36

Is there anywhere else in the world where people can (legally) cross an international border without any immigration check, like in the Schengen area? (Assuming pre-Covid-19 pandemic situation)

If not, is there any serious project to have an Schengen-like area anywhere else in the world ?

Notice: I am not looking for custom unions, including micro-states delegating their custom to their neighbour.

15
  • 6
    Anyway, this sounds not really like a political question but rather like a travel question. Perhaps we should migrate it to travel.stackexchange.com?
    – Philipp
    Mar 16 at 10:37
  • 22
    @Philipp I disagree, border control policy is clearly in the remain of politics and I'm not interested in traveling myself (at least not in the context of this question).
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16 at 11:34
  • 5
    I'll just leave this as a comment because it today is replaced with Schengen. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nordic_Passport_Union Mar 16 at 13:59
  • 17
    (+1) Note that the Schengen area is not a customs union, there are in fact several Schengen members who do maintain a customs border and customs check with the European Union (Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway). Conversely, Ireland (the whole island) is part of the EU customs union but never lifted immigration checks.
    – Relaxed
    Mar 16 at 17:12
  • 7
    The Schengen area is also unique in that it established a common visa policy for third-country nationals and partly harmonized immigration rules (at least when it comes to short visits). Other formal border-free agreements (e.g. CTA, Benelux, Nordic Passport Union) or simply loosely enforced borders (e.g. Switzerland pre-Schengen) never officially entailed a full recognition of the member's visas. The risks were just deemed low enough to make systematic check of each border crossing unnecessary.
    – Relaxed
    Mar 16 at 17:19
53

Central America-4 Border Control Agreement is probably an example of what you are searching for.

Is a treaty between 4 Central American countries that allows the free movement across borders. They also have a common-design passport:

  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua

Further details on Wikipedia page - it even mentions the similarity to the Schengen Agreement.

4
  • 6
    I agree that the CA-4 is a great example and, to my knowledge, the international agreement that most closely resembles the Schengen one. However, it is very poorly implemented - as a foreigner I have always, no exception, experienced border checks and delays while crossing inner CA-4 borders. It always felt like a regular border crossing. Free movement inside CA-4 is a pipe dream, it's certainly nothing like Schengen where you might even fail to notice you've entered a different country.
    – magma
    Mar 18 at 18:12
  • 1
    @magma can you cross the border willy-nilly if you're a citizen though? Does anyone check IDs? Mar 18 at 23:10
  • @JonathanReez in my experience, everyone around me was being stopped and questioned, regardless of nationality. They didn't just check IDs, they checked luggage, one by one. For instance, crossing Honduras/Nicaragua (a CA-4 crossing) and crossing Nicaragua/CostaRica (an international crossing) has always been a very similar experience for me. ID Checks, luggage inspection, long lines.
    – magma
    Mar 19 at 0:06
  • 1
    @magma then I'd say this answer should not be the accepted one. Doesn't sound like its truly an open border. Mar 19 at 1:14
23
  • Common Travel Area
    United Kingdom, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.
  • CARICOM
    Not quite sure if it is "no stamps" or "no checks."
  • GCC
    Not quite sure if it is "no stamps" or "no checks."
12
  • 2
    In the CTA, the freedom of movement only applies to CTA citizens - a non citizen needs a passport. In the Schengen area, once anyone is in, they do not need to show their passport to cross an internal border (except by plane, but there is no visa check, only an id check)
    – CSM
    Mar 17 at 22:06
  • 2
    @CSM, I thought the CTA had literally no border checkpoints these days. Same in Schengen, even if people crossing the border must carry their papers -- just no routine controls.
    – o.m.
    Mar 18 at 5:28
  • 1
    @CSM Note that the ID check before intra-Schengen flights is just something that several airlines do at their discretion, typically to prevent illegal reselling of their tickets. It will be a gate agent who checks your ID, not a government official. The rules of Schengen prohibit systematic official ID checks for internal border crossings of any kind.
    – TooTea
    Mar 18 at 8:28
  • 2
    @o.m. There are no routine border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but it’s still illegal for a non-UK and non-Irish citizen to cross the border without the appropriate visa.
    – Mike Scott
    Mar 18 at 12:14
  • 3
    @MikeScott, it is also illegal to cross an intra-Schengen border without the appropriate visa. But for practical reasons, most Schengen visas are issued with the full Schengen scope.
    – o.m.
    Mar 18 at 15:36
18

