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Low Quality of Institutions Raises Visa Barriers

The likelihood of being denied a visa depends on the quality of institutions in the applicant's country – such as public administration, corruption response, rule of law, and prevalent norms and values. The same factors play a role in whether residents of a particular country are likely to be granted visa-free entry, according to the study 'Institutions and Visa Regimes' by HSE researchers Kamila Gracheva, Leonid Polischuk, Alexander Yarkin, and Kong Schoors from the University of Ghent, Belgium.

Previous studies attributed visa barriers to factor such as the size of GDP, geography, trade and tourism, and the danger of terrorism. Kamila Gracheva, Research Assistant at the HSE Laboratory for Applied Analysis of Institutions and Social Capital, Leonid Polischuk, Professor at the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences, Alexander Yarkin, lecturer at the same faculty, and Kong Schoors were the first to examine the relationship between visa barriers, on one hand, and formal and informal institutions of the applicant's country, on the other, using international statistics.  

Economists agree that good national institutions can establish better 'rules of the game' for the economy and society and thus improve people’s lives, but is it really true that they can also eliminate or reduce visa barriers for citizens? According to this research, it depends on the type of institution in question. 

Two Types of Institutions

The study's authors identify two main categories of formal institutions: institutions as services and institutions as regulations.

The former include government-provided public services and production factors which enhance economic performance and thus contribute to people's well-being. The study has demonstrated that such institutions do indeed help lower visa barriers by creating opportunities for economic activity domestically and thus reducing the risk of illegal migration to other countries.

The situation is somewhat different for institutions designed to suppress and prevent illegal activity, such as enrichment at the expense of others that economists call ‘rent-seeking’. When strong, such institutions, which include courts and law enforcement agencies, anti-corruption mechanisms, etc., can result in local rent-seekers moving abroad in the hope of finding better luck there. This, according to Polishchuk, can raise concerns in host countries and prompt consular officers to be particularly strict and frequently deny visa applications from citizens of certain countries.

No Entry for People with Low Morals

This, however, does not apply to all countries but depends on the general level of morality and law-abidance in respective societies. According to the study’s authors, the risks of rent-seekers coming from countries where people generally respect the law and adhere to high moral standards are considered minimal, and visa requirements tend to be liberal for travellers from such countries. In contrast, people from countries where morality and respect for law are perceived as low often face visa barriers and restrictions.

The study's authors have developed a theory explaining such effects, which is confirmed by international statistics. The authors used the World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators for data on the quality of instituions, the World Values ​​Survey for data on moral standards, and information from various sources, including databases used by airlines at check-in for international flights, to estimate visa barriers.

"For Russians, the proportion of rejected applications for U.S. and particularly Schengen visas does not exceed 5% and 10%, respectively," according to Polischuk, while for citizens from some other countries, rejections can be as high as 30% for Schengen and 60% for U.S. visas.

The Russian passport's strength is above the global median; in 2013, Russians enjoyed visa-free entry to 95 countries. Nordic passports have the highest rating, enabling their bearers to travel visa-free to 173 countries.

 

Author: Marina Selina, November 09, 2015