While visa policies are the major instrument for regulating and controlling the global flow of people, little is known about how they have changed over time. Accordingly, scholars have expressed the need for large-N data-sets which cover more than one point in time. This article takes up this challenge and presents for the first time a global overview of the changes in visa waiver policies based on a newly created database containing the visa waiver policies of over 150 countries for 1969 and 2010. We find that, on average, visa-free mobility has increased over the past 40 years. However, not everybody has benefited from these developments. In fact, visa waivers are increasingly unequally divided: while citizens of OECD countries and rich countries have gained mobility rights, mobility rights for other regions have stagnated or even diminished, in particular for citizens from African countries. Overall, we find a clear bifurcation in mobility rights, leading to a ‘global mobility divide’.
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