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As per Wikipedia:

As of 1 January 2017, Mauritian citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 131 countries and territories, ranking the Mauritian passport 33rd in terms of travel freedom according to the Henley visa restrictions index. As of December 2017, Grenada, Serbia, Seychelles and Mauritius are the only countries whose citizens may travel without a visa to China, Russia and the Schengen Area.

Mauritius does not have the bargaining power of European Union, it is not a superpower, it does not play an important role in global politics.

What gives it the edge? I know about visa reciprocity, but Mauritius needs some bargaining power.

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    The title is a bit misleading and could use some editing... – Polygnome Jan 7 '18 at 22:09
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    It was changed to a much more accurate summary of the key question point, but edited back to the misleading form, which is circular (it's valuable because people value it...) and does not describe the question much at all. – Nij Jan 16 '18 at 10:37
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For many countries, the decision to allow visa free travel is based on the likelihood of abuse of the immigration system. In the case of Mauritius, the judgement is that Mauritian citizens do not represent a significant risk of overstaying. Mauritius has a stable democratic government and a successful economy, so Mauritian citizens are happy to return home. On the other hand, Mauritius is not so rich that it feels the need to protect itself from immigration. It is happy to allow visa free travel to encourage the tourist industry.

Mauritius has a diverse population, with links to the UK, France (former colonial rulers), India and China (significant demographics). It has good relations with the superpowers and has benefited from this.

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    Two additional points: 1) Mauritius is a small country (population ~1M, not all of which are citizens or can even have a Mauritius passport) thus further lowering the risks. Had it 1.5 billion inhabitants, even with the same GDP per capita, the same stability and the same economy, I doubt it would enjoy such favourable visa requirements. 2) Mauritius is a very popular tourist destination, so it does have a certain amount of bargaining power, though of course much lower than the one of EU or let’s say Canada, etc. – Zozor Jan 8 '18 at 8:40
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    1 additional point: Geography. It is an isolated island. – Stian Yttervik Jan 8 '18 at 13:20
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    Can this answer be backed up? Who says that visa systems work this way, or that Mauritians represents a low-risk of overstaying? – indigochild Jan 8 '18 at 14:04
  • @indigochild You have made a valid point regarding low-risk of overstaying of Mauritians. It would be better if James can provide more factual analysis. I am not accepting the answer till then. – Nikhil Jan 8 '18 at 16:38
  • @indigochild The U.S. visa waiver program certainly does work that way. A country's eligibility for the U.S. VWP is based on the percentage of rejected visa applications from that country. That said, Mauritius does not qualify for the U.S. VWP. – reirab Jan 9 '18 at 13:26
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The premise of this question is questionable. The Mauritian passport is not especially strong.

The Wikipedia article quoted in the question is citing the Henley and Partners Visa Restrictions Index 2017 (PDF). While this is a reputable source, it uses consecutive numbers for rankings, even if many countries tied at previous ranking levels. It does indeed place Mauritius at rank 33 with 131 visa-free or visa-on-arrival countries. However, contrary to what that ranking might suggest, the number of countries ranked ahead of Mauritius is not 32, but rather 60. For comparison, at ranking 1, Germany has 176 visa-free or visa-on-arrival countries.

The countries ranked ahead of Mauritius include countries with very strong passports like the USA, Canada, nearly all of the EU, Australia, Japan, Singapore, etc. as well as several countries with more medium-strength passports, such as Mexico, Barbados, Uruguay, Argentina, Brunei, etc. Venezuela ranks immediately behind Mauritius.

But the question is why should powerful countries like Germany, USA etc. give this privilege to Mauritius?

The USA does not. Mauritians are not eligible for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and, according to the wiki linked above, require a visa to enter the USA. Additionally, Mauritius is not one of the nominated or 'road-map' countries for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

As for Germany, Germany is part of the Schengen Area, which is a free-movement area that includes most of continental Europe. Thus, visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to any country within the zone effectively grants it for the whole zone, including Germany. Mauritius was a possession of a European power almost continually from 1638 to 1968, including of the Netherlands, France, and the U.K. Having been part of a European country that long and that recently, its social and economic ties to Europe are strong, so having visa-free or visa-on-arrival access is not especially surprising in that case.


Mauritius does not have the bargaining power of European Union, it is not a superpower, it does not play an important role in global politics.

