EU Russia VISA Agreement
By Timur Beslangurov
Vista Foreign Business Support
Since the Agreement between the European Community and the Russian Federation on the facilitation of the issue of visas to the citizens of the EU and Russia entered into force on the 1st of June, 2007, visa procedures have undergone changes. All of these changes are not yet clear and some of the procedures are not yet established.
Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland and Denmark haven’t signed the agreement. The purpose of the Agreement is to facilitate the issueing of visas for certain categories of citizens of the EU and Russia (members of official delegations; business men; journalists; students, post-graduate students and accompanying teachers traveling to study; close relatives – spouses, children, parents, grandparents and grandchildren – visiting citizens of the EU legally residing in Russia and vice versa; etc) who intend to stay no more than 90 days within the period of 180 days. For these categories there is no need anymore to have the official invitation letter issued by the state authority of the Russian Federation since only written requests from a host person or host company are required to justify the purpose of the trip. It should be stated here that currently the state authority responsible for issueance of invitation letters in Moscow (Department of the Federal Migration Service of Russia for Moscow) continues to issue invitation letters without any changes in the procedures for all foreign nationals intending to come to Russia including the above mentioned categories. Thus we assume that at the moment there are two possible ways to receive the Russian visa.
The Agreement also defines visa handling fees and the terms of visa processing. Now it is not possible anymore to process the same-day visa and the minimum period requested for the visa issueance is 3 working days, provided you pay the Consulate fee in the amount of 70 EUR and there is proof for urgent visa processing. Though the standard term is 10 calendar days (for 35 EUR fee) which in exceptional cases can be extended up to 30 days. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that the time of processing the application for a multiple visa is strictly 10 days and it cannot be reduced.
In the Agreement there is a separate article dedicated to the issue of multientry visas as the requirements now have changed and in order to receive a 1-year multi-entry visa a foreign national intending to come to Russia should have within the previous year at least one visa to Russia that was accordingly used. This means that if a person has never been to Russia s/he will have first to receive a single/double visa and only then apply for a multi-entry one. But the Agreement gives the possibility to receive the multi-entry visa for a longer period of time (from 2 to 5 years) to those citizens who within the previous 2 years have used 1-year multi-entry visa and still have the reasons for requesting long-term multi-entry visa. In Russia currently, only the Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports this procedure and issues invitation letters on its behalf for 2-5 years.
It should be noted that the new rules should not be applicable to any foreign citizens who are not citizens of the EU countries that signed the agreement, but are applying for a Russian visa in the Russian consulate in one of the EU countries that signed the agreement. But in practice, Russian consulates in EU countries follow the new rules even though the applicant is an American for example.
We would like to say a few words about the cases of lost/stolen passports and visa extensions that seem quite disputed currently. The Agreements presupposes that in exceptional cases the visa can be extended free of charge for the period required for the departure while the Resolution of the Government says that the maximum period of extension can be 10 days and the state duty should be paid. Another issue is departure in case of lost or stolen documents, as based on the Agreement people may leave the territory on the grounds of valid identity documents issued by diplomatic posts without any visa that contradicts the Resolution as well. International agreements signed by Russia have priority against Russian laws, but it will definitely take time to change the internal procedures if such changes will ever take place at all.
Thus we have to admit that the intention of the Agreement is aimed to facilitate the procedure for obtaining visa but as yet it is not clear how it will be applicable in reality. We would like to underline again that the procedures are still not strictly set up and they could be different from Consulate to Consulate, so it is advisable to check the requirements and terms with the Consulate in your particular country/city in advance of your trip. We do hope that in the nearest future the processes will be unified, and, as planned, the Agreement will be only a start on the way to reciprocally abolishing visas for EU and Russian citizens.