Ukraine introduces visa regime for Russians: how it works

On July 1, the visa regime with Russia came into force in Ukraine. Now Russians cannot enter the territory of Ukraine without a visa. That decision was made because the Russian Federation launched a full-scale war against Ukraine.



Ukraine has been gradually making it more difficult for Russians to enter since the annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in Donbas in 2014.

At first, the country demanded a foreign passport instead of an internal one; Russians were thoroughly screened at the border, but Ukraine hesitated to introduce visas before a full-scale invasion.

And so on June 17, the government, at the president’s request, canceled the intergovernmental agreement of 1997 on visa-free travel and suspended the agreement of 2011 on simplified movement in the border regions of Russia and Ukraine.

After February 24, it was already quite difficult for Russians to enter Ukraine legally – especially since all land crossing points with Russia and Belarus were officially closed.

From now on, Russian citizens must follow a very difficult path to legally enter Ukraine.

What are the exceptions for Russians? How and where can they get a Ukrainian visa? How much does it cost? Will they be allowed to cross the border with all the documents?

“We are finally severing any ties with Russia to counter unprecedented threats to national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of our state,” is how the head of the government, Denys Shmyhal, explained the introduction of visas.

But the Ukrainian embassy and consulates in Russia have been closed since the beginning of the invasion.

A few days after the government’s decision, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that Russian citizens in Russia could apply for Ukrainian visas at outside service providers.

Ukraine has now identified an international operator VFS Globalsuch as a company that will accept documents in eight Russian cities.

These are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don, and Samara.

“These visa requests will be processed by Ukrainian diplomatic institutions in third countries in cooperation with Ukrainian competent authorities,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains how these arrangements will be applied.

However, this procedure will not work because VFS Global closed its visa centers in Russia on March 16 due to the war.

It is still unknown when it will reopen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is aware of this situation.

“We spoke with the company that issues visas. As soon as it can function, it will be working on these issues. Whenever there is an opportunity, the submission of documents will be possible on the Russian territory through this independent external service provider,” Nikolenko explained.

Another and currently the only way for Russians to get a visa requires going abroad.

“Citizens of the Russian Federation who are in the territory of third states can apply for Ukrainian visas at foreign diplomatic institutions of Ukraine in these countries,” announced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

That is, to obtain a Ukrainian visa, Russians must go, for example, to Estonia, Poland, Moldova, or another country and apply for a visa there.

The Department of Consular Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Russians will be able to obtain visas at Ukrainian embassies in other countries on general grounds with a standard package of documents with the usual consular fee – 65 dollars.

Standard types of visas must be issued – transit (B), short-term (C), and long-term (D).

“Russians will not be able to get electronic visas under a simplified procedure and with a much lower fee,” Oleg Nikolenko clarified.

Taking into account relations between people it is predicted that Russians will apply for visas despite the war.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine indicates that the visa does not guarantee Russian citizens entry. Border guards will consider each case.

Andriy Demchenko, the spokesperson of the border service, explained that they are ready to check visas and have access to all the necessary databases.

He reminded that since the invasion, all checkpoints on the border with Russia and Belarus had been officially closed.

Therefore, Russians can only enter from the EU or Moldova (except for the “Transnistrian segment” of the border, where the checkpoints had also been closed).

“Last year, Russians entered Ukraine 500,000 times, and after February 24, the flow “dropped very significantly,” says Demchenko.

“Since they are citizens of the aggressor country, the verification is intensified, it will be the same after the introduction of the visa regime,” said Demchenko.

In recent months, that border entry screening has involved a lengthy interview and even a look at the personal social media, say some Russians who have recently entered.

Border guards indicate that to cross the border, Russians must show a visa, a passport, have no entry ban, have financial support for their stay, and most importantly – prove the purpose of the visit.

“If not even one requirement is met, then there will be a refusal,” Demchenko points out.

And another important nuance: to obtain visas to Ukraine in EU countries, Russians must first obtain a Schengen visa or go through Kazakhstan, Moldova, and another CIS country.

Considering that you can enter Ukraine only from the EU and Moldova, only the Moldovan route will not require an additional Schengen visa.

So for Russians, obtaining a Ukrainian visa will definitely be a difficult task – almost mission impossible.

EMPR

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