You are here: Home Department for Comparative Research on Democracies Projects Global social inequality and the development of international visa policies

Global social inequality and the development of international visa policies

Research conducted by Lena Laube

Visa-free travel to the EU in 1969                      and in  2010

Visa free travel EU 1969.jpg              Visa free travel EU 2010.jpg

Source: Visa Network Data, own presentation

In the second half of the twentieth century, Europe, with its area of ​​free movement for citizens and tourists, developed into a prominent, albeit extreme, example of mobility control. On a global scale, state-given chances of free entry to another country are often much more limited. As a rule, an application must be made for a visa and passport documents must be provided, before international borders can be crossed. Under international law there is no right to enter another country (with the exception of non-refoulement requirement of international refugee protection). Nevertheless, almost all the countries on the planet tend to conclude agreements with specific countries about visa free entry for the citizens. These inter-state relations express confidence and willingness to cooperate.

But what factors determine to which other country a "positive” visa relationship is sent? How has the global structure of this policy field changed in the past decades under the impression of increased international mobility? The data collection includes the years 1969, 2010, and 2014 and provides the information on whether there was an agreement between two countries on the visa exemption and whether this relationship was one-way or reciprocal. By means of a network analysis, the structure of the global network and its change is analysed, as well as the role of democracy/ autocracy, economic wealth, political alliances and the colonial history of the countries.

Moreover, the empirical results are confronted with questions concerning global social inequality and the individual right to free movement.

VisaNetworkData for 1969 and 2010


  • Laube, Lena (2019): The Relational Dimension of Externalizing Border Control: Selective Visa Policies in Migration and Border Diplomacy. In: Comparative Migration Studies 7(29): 1-22. doi: 10.1186/s40878-019-0130-x
  • Lena Laube (2018) Was ist (m)ein Pass wert? Ungleiche Mobilitätsrechte, der strategische Erwerb von Staatsbürgerschaft und Migrations- und Grenzdiplomatie. In: Dörte Bischoff und Miriam Rürup (eds.) Ausgeschlossen: Staatsbürgerschaft, Staatenlosigkeit und Exil. Jahrbuch Exilforschung, 243-267.
  • Lena Laube (2017) Global social inequality, nationality and territorial access. The case of the global visa regime. Paper written for the Conference "Border, Fences, Firewalls. Assessing the Changing Relationship of Territory and Institutions" at the Max-PIanck-Insitut zur Erforschung multi-religiöser und multi-ethnischer Gesellschaften, 19./20.10.2017, Göttingen.
  • Lena Laube (2017) 'Asyl fängt ja erst an, wenn er [der Flüchtling] wirklich hier ist.' Der Wandel europäischer Visapolitik und seine Implikationen für den Zugang zu Asylverfahren in der EU. In: Christian Lahusen und Stephanie Schneider (eds.) Asyl verwalten. Theoretische Perspektiven und empirische Befunde zur bürokratischen Bearbeitung eines gesellschaftlichen Problems. Bielefeld: transcript.
  • Laube, Lena / Heidler, Richard (2016) Democratic Center, Autocratic Isolates: The Changing Field of International Visa Policies. in: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2016.1176906, 13 May 2016).
  • Mau, Steffen/ Gülzau, Fabian/ Laube, Lena/ Zaun, Natascha (2015) The Global Mobility Divide. How Visa Policies have Evolved over Time. In: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41 (8): 1-22.
Document Actions