non-white"[13]
  2. In March 1996, there was a submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of United Nations. The committee criticised the arrangements of the BN(O) nationality under "Principal subjects of concern": "The Government's statement that South Asian residents of Hong Kong are granted some form of British nationality, whether that of a British National Overseas (BNO) or a British Overseas Citizen (BOC), so that no resident of Hong Kong would be left stateless following the transfer of sovereignty is noted with interest. It is, however, a matter of concern that such status does not grant the bearer the right of abode in the United Kingdom and contrasts with the full citizenship status conferred upon a predominantly white population living in another dependent territory. It is noted that most of the persons holding BNO or BOC status are Asians and that judgements on applications for citizenship appear to vary according to the country of origin, which leads to the assumption that this practice reveals elements of racial discrimination."[14]
  3. For example, the legislative councilor Dr Henrietta Ip criticised the idea of British National (Overseas) and again urged the UK Parliament, to grant full British citizenship to Hong Kong's British nationals in the council meeting held on 5 July 1989, saying that "we were born and live under British rule on British land.... It is therefore... our right to ask that you should give us back a place of abode so that we can continue to live under British rule on British land if we so wish.... I represent most of all those who live here to firmly request and demand you to grant us the right to full British citizenship so that we can, if we so wish, live in the United Kingdom, our Motherland... I say to you that the right of abode in the United Kingdom is the best and the only definitive guarantee.... With your failure to give us such a guarantee, reluctant as I may, I must advise the people of Hong Kong, and urgently now, each to seek for themselves a home of last resort even if they have to leave to do so. I do so because, as a legislator, my duty is with the people first and the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong second, although the two are so interdependent on each other...."
  4. The legislation is sometimes compared with Macau, a former colony of Portugal, where many residents of Chinese descent were granted right of abode in Portugal when Macau was still under colonial rule. They were not deprived of their right of abode after the transfer of sovereignty of Macau in 1999, their Portuguese passports and citizenship are valid and inheritable, and it turned out that many of them still choose to stay in Macau.
  5. Then Shadow Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said in a letter to the then Home Secretary Michael Howard dated 30 January 1997 that a claim that British National (Overseas) status amounts to British nationality "is pure sophistry".[15]
  6. The Economist also wrote critically in an article published on 3 July 1997 that "the failure to offer citizenship to most of Hong Kong’s residents was shameful", and "it was the height of cynicism to hand 6m people over to a regime of proven brutality without allowing them any means to move elsewhere." The article commented that the real reason that the new Labour government still refused to give full British citizenship to other British Dependent Territories Citizens in around 1997 – because the United Kingdom was waiting until Hong Kong had been disposed of – "would be seen as highly cynical", as Baroness Symons, a Foreign Office minister, has conceded.[16]
  7. Bantustans within the borders of South Africa were classified as "self-governing" or "independent" and theoretically had some sovereign powers. Independent Bantustans (Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei; also known as the TBVC states) were intended to be fully sovereign. In reality, they had no economic infrastructure worth mentioning and with few exceptions encompassed swaths of disconnected territory. This meant all the Bantustans were little more than puppet states controlled by South Africa. Throughout the existence of the independent Bantustans, South Africa remained the only country to recognise their independence. Nevertheless, internal organisations of many countries, as well as the South African government, lobbied for their recognition. For example, upon the foundation of Transkei, the Swiss-South African Association encouraged the Swiss government to recognise the new state. In 1976, leading up to a United States House of Representatives resolution urging the President to not recognise Transkei, the South African government intensely lobbied lawmakers to oppose the bill. While the bill fell short of its needed two-thirds vote, a simple majority of lawmakers nevertheless supported the resolution.[19] Each TBVC state extended recognition to the other independent Bantustans while South Africa showed its commitment to the notion of TBVC sovereignty by building embassies in the TBVC capitals.
