Russia: Visa requirements for citizens of the European Union to enter Russia
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||25 November 2011|
|Citation / Document Symbol||RUS103796.E|
|Related Document||Russie : information sur les exigences en matière de visa pour les citoyens de l'Union européenne qui désirent entrer en Russie|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Russia: Visa requirements for citizens of the European Union to enter Russia, 25 November 2011, RUS103796.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5122224f2.html [accessed 19 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
VF Services (VFS), which is authorized by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the United Kingdom (UK) to operate the Russian Visa Application Centre in the UK (Russia n.d.a), states that visitors from "most countries" should apply for a visa prior to travelling to the Russian Federation (VFS n.d.a). There are different visa categories, including: tourist, private, student, work, transit, humanitarian, business, family members of Russian citizens, highly skilled migrants, and for special events (ibid.).
The 2006 Agreement between the European Community and the Russian Federation on the Facilitation of the Issuance of Visas to the Citizens of the European Union and the Russian Federation facilitates the issuance of visas to citizens of the European Union for a short stay of not more than 90 days per period of 180 days (EU 2006, Art. 1). According to the information posted on the website of the Russian embassy in Belgium, this agreement is applicable to the following European Union (EU) member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden (Russia n.d.b). The time limit for deciding on a visa application is 10 calendar days (EU 2006, Art. 7; Russia n.d.d), but it may be extended up to 30 calendar days or reduced, depending on the individual case and on the urgency of the request (EU 2006, Art. 7). The visa fee is 35 Euros (49.00 Canadian dollars (CAD) [XE 19 Oct. 2011a]), and for urgent visas (delivered within 3 days) it is 70 Euros (98.08 CAD [XE 19 Oct. 2011b]) (Russia n.d.b). Certain categories of persons, such as students, government officials, disabled persons, and persons who have proved the necessity of travel on humanitarian grounds may have their visa fees waived (Russia n.d.d). Depending on the category, a multiple-entry visa can be issued with validity from one to five years (ibid.).
Provisions of this agreement do not apply to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Denmark (EU 2006, Art. 3). However, the website of the Russian embassy in Denmark indicates that the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Kingdom of Denmark on the Facilitation of the Issuance of Visas to the Citizens of Russia and Denmark was signed on 27 May 2008 and came into force on 1 October 2008 (Russia n.d.c). The rules on the issuance of visas are similar to the rules set out in the Russia-EU agreement of 2006, including the time limit on the processing of visa applications, the fee, and grounds for fee exemptions (ibid.).
According to the Russian mission to the EU, the Agreement allows for a simplified visa process (on the basis of a written request from the host party) for the following categories of people:
businessman; members of official delegations; drivers conducting international cargo and passenger transportation services; members of train, refrigerator and locomotive crews; persons participating in scientific, cultural and artistic activities' participants in international sports events and persons accompanying them in a professional capacity; pupils, students, post-graduate students and accompanying teachers; close relatives (spouses, children, parents, grandparents and grandchildren) of persons legally residing in the territory of Russia or a EU Member State; journalists; participants in official exchange programmes organized by twinned cities; persons visiting military and civil burial grounds. (Russia n.d.d)
Sources report that in 2010 Russia introduced stricter visa requirements for the citizens of the European Union (DW 20 Oct. 2010; RFE/RL 13 Nov. 2010). For example, German citizens applying for a Russian visa "must now show a bank account statement, proof of earnings and the registration of a personal business or place of residence" (DW 20 Oct. 2010). The changes are justified by the Russian government on the "principle of reciprocity" because Russian citizens must present the same documents when applying for entry into the European Union (ibid.). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) indicates that French citizens, including a retired member of the French parliament, had trouble acquiring Russian visas and complained about the tendency of the Russian embassy to "'complicate' the process of obtaining a visa" (RFE/RL 13 Nov. 2010).
According to the news release of the Russian mission to the EU, a third round of negotiations on modernization of the Russia-EU visa facilitation agreement of 2006 took place on 13 October 2011 in Moscow (Russia 19 Oct. 2011). Negotiations involve further facilitation of cross-border travel, which aim to "extend categories of persons entitled to multiple-entry visas with the term of validity of up to five years and broaden the list of persons waived from visa fees" (Russia n.d.d). Information on the results of the negotiations could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
Family Members of Russian Citizens
With the changes to the entry and exit procedures of the Russian Federation that took effect on 12 March 2010, Russian citizens with legal status in a foreign country can apply for "visas for members of their family who are foreign nationals (spouses, children under the age of 18, incapacitated children of any age) to enable them to enter the territory of the Russian Federation accompanied by the citizen of the Russian Federation who signed the visa request form" (VFS n.d.b). Rossiyskaya Gazeta corroborates the above information (12 Mar. 2010). Only applications for single or double entry visas for up to 3 months are accepted (VFS n.d.b). The minimum processing time for this kind of visa is 5 working days (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Deutsche Welle (DW). 20 October 2011. "Russia Introduces Stricter Visa Requirements for EU Citizens."
European Union (EU). 2006. Agreement Between the European Community and the Russian Federation on the Facilitation of the Issuance of Visas to the Citizens of the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 13 November 2010. Galina Stolyarova. "Tightened Russian Visa Restrictions Frustrate Europeans."
Rossiyskaya Gazeta. 12 March 2010. "Federal Law of the Russian Federation No 24-FZ of 9 March 2010: Changes to the Entry and Exit Procedures of the Russian Federation." Document translated from Russian.
Russia. 19 October 2011. "Third Round of Russia-EU Visa Facilitation Talks Takes Place in Moscow."
_____. N.d.a. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in UK. "General Requirements to Visa Documents."
_____. N.d.b. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Belgium. "Information Consulaire."
_____. N.d.c. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in Denmark. "Consular Section."
_____. N.d.d. Russian Mission to the EU. "Visa Issues."
VF Services (VFS). N.d.a. "All About your Visa."
_____. N.d.b. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in UK. "Family Members of Russian Citizens."
XE. 19 October 2011a. "Currency Converter Widget."
XE. 19 October 2011b. "Currency Converter Widget."
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact the Federal Migration Service office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Moscow Helsinki Group, and law firms were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Civic Assistance Committee; European Country of Origin Network; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group; Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ministry of Internal Affairs; Moscow Helsinki Group; Moscow Memorial Human Rights Center; Russian Embassy in Belgium; Russian Embassy in Canada; Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg; United Nations (UN) — UN High Commissioner for Refugees Refworld, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, UN Development Program; United States — Department of State.