This new Working Paper by Ettore Recchi, Emanuel Deutschmann, Lorenzo Gabrielli and Nodira Kholmatova present a novel dataset based on a manual collection of visa costs. It reveals a strong global visa cost divide that raises important questions about the injustice regarding the right to travel for people located in different areas of the world.
Visas are an important means for countries to regulate incoming mobility flows. Past datasets and quantitative research on visas have focused on visa waivers, ignoring the fact that visas, where demanded, can vary greatly by cost. This paper presents a novel dataset based on a manual collection of visa costs for travel between a global set of country pairs in seven different categories (tourist, work, student, family reunification, business, transit, and other). Our analyses reveal a strong global visa cost divide that raises important questions about the injustice regarding the right to travel for people located in different areas of the world. Whereas Europeans usually hardly have to work at all for travel permits, visa costs often amount to several weeks or even months of mean income in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Regression analyses show that these discriminatory practices are explained by the (lack of) economic prosperity and (flawed) state of democracy in the country of origin. This suggests that the global visa cost regime is driven by a rationale of economic and political control and exclusion rather than blatant racism. The result is a fundamentally paradoxical situation: the richer a country, the less its citizens pay for visas to go abroad (both in absolute terms and relative to their income).