The Vatican is internationally recognized as a independent state. However it is very small (0.44 square km) and does not a have visible border with Italy/Rome. Everybody can walk freely between the two areas. Italian police even have full authority on public grounds in the Vatican.

9
  • 7
    And it's located within the Schengen area anyway.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 16 at 16:33
  • 24
    Yes, but The Vatican is not part of the EU or Schengen. Mar 16 at 18:42
  • 4
    I guess the arrangement between the Vatican and Italy pre-dates the Schengen agreement. Can anybody more knowledgeable comment on that?
    – Dohn Joe
    Mar 17 at 8:01
  • 16
    No, Vatican allows free access only to S.Peter square, the church and few other places. To access to the Supermarket and the Pharmacy you need to make an authorization at the borders (S.Anna entrance). To access to offices and other places you need to be resident, employee or have other authorizations.
    – effedici
    Mar 17 at 8:59
  • 8
    @terdon You are correct, you won't even notice the border - also even though it's close to Italy you need to cross France unless you go by sea. In all cases my OP wasn't for micro-states.
    – Bregalad
    Mar 17 at 11:49
18

Mercosur!

It stands for Mercado común del Sur (or Southern Common Market). It is a union of 4 South American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and Associated States (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru).

Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency.

Personally, I have crossed the Brazil-Uruguay border a bunch of times and no-one has asked me for documents.

14

This is no longer true, but I feel like it's recent enough to be worth answering.

Travel for most people between the US and Canada used to not require any documentation as recently as 2009. I remember going to Canada as a kid, and while the border was guarded, they generally didn't stop personal vehicles, only trucks.

8
  • 12
    I grew up in Canada in the 1960s, an hour's drive from the US border. We were very rarely asked for paperwork. When I met my (now) wife in the early 1980s, it was still like that. But, her family immigrated from Egypt. They spoke fluent, unaccented French, but they were visibly Arab. I remember arriving at a border crossing with her and her parents, sitting in the back seat behind her father (the driver). As we were driving up, her father said "everyone get their drivers license" (odd to me). When we got there, the guard said "I need IDs from you and you and you", skipping me.
    – Flydog57
    Mar 17 at 0:10
  • 11
    This is not really comparable to Schengen. When I crossed from Germany to the Netherlands in the 1990s, I only knew because the language on the signage had changed. There was literally no border post whatsoever.
    – Matthew
    Mar 17 at 2:34
  • 9
    And when we crossed from Switzerland to France, we only know because the signs themselves are different, even though the language is the same :)
    – Bregalad
    Mar 17 at 7:56
  • 1
    @Matthew: I hope you remembered to adjust your speed. Driving 150 in Germany is a bit on the slow side, driving 150 in the Netherlands will cost you your license. More seriously, new crossings (such as the A61) indeed have been built entirely without facilities for border controls, not even for trucks.
    – MSalters
    Mar 18 at 12:16
  • 4
    @hojusaram indeed. Unguarded crossings between the US and Canada are similar to the Schengen area in one respect, but completely unlike it in most respects. One thing that people often confuse is the freedom of movement afforded to EU citizens (which applies across external Schengen borders) and the freedom of movement afforded to everyone inside the Schengen area (which applies only to internal borders). But the former US-Canada situation is analogous to neither, really, as it was more about allocation of resources to enforcement than about freedom of movement.
    – phoog
    Mar 18 at 15:24
13

The five Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland) have had various forms of cooperation agreements since the 1960s, which among others have included travel without passport. The Schengen Agreement has in many ways superseded these agreements since both Norway and Iceland, despite not being in EU, have in effect conformed to Schengen rules.

