Coronavirus Temporarily Reduces Global Mobility Gap

The coronavirus crisis has had a powerful impact on mobility. International travel, which for many has become an indispensable part of work and leisure, turned overnight into a dangerous source of infection. When countries reopen, what will the ‘new normal’ look like? While it is impossible to make predictions with any conviction at this early stage, we can examine some of the changes brought on by the crisis and reflect on their potential implications for the future.

First, the coronavirus crisis saw almost every country in the world impose travel bans. Countries either refused to admit any foreigners or banned the entry of specific nationalities or of individuals who had visited certain countries (holders of immigrant visas were usually exempted). The EU, for example, closed its territory to all non-essential visits by third-country nationals. The widespread acceptance of travel bans is remarkable given their extremely bad reputation in recent years: in 2017 when the US administration imposed a ban on immigration from seven countries, the move was widely condemned as racist and xenophobic. Today, such heavy-handed measures have become almost universal.

During the third quarter of 2020, many countries are likely to relax their border policies. Nonetheless, the widespread imposition of entry bans during the peak of the crisis has seen them becoming legitimate instruments in the policy toolbox. Even as countries open their borders, it is expected that numerous governments will use epidemiological concerns as a justification for imposing new immigration restrictions and nationality-targeted travel bans that will mainly be aimed at citizens of developing countries.

Second, the crisis has caused the world’s premium passports to lose some of their shine. For decades, visa policies were designed to keep out illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, and terrorists. Citizens of wealthy and democratic countries – including Canada, the USA, and Western European nations – apparently posed no such risks and enjoyed extensive visa-free travel throughout the world. In the current crisis, a new category of risk has emerged: the spreader. Since the USA and Western Europe were among the world’s hardest-hit areas, their citizens faced stringent mobility restrictions. This is, of course, a temporary situation, but in the long run it is likely to erode the prestige of EU and Western passports.

In conclusion, the coronavirus crisis is expected to make international mobility more restricted, more unpredictable, and less centered on the West. The passports of both developing and developed nations stand to decrease in value, at least temporarily. In such uncertain times, global demand for dual citizenship and investor visas is expected to increase.

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