Getting a visa for Zambia, I had an insight, expecting that countries with lower GDP per capita would also charge more for visas. Zambia, with a GDP per capita of 1500 USD and my visa costing 80 euros at least being an anecdotal indication. True, I could have gone for the most basic visa at 50 euros, but that would still been a rather sizable chunk of money, particularly compared to the country’s GDP per capita.
So I decided to set out and investigate. I took the GDP per capita figures from the CIA Factbook and obtained the visa costs, for Dutch nationals, from Visumdienst.nl, with some missing information being filled in by worldtravelguide.net and QatarVisitor.com.
Of course, countries don’t offer identical types of visas, so I limited myself to the most simple, though not transit, visa available. Mostly, this would end up being a single entry visa valid for one month.
As I looked for the cost of visas at embassies in the Netherlands, most prices were in euros, so, as the GDP figures are in USD, I converted the visa cost to USD, so that the resulting ratio of the visa cost and the GDP indicates what portion of the GDP is in fact the cost of a visa. For the exchange rates, I took today’s rates as returned by Google. For some countries, no visa is available in Holland, requiring a traveler to get the visa at the border or at a more nearby consulate.
The chart below is a scatter plot, showing the correlation between the GDP per capita and the cost of a visa for Dutch nationals. Some of the outliers are explicitly labeled.
What should be immediately obvious is that the vast majority of the plotted points either hug the x-axis or the y-axis. For the former, this resulted in my surprise that the vast amount of countries do not require Dutch nationals to pay for a tourist visa. Obviously, as a Dutchie, you don’t need a visa for Europe, but with a total of some 120 countries not requiring a visa, that’s only about a third of the story.
For the points hugging the y-axis, it shows that there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between the height of GDP per capita and visa cost. However, a high visa expense does almost exclusively indicate a low GDP per capita.
Notable outliers include the oil rich Equatorial Guinea, which has the highest visa cost in the world, together with Angola, but has a sizable GDP per capita. Similarly, and surprisingly, Australia also requires a large expensive for obtaining a visa. However, they also provide for a cheap digital alternative.
On the other end, the GDPs per capita of Liechtenstein and Qatar are unreasonably high. For Qatar, rich in oil, I suspect that a lot of the people within its borders are in fact not counted as citizens, boosting the GDP per capita. For Liechtenstein, this high GDP per capita is likely related to it being one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens. Incidentally, Liechtenstein is also the world’s largest producer of sausage casings and false teeth. So you know.
The chart below shows, for the 80 or so countries that charge visa fees for Dutch nationals, the portion of their GDP per capita which is the cost of the visa.
It is telling that the first 15 spots are all occupied by African countries, with Sierra Leone and the DRC both asking more than 25% of the GDP per capita for obtaining a visa. However, these countries also have a huge informal economy, meaning that these numbers, as they are for several other countries in the list, are quite speculative.
Nevertheless, a total of 54 countries put the cost of a visa at 1%, or more, of their GDP per capita.
Making the first chart a bit more insightful, with information from the second chart yields the graph below. Here, countries with no visa cost have been left out and different markers are used for countries which, respectively, ask more than 10% of their GDP per capita for a visa, countries that ask between 1% and 10% and countries which ask less than 1%.
The averages for these three groups are 93, 79 and 54 USD, which could indicate that, as a nation’s GDP per capita rises, its visa costs decrease.
To investigate this further, I first ranked the countries by the percentage cost of visas, then averaged the costs of the visa for 10 consecutively listed countries. The result is shown below.
Although only marginally, there seems to be an indication that, indeed, as the relative cost of the visa decreases, the absolute cost of the visa also decreases. In other words, this could mean that as individuals in a country start to earn more, their governments will decrease the cost of a visa to their country.