Supranational Settlement Blocs (SSBs)

Where citizenship in one country lets you live in multiple others

The world has at least 10 full-fledged Supranational Settlement Blocs (SSBs) – groups of countries where citizenship in one member state grants the possibility to settle permanently in all the others, either automatically or with only minimal documentation requirements.

A further 7 country groups are what we characterize as “proto-SSBs”; blocs that offer some mobility benefits for member country citizens, but typically only to a limited segment of the population and not based on rights but on privileges.

Note that several countries are members of more than one SSB. The Nordic countries are part of both the EU/EEA SSB, as well as the Nordic Passport Union SSB. Each of the Andean Community countries are also part of the MERCOSUR Residence Agreement. 

The EU/EEA Settlement Bloc

Consisting of the 27 European Union countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, this is the world’s largest SSB in terms of number of countries covered. 

Citizens of each participating state can freely settle in the others without needing visas or permits.

Participating Countries:

🇦🇹 Austria 🇩🇪 Germany 🇲🇹 Malta 🇧🇪 Belgium 🇬🇷 Greece 🇳🇱 Netherlands 🇧🇬 Bulgaria 🇭🇺 Hungary 🇳🇴 Norway 🇭🇷 Croatia 🇮🇸 Iceland 🇵🇱 Poland 🇨🇾 Cyprus 🇮🇪 Ireland 🇵🇹 Portugal 🇨🇿 Czech Republic 🇮🇹 Italy 🇷🇴 Romania 🇩🇰 Denmark 🇱🇻 Latvia 🇸🇰 Slovakia 🇪🇪 Estonia 🇱🇮 Liechtenstein 🇸🇮 Slovenia 🇫🇮 Finland 🇱🇹 Lithuania 🇪🇸 Spain 🇫🇷 France 🇱🇺 Luxembourg 🇸🇪 Sweden

The MERCOSUR-RA Settlement Bloc

Stretched across 16.4 million km², the Mercosur Residence Agreement SSB is the world’s largest in terms of area covered.

The agreement gives the citizens of each participating state the right to obtain residency in the others as long as they can demonstrate a clean criminal record.

The individual must apply for an initial two-year residence permit (to which he has a right), which he can subsequently convert to permanent status and eventually citizenship.

Note that not all Mercosur member countries are signatories to the Mercosur Residence Agreement, that Bolivia is still in the process of accession, and that Venezuela is suspended.

Participating Countries:

🇦🇷 Argentina 🇧🇴 Bolivia (accession pending) 🇧🇷 Brazil 🇨🇱 Chile 🇨🇴 Colombia 🇪🇨 Ecuador 🇵🇪 Peru 🇵🇾 Paraguay 🇺🇾 Uruguay

The CARICOM-CSME Settlement Bloc

Just as not all Mercosur countries are signatories to the Residency Agreement, not all Caricom states are part of the Single Market & Economy (CSME) agreement.

While comprising 12 countries, the Caricom SME covers an area of just 0.42 million km², a combined population of just 7 million, and an aggregate GDP of just over $60 billion, making it the smallest SSB on our list.

Note also that the right to settle across the bloc is limited to those who can obtain a “Skill Certificate” in one of the member countries, which can restrict the movement of unskilled labor.

Participating Countries:

🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda 🇧🇧 Barbados 🇧🇿 Belize 🇩🇲 Dominica 🇬🇩 Grenada 🇬🇾 Guyana 🇯🇲 Jamaica 🇰🇳 Saint Kitts and Nevis 🇱🇨 Saint Lucia 🇻🇨 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 🇸🇷 Suriname 🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Settlement Bloc

While subject to occasional political disruptions, the Gulf Cooperation Council allows for free movement and settlement of its nationals across the bloc. 

Citizens of each participating state can freely reside in the others without the need for visas or permits.

The bloc is home to 58 million, about two-thirds of whom live in Saudi Arabia.

Participating Countries:

🇧🇭 Bahrain 🇰🇼 Kuwait 🇴🇲 Oman 🇶🇦 Qatar 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia 🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates

The Nordic Passport Union (NPU) Settlement Bloc

Consisting of the culturally and (except for Finland) linguistically affiliated Nordic countries, the NPU is the oldest SSB on our list, dating back to the 1950s.

Citizens of each participating state can freely settle in the others without the need for visas or permits.

Note, however, that because all the NPU countries are also members of both the European Economic Area and Schengen, the NPU is mostly redundant from the perspective of settlement rights.

Participating Countries:

🇩🇰 Denmark 🇫🇮 Finland 🇮🇸 Iceland 🇳🇴 Norway 🇸🇪 Sweden

The Common Travel Area (CTA) Settlement Bloc

The CTA SSB allows the citizens of Ireland and the United Kingdom (including its crown dependencies Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man) to freely move and settle anywhere within the bloc.

Holding renewed relevance in the wake of Brexit, this SSB is home to some 73 million people and a combined GDP of $3.7 trillion.

Participating Countries:

🇬🇬 Guernsey 🇮🇪 Ireland 🇮🇲 Isle of Man 🇯🇪 Jersey 🇬🇧 United Kingdom

The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) Settlement Bloc

The TTA SSB allows Australians and New Zealanders to settle freely in each other’s countries without any need for special permits or visas.

New Zealand, in fact, extends the same courtesy also to permanent residents of Australia.

Participating Countries:

🇦🇺 Australia 🇳🇿 New Zealand

The Compact of Free Association (CoFA) Settlement Bloc

A legacy of the US trusteeship of certain Pacific island nations in the wake of WWII, Americans are free to reside indefinitely in the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau – and vice versa. 

Note, however, that nationals of the mentioned Pacific countries are only permitted to travel to the US and apply for admission as non-immigrants as long as they are natural-born citizens or acquired citizenship in 1986.

Participating Countries:

🇲🇭 Marshall Islands 🇫🇲 Micronesia 🇵🇼 Palau 🇺🇸 United States

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Settlement Bloc

Citizens of the EAEU member states generally have the right to freely move (visa-free and often using only national IDs) and reside within the territories of each member state. 

While they don’t need work permits or visas to visit or remain in each others’ countries, they may still need to register longer stays with local authorities.

Detailed regulations regarding access to social services and similar vary somewhat between member states.

Participating Countries:

🇦🇲 Armenia 🇧🇾 Belarus 🇰🇿 Kazakhstan 🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan 🇷🇺 Russia

The Andean Community (CAN) Settlement Bloc

Citizens of the Comunidad Andina (CAN) countries can enter each others’ countries without a visa and using only national ID as identification.

Moreover, upon presenting valid identity documents and police certificate, citizens of each country can obtain a two-year temporary residence permit.

Those who additionally demonstrate a legal means of livelihood for themselves and their family members may obtain a permanent residence permit from the outset, without first going through the two-year temporary residence period. 

Similar to the Nordic Passport Union, the CAN SSB is an SSB within an SSB: All CAN countries are also members of MERCOSUR’s residence agreement (accession pending for Bolivia). This provides another layer of guaranteed access to the Andean countries, should the MERCOSUR residence agreement undergo fragmentation.

 

Participating Countries:

🇧🇴 Bolivia 🇨🇴 Colombia 🇪🇨 Ecuador 🇵🇪 Peru

Proto-Supranational Settlement Blocs

A number of political or economic blocs have long-term goals of further integration in terms of intra-regional mobility, but are still at too early a stage of integration to be properly characterized as full-fledged SSBs. Examples include:

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Of all the proto-SSBs on our list, this one is the most integrated, and comes quite close to being a full-fledged SSB. The reason it isn’t is that implementation of rules across the bloc remains non-uniform. 

While citizens of each participating state have the right to obtain residency in the others, they still need to apply for a formal residence permit for stays over 90 days.

Such applications are supposed to be simplified for ECOWAS citizens, but reports indicate implementation is not homogenous across the bloc and that border agents have been known to request bribes.

ECOWAS continues to work toward its goal of complete, EU-style freedom of movement and settlement, which has proven challenging in practice.

Participating Countries:

🇧🇯 Benin 🇧🇫 Burkina Faso 🇨🇻 Cape Verde 🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire 🇬🇲 Gambia 🇬🇭 Ghana 🇬🇳 Guinea 🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau 🇱🇷 Liberia 🇲🇱 Mali 🇳🇪 Niger 🇳🇬 Nigeria 🇸🇳 Senegal 🇸🇱 Sierra Leone 🇹🇬 Togo

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP)

Consisting of nine Portuguese-speaking countries with a combined population of nearly 300 million, the CPLP began group chiefly linked only by a common language and cultural affinities. 

In the CPLP Mobility Pact signed in Luanda in 2021, each country committed to cooperate on a mutual framework that would “make short-term and temporary stays more flexible” and to instate a separate CPLP visa category in each member state.

The CPLP visa, which is not yet fully implemented in each member state, generally requires that the applicant demonstrate a clean criminal record and sufficient financial resources. 

The financial sufficiency requirement may be waived under exceptional circumstances, such as where a host entity (typically an employer) undertakes the responsibility for the applicant’s subsistence, or where an applicant has been admitted to an institute of higher education. 

In the case of Portugal (it is not clear what the terms are among several of the other member states) visa is valid for two years, and may be subsequently renewed twice. After five years of residency, the applicant is eligible for permanent residency in Portugal.

Many of the member states don’t offer visa-free travel for each other’s citizens. 

Participating Countries:

🇦🇴 Angola 🇧🇷 Brazil 🇨🇻 Cape Verde 🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea 🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau 🇲🇿 Mozambique 🇵🇹 Portugal 🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe 🇹🇱 Timor-Leste

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Primarily an association aimed at facilitating economic integration, ASEAN offers some limited mobility advantages to citizens of the respective member states.

While citizens of ASEAN member countries generally enjoy visa-free access to other ASEAN countries for periods ranging from 14 to 30 days, this is a function of bilateral agreements rather than a supranational-level accord.

For certain classes of skilled laborers, the ASEAN countries offer unified recognition of qualifications, which can facilitate freedom of movement for such individuals. Nonetheless, residency rights are typically tied to employment, and not automatic.

There have been discussion about introducing a single visa system (modeled on the Schengen visa), but implementation remains checkered.

The member countries’ highly varied economic, political, and developmental profiles have made closer integration challenging. ASEAN may one day become a settlement union, but not in the foreseeable future. 

Participating Countries:

🇧🇳 Brunei 🇰🇭 Cambodia 🇮🇩 Indonesia 🇱🇦 Laos 🇲🇾 Malaysia 🇲🇲 Myanmar 🇵🇭 Philippines 🇸🇬 Singapore 🇹🇭 Thailand 🇻🇳 Vietnam

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Consisting of highly diverse member countries bordering on the Pacific, APEC aims to facilitate economic cooperation among its member states. 

While the group has no specific plans for a broad travel or settlement union, it has produced one tangible mobility-enhancing policy: The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC).

The ABTC, which is issued only to business travelers who generally must document a need for short-term and frequent visits within the bloc, eliminates the need for a visa for short visits. 

What constitutes a business traveler varies by country, where some apply more restrictive criteria than others. Hong Kong, for example, will give it to any kind of bona fide businessperson, while Australia limits availability to businesspeople engaged in international trade, export, and so on.

The card is valid for five years.

Participating Countries:

🇦🇺 Australia 🇧🇳 Brunei 🇨🇦 Canada 🇨🇱 Chile 🇨🇳 China 🇭🇰 Hong Kong 🇮🇩 Indonesia 🇯🇵 Japan 🇲🇾 Malaysia 🇲🇽 Mexico 🇳🇿 New Zealand 🇵🇪 Peru 🇵🇭 Philippines 🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea 🇷🇺 Russia 🇸🇬 Singapore 🇰🇷 South Korea 🇹🇼 Taiwan 🇹🇭 Thailand 🇺🇸 United States 🇻🇳 Vietnam

The Central America 4

Similar to Europe’s Schengen Area, the four Central American countries have established free movement across borders within its bloc.

CA4 citizens are not subject to any restrictions or border controls whatsoever, while foreign nationals admitted to any of the member countries are submitted to border controls only when traveling by air. 

Participating Countries:

🇸🇻 El Salvador 🇬🇹 Guatemala 🇭🇳 Honduras 🇳🇮 Nicaragua

The Pacific Alliance

Citizens of the Pacific Alliance member countries can travel to each other’s countries without a visa for short stays, typically up to 90 or 180 days, depending on bilateral agreements.

Longer stays still require appropriate visas and permits, especially for those intending to work or reside longer-term. However, the Pacific Alliance has made efforts to simplify these processes. 

The alliance has taken steps to ease the acquisition of work permits among the member states. For example, there are agreements that allow residents of one member country to obtain work permits more easily in another member country.

Participating Countries:

🇨🇱 Chile 🇨🇴 Colombia 🇲🇽 Mexico 🇵🇪 Peru

The African Union Passport Initiative

The African Passport initiative is an ambitious plan by the African Union (AU) aimed at fostering greater mobility among the citizens of its 55 member states, enhancing economic integration, and promoting intra-African trade and tourism.

One of the primary goals of the African Passport is to allow free movement of people across Africa. This includes the ability to travel, work, and live within any of the member states without the need for visas.

In 2016, at an AU summit in Kigali, heads of state, diplomats, and other AU officials received African Passports to commence the implementation process. 

The broader rollout to all eligible Africans has been gradual and is still ongoing. The AU’s plan involves collaborating with member states to adopt and integrate the passport into their national systems, which includes technological, legal, and regulatory adjustments.

For now, the African Passport remains a symbol of hope and ambition for continental integration and unity.

Participating Countries:

🇩🇿 Algeria 🇦🇴 Angola 🇧🇯 Benin 🇧🇼 Botswana 🇧🇫 Burkina Faso 🇧🇮 Burundi 🇨🇻 Cape Verde 🇨🇲 Cameroon 🇨🇫 Central African Republic 🇹🇩 Chad 🇰🇲 Comoros 🇨🇩 Congo, Democratic Republic of the 🇨🇬 Congo, Republic of the 🇩🇯 Djibouti 🇪🇬 Egypt 🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea 🇪🇷 Eritrea 🇸🇿 Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) 🇪🇹 Ethiopia 🇬🇦 Gabon 🇬🇲 Gambia 🇬🇭 Ghana 🇬🇳 Guinea 🇬🇼 Guinea-Bissau 🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire 🇰🇪 Kenya 🇱🇸 Lesotho 🇱🇷 Liberia 🇱🇾 Libya 🇲🇬 Madagascar 🇲🇼 Malawi 🇲🇱 Mali 🇲🇷 Mauritania 🇲🇺 Mauritius 🇲🇦 Morocco 🇲🇿 Mozambique 🇳🇦 Namibia 🇳🇪 Niger 🇳🇬 Nigeria 🇷🇼 Rwanda 🇸🇹 São Tomé and Príncipe 🇸🇳 Senegal 🇸🇨 Seychelles 🇸🇱 Sierra Leone 🇸🇴 Somalia 🇿🇦 South Africa 🇸🇸 South Sudan 🇸🇩 Sudan 🇹🇿 Tanzania 🇹🇬 Togo 🇹🇳 Tunisia 🇺🇬 Uganda 🇿🇲 Zambia 🇿🇼 Zimbabwe
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