  8. In South Africa, pass laws were designed to segregate the population, manage urbanisation, and allocate migrant labour. Also known as the natives law, pass laws severely limited the movements of not only blacks, but other peoples as well (e.g. Asians) by requiring them to carry pass books when outside their homelands or designated areas. Before the 1950s, this legislation largely applied to African men, and attempts to apply it to women in the 1910s and 1950s were met with significant protests. Pass laws would be one of the dominant features of the country's apartheid system, until it was effectively ended in 1986. The first internal passports in South Africa were introduced on 27 June 1797 by the Earl Macartney in an attempt to prevent natives from entering the Cape Colony.[20] In 1896 the South African Republic brought in two pass laws which required Africans to carry a metal badge and only those employed by a master were permitted to remain on the Rand. Those entering a "labour district" needed a special pass which entitled them to remain for three days.[21] The Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923 deemed urban areas in South Africa as "white" and required all black African men in cities and towns to carry around permits called "passes" at all times. Anyone found without a pass would be arrested immediately and sent to a rural area. It was replaced in 1945 by the Natives (Urban Areas) Consolidation Act, which imposed "influx control" on black men, and also set up guidelines for removing people deemed to be living idle lives from urban areas. This act outlined requirements for African peoples' "qualification" to reside legally in white metropolitan areas.[22]
  9. Thousands of Gujaratis returned to Uganda after Yoweri Museveni, the subsequent head of state of Uganda, criticised Idi Amin's policies and invited them to return.[18] According to Museveni, "Gujaratis have played a lead role in Uganda's social and industrial development. I knew that this community can do wonders for my country and they have been doing it for last many decades." The Gujaratis have resurfaced in Uganda and helped rebuild the economy of East Africa, and are financially well settled.[18][23]
  10. The 145 states which are parties to the convention are required to provide travel documents to refugees lawfully residing within their territory as per Article 28 of the convention. Refugee travel documents issued pursuant to Article 28 by certain states cannot be used for travel to the bearer’s country of citizenship,[24]
  11. Uniquely, the archipelago is an entirely visa-free zone under the terms of the Svalbard Treaty,[61] which recognises the sovereignty of Norway over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard but subjects it to certain stipulations and consequently not all Norwegian law applies, including border controls. The treaty regulates the demilitarisation of the archipelago. The signatories were given equal rights to engage in commercial activities (mainly coal mining) on the islands. As of 2012, Norway and Russia are making use of this right.
  12. The area under the definition consists of the island groups of Taiwan, Penghu (the Pescadores), Kinmen (Quemoy), Matsu Islands and other islands.
  13. As a standalone document, the BCC allows Mexican citizens to visit border areas in America when entering by land or sea directly from Mexico for less than 72 hours.[122] The document also functions as a full B1/B2 visa when presented with a valid Mexican passport.[123]
  14. A holder of an EVW authorisation can visit and/or study in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. An EVW is only valid for one entry, and a new EVW must be obtained each time an eligible person wishes to enter the UK to visit and/or study for up to 6 months without a visa. The EVW is valid for visits up to 90 days to Ireland once a holder has cleared immigration in the United Kingdom.
  15. For example, Hong Kong Permanent Identity Card or Macau Identity Card and Home Return Permit are required for Hong Kong or Macau Permanent Residents who are Chinese citizens to cross the border, whilst mainlanders require a two-way permit.
  16. Land Commands The Old Woodlands Checkpoint is closed to most traffic except for motorcycles and lorries carrying cargo.
  17. The Agency's creation was formalised by the Canada Border Services Agency Act,[210] which received Royal Assent on 3 November 2005.
  18. The organisation’s primary responsibilities are:[217][218]
    • checking the immigration status of people arriving in and departing the UK
    • searching baggage, vehicles and cargo for illicit goods or illegal immigrants
    • patrolling the British coastline and searching vessels
    • gathering intelligence
    • alerting the police and security services to people of interest
    • More than 21,180 CBP Officers inspect and examine passengers and cargo at over 300 ports of entry.
    • Over 2,200 CBP Agriculture Specialists work to curtail the spread of harmful pests and plant and animal diseases that may harm America’s farms and food supply or cause bio- and agro-terrorism.
    • Over 21,370 Border Patrol Agents protect and patrol 1,900 miles (3,100 km) of border with Mexico and 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of border with Canada.
    • Nearly 1,050 Air and Marine Interdiction Agents prevent people, weapons, narcotics, and conveyances from illegal entry by air and water.
    • Nearly 2,500 employees in CBP revenue positions collect over $30 billion annually in entry duties and taxes through the enforcement of trade and tariff laws. In addition, these employees fulfill the agency’s trade mission by appraising and classifying imported merchandise. These employees serve in positions such as import specialist, auditor, international trade specialist, and textile analyst.
    • The primary goal of the CBP Canine Program is terrorist detection and apprehension. The CBP Canine Program is critical to the mission of the Department of Homeland Security: "To Protect the Homeland." The program conducts the largest number of working dogs of any U.S. federal law enforcement agency. K-9 teams are assigned to 73 commercial ports and 74 Border Patrol stations throughout the nation.[222][223]
  19. When deficiencies in the functioning of the border management system of a Member State are identified by Frontex, the Agency will be empowered to require that Member States to take timely corrective action. In urgent situations that put the functioning of the Schengen area at risk or when deficiencies have not been remedied, the Agency will be able to step in to ensure that action is taken on the ground even where there is no request for assistance from the Member State concerned or where that Member State considers that there is no need for additional intervention.


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