Electronic visas and sports events
Ever since sports events turned into international phenomena, more and more people choose to travel to a foreign country to participate. Sports tourism is a multi-billion-dollar industry, bringing a lot of revenue to hosting countries. Moreover, they are turned into incredible opportunities for the people that live in the country in question. However, one thing that makes possible for everyone to travel abroad for a sports event is the electronic visa.
Let’s take Russia as an example. In 2018, Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup. It was a major event that brought millions of tourists for a few months. They were not there all at once, but overall, the event was a success. For that to happen, the Russian government allowed foreigners to apply online for their travel document. It was a considerable change because getting a visa for Russia was not the easiest thing to do. The process was long and tedious, and the requirements were not so simple to meet for a tourist that had no connection to Russia. If you had a friend or a relative, things would have been more convenient, but other than that, your only chance was to spend a lot of time and energy by going to the Russian embassy.
So, what was the process about? As a ticket holder, you were supposed to get a Fan ID. It was a document that allowed you to enter the stadiums for the games you had a ticket for. On the basis of that ID, you were granted visa-free entry in Russia. It was not a visa per se, but the Fan ID was obtainable online. And that led to a lot of people crossing the Russian borders without a visa. Did it change things? Considerably. Would so many people have gone to see the FIFA World Cup if things were otherwise? You bet. When the formalities are so challenging to deal with, some people prefer to let it go and stay home. But that Fan ID changed everything.
Another perfect example is Saudi Arabia. Its government planned to introduce the electronic visa after the oil prices dropped as a means to increase revenue. They wanted to exploit other resources, and tourism seemed like the best way to do it. They eventually launched the electronic visa system. But first, they had a pilot project. And that was for Formula E. The Ad Diriyah E-Prix took place in Riyadh, and people could apply for a visa online using the ticket they bought for the event. It made things a whole lot easier for participants. You may not be aware of this but getting a visa for Saudi Arabia was not a walk in the park.
The bottom line is that sports visas are a must. We live in a day or age when diplomacy can ensure that everyone enjoys the sports they love without hitting immigration law barriers. A passport should be enough. As you can imagine, there are more countries that provide some ease of access when it comes to sports visas. For instance, Australia has a sports visa (subclass 421), but it does not include fans. It is meant only for competitors and their trainers, and judges. Truth be told, Australia may not be the best example because it is pretty easy to get in as a tourist, but you get the point. It would be a shame not to enjoy a major sports event because of rules that dictate who can and cannot enter the country it happens in.