True, but, while those factors may help, they aren't necessary for a country to have visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry to another country. In general, tourism and business travel benefits the destination country, regardless of whether the country of origin is large, small, or a superpower. For most open societies, these forms of temporary immigration are encouraged. What destination countries do not want tends to be the following:

  1. People trying to use tourist or business visitor entry permission to circumvent the country's immigration rules. For example, this would include people who intend to stay in the destination country for an extended period or work there. Almost all countries require a visa to immigrate for such purposes and they don't want people trying to circumvent that process.

  2. People who can't fund their stay. Whether their intentions are to overstay or not, countries don't want visitors who don't actually have the funds they'll need for their stay and, thus, will be likely to try to draw on social programs of the destination country instead of paying for their own needs. And they certainly don't want people who might resort to crime (theft, etc.) to pay for their needs. Not everyone has a reasonable understanding of what it really costs to visit a certain area, especially in the case of people from low cost-of-living areas visiting high cost-of-living areas, so even some well-intentioned visitors may fail on this point.

  3. People who may be a security concern for the destination country. For example, countries obviously don't want members of foreign terrorist organizations, drug runners, or hostile foreign spies entering their country.

Thus, destination countries usually consider what is likely to be ratio of legitimate tourists and business travelers using a visa waiver or visa-on-arrival program to people from the above three categories misusing it when considering whether to grant access to these programs to nationals of a given country. Even if a country is small and not necessarily a large player in global politics, if it's stable, friendly, and has citizens who can generally support themselves and will want to return home after a visit, it's beneficial to a destination country to make it easier for people to visit from that country. It's cheaper for the destination country to process a visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry and it also raises tourism and international trade income, due to people being more likely to visit when it's easier to do so. It's generally a win-win as long as people aren't misusing it.

Wikipedia also has a decent article on the concerns that prompt countries to require visas. In the cases where those concerns are not as large, countries will normally be more willing to grant visa-free or visa-on-arrival entries.

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Tourist destinations that are also small countries often get favorable visa terms. In a similar fashion, the US and many Carribean nations work under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which allows visa-free entry to many of these nations, but only by land or sea (you still have to have a visa to travel by air). It's a win-win

  • Makes it easier for the smaller nations to get tourists
  • Makes it easier for domestic tourists to travel without having to go through the hassle of obtaining a visa
  • Tourist destinations that are also small countries might allow visa-free to more countries. But the question is why should they get favourable visa terms? – Nikhil Jan 8 '18 at 16:40
  • @Nikhil The second part of my answer covers that. Tourism is a powerful lure. Helps domestic and foreign tourism alike. – Machavity Jan 8 '18 at 16:42
  • It is true that not having to bother about visa makes it hassle-free. But the question is why should powerful countries like Germany, USA etc give this privilege to Mauritius (even if Mauritius wants to boost its tourism)? – Nikhil Jan 8 '18 at 16:45
  • @Nikhil Because German tourists are booking(and paying taxes) in Germany. Just like the US benefits from the cruise industry (employment, taxes, port fees, etc) – Machavity Jan 8 '18 at 16:51
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My answer is a combination of three ingredients:

  1. Commonwealth heritage
  2. Neutral geographical location (free of international meddling)
  3. Other accidental geographical advantages

Mauritius is part of the Commonwealth, which gives it a financial edge in tax treaties and international banking, where other Commonwealth and former Commonwealth countries are concerned. Its shared Commonwealth history also gives it the same shared cultural values, the same institutions, the same legal and administrative frameworks, the same shared official language, and a lot of the same shared wealth.

And at the same time, Mauritius is still a small independent country and it is so remote from other world powers and far enough away from African countries that it's not threatened geographically by those other countries or those other world powers, nor does it threaten those others by its very location.

And in the end, it's not just those two things. Its unique geographical location makes it a unique nice tourist destination, but its proximity to Africa makes it also an ideal independent outpost and an ideal tax haven for international corporations wishing to transfer capital to and from Africa.

OFFSHORE SECRECY

Tax Haven Mauritius’ Rise Comes At The Rest Of Africa’s Expense

Companies are rushing to the island nation to benefit from secrecy and tax benefits.

source

  • Do other tax havens have good visas ? I see why it motivates the mauritians to make it easy to come to their country. Not the opposite. – user5751924 Jan 8 '18 at 13:41
  • @user5751924 - a significant income of many tax haven countries (I don't know much about Mauritius in this regard, so couldn't say for sure it applies here) is that they will usually permit immigration to individuals who have over some certain threshold amount of money they're prepared to invest in the local economy (usually a quite large amount). Such a deal wouldn't be as attractive to people who would then require a visa to return to their native country, so there is motivation for them to negotiate such deals. – Jules Jan 8 '18 at 19:58

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