In the past month, four regional trade blocs announced plans to move forward with the creation of unified visa regimes modeled on the success of Europe’s Schengen Zone. Although the plans are initially focused on tourism, the unified visas could allow business travelers to visit multiple countries on one business trip. A summary of recent events in each region follows:

Southeast Asia

The five countries of the Mekong River Delta began talks to create a unified tourist visa. The common visa would allow seamless travel between Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.

East Africa

The leaders of five East African Community nations agreed to pursue a unified tourist visa at a summit in Kenya. The participating countries are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda.

Southern Africa

The 15 countries of the Southern African Development Community recommitted themselves to the plan for a unified visa. Member nations are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Persian Gulf

Several regional newspapers reported that the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council may introduce a unified visa as early as 2014. Participating countries include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The plans are likely to encounter bureaucratic obstacles, and it may take years before the proposed unified visas are implemented. However, the trend may prove valuable for employers who have business interests in these regions.

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