1
  • 4
    Norway is in Schengen, as is Iceland. Schengen overlaps with the EU rather than being the same set of countries. Ireland, for example, is not part of it. Mar 17 at 8:25
12

The Schengen area is an adaptation of the US Constitutional guarantees that allow free travel and qualified immunities for US citizens traveling between US states. Remember, the US was originally conceived as a set of more-or-less sovereign states that would band together for common defense and common interests, much like the modern EU. It has since federalized into a stronger union, so that it now appears as a singular nation with component states, but the history is there.

10
  • 44
    Can you provide any source for this? I find it highly unlikely that it was adapted from the US constitution. The Schengen area started out with just five members. There were many other passport unions around simultaneously, such as the one between Ireland and Great Britain, and the Nordic passport union. I think a larger passport union would have naturally formed, with or without the US as inspiration, as European countries got more economically integrated. You seem to imply that Schengen arose as part of EU, but it didn't. Also note that EU's purpose is not to provide a common defense.
    – C. E.
    Mar 17 at 8:57
  • 14
    Both the Schengen area and the US Constitutional guarantees that allow dree travel are adaptation of the Ius Migrationis of the ancient Rome.
    – fraxinus
    Mar 17 at 10:43
  • 10
    The Schengen area is nothing like the US -- and it wasn't inspired by it. Schengen predates the EU (1985, Maastricht Treaty is from 1992). Only 22 of the 27 EU members participate in the Schengen Area, and the EFTA states are associated Schengen States which for all intents and purposes makes them Schengen States, but they aren't EU members. Its not comparable with the US, who actually are one country ("one nation under god"), not in implementation, actual reality and history.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 17 at 12:10
  • 6
    This is interesting and may be factual, but it doesn't answer the question. The question is about international borders. Mar 17 at 13:51
  • 18
    @TedWrigley "Is there anywhere else in the world where people can (legally) cross an international border without any customs check, like in the Schengen area?" Mar 17 at 15:16
4

The Compact of Free Association allows free trade and travel between the United States and three sovereign countries: the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau.

Since 2004, passports are required; however, this is not much different from the identification requirements for air travel within the United States.

4
  • 3
    For context for those who may not be familiar with the background here, those countries all used to be part of the U.S.-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands following World War II, before gaining independence between the 1970s (Micronesia and the Marshall Islands) and the 1990s (Palau.) Between WWI and WWII, they were part of the Japanese-administered South Seas Mandate.
    – reirab
    Mar 18 at 0:44
  • At least one of them was also involved in nuclear weapons testing by the U.S.
    – DrSheldon
    Mar 18 at 1:01
  • 2
    Yes, the Pacific Proving Grounds was largely located inside the modern-day state of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, especially Bikini Atoll. Under the CFA, the U.S. continues to provide military protection for each of the member countries and is granted military bases. They continue to be missile test sites, though obviously not still nuclear test sites.
    – reirab
    Mar 18 at 1:15
  • 2
    Passport requirement is quite different from identification requirement. Mar 18 at 10:33
-2

Apparently there is a legal loophole that you can pass the border between Russia and Norway freely as long as it is not by car or by foot. So a few years ago a large number of Syrian refugees traversed this border by bike.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugees-crossing-border-norway-bicycles-exploit-legal-loophole

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-arctic-idUSKCN0R325N20150903

1
  • 2
    I think you have misunderstood the situation. It's prohibited to cross on foot, and refugees can't realistically cross as a hitch-hiker or in a rental car. Therefore, the cheapest way to get to the border legally is by bike, and at the border, the refugees can then legally apply for asylum with the Norwegian authorities.
    – gerrit
    Mar 19 at 10:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .