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Since I'm in the Baltics and was looking at a map I noticed that Minsk, Belarus is pretty close.

Years ago travelling Europe, Belarus was one of the countries that had a rule similar to Russia, that I had to travel back to my home country to apply for a visa and couldn't get one while travelling around the region. These rules change all the time so I checked again and saw Australia is on the list for visa-free entry, but only later did I see that only applied if I arrive by air at Minsk Airport.

I've noticed similar rules before, they're not rare. In fact I flew here on a Chinese airline via Shanghai, and could stay there up to 144 hours without needing a visa like every other time I was in China.

But do we know the basis for these rules? Why do countries implement it this way? There must be a common reason (or several) for it to be so common.

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    Speculation: wealthier travelers tend to travel by air, poorer travelers tend to travel by land. – Michael Seifert Nov 29 '19 at 20:04
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    Also just speculation: Not all border crossings are necessarily connected (reliably) to the required IT services or have officers on-site ranked high enough to make the required decisions. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 29 '19 at 20:15
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    A land border can be hundreds or thousand of km long. It can have dozens, hundreds of border crossings. Most of them not cater for local cross border traffic, they don’t have the same manpower, the same equipment, and so on. – jcaron Nov 29 '19 at 22:01
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    I mean, the ultimate answer is because they can. Don’t have a source, though ;p – Jan Dec 3 '19 at 12:39
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    Note that the permission to exit the airport in China that you can get on arrival has a distance limitation. I presume it's motivated by a desire to get a bit of money from tourists who would otherwise just sit in the airport waiting for their connecting flight. – WGroleau Feb 16 at 22:40
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@hippietrail

Possibly because a visa stamp in a passport is positive authority issued by their government, nothing more needed by the border guard than to check the date and match the photo to the face.

With visa-free border crossings they still need to positively identify the person and to check against database records that the person is not a known undesirable. Many regional border points a) don't have the full resources to do this (ie electronic passport reading, access to central databases), b) don't have the trust or authority to make such arbitrary decisions for 'randoms/unknowns' to enter.

With the e-visa for places such as India, while this has a very small cost it is virtually a visa-free entry permission (getting the actual stamp from the India embassy before you go costs a lot more), however the entry ports there are limited to certain main airports. Again, this is probably because actual verification of you being you against your visa/passport is done at the entry point (whereas with a passport stamped visa obtained from an embassy the person has been pre-verified).

'Why would they need those for visa-free visitors but not for visitors arriving at those crossings with a visa??'

'Why would they need those for visa-free visitors but not for visitors arriving at those crossings with a visa??'

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There are a range of approaches to visas.

At one extreme, a visa is just permission to travel to a port of entry, where an official will decide whether to admit the traveler. Any operating port of entry has to have people who are authorized to make those decisions, and who can also decide whether to admit visa-free travelers or grant a visa on entry.

At the other extreme, a visa represents a final decision to admit the person, but visa free or visa on entry requires a decision on arrival. Some officials are only authorized to check whether the traveler has a visa, and will admit them if they do, not if they don't. Other officials are also authorized to admit a visa free traveler or grant a visa on entry.

In the second case, especially if there are a lot of small ports of entry, there may not be enough of the fully authorized officials to go around. If so, they are likely to be placed at a few busy locations such as major airports. The remaining locations will only be able to admit foreign travelers who already have visas.

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