New rules bring confusion to Russian visa application process
Handling applications could take ten days instead of previous five
A new visa treaty between the European Union and Russia, which took effect at the beginning of this month, is causing headaches for Finnish travellers.
Various tour operators have received conflicting information from the Russian Consulate on what the terms of the new agreement really mean.
The greatest uncertainty is in the handling time of visa applications. Under the agreement, a visa must be granted within ten calendar days after receiving the application. Previously, the processing has taken five or six working days.
There is confusion within the travel industry on the implications of the new rules. For instance, the Finland-Russia Society and the Finnsov Tours travel agency say that a single-entry visa can still be acquired in six days, while a multiple entry visa can take ten days to process.
However, the Kymenmatkat travel agency was told by the Russian Consulate that the ten-day handling period applies to all visas automatically.
"The new agreement is supposed to make it easier to get visas, but in practice, the handling time is growing, and it is necessary to sign up for package tours earlier than before", says managing director Satu Mäntyvaara.
There have also been changes in the granting of expedited visas.
Previously it was possible to speed up the process by paying an extra fee ranging grom EUR 35 to EUR 75, depending on the urgency.
Now a fast visa is available for a flat fee of EUR 70. The treaty states than in urgent cases a decision can be made within three days or sooner.
However, there has been uncertainty over whether or not a quick visa can be granted on the same day or not, as has been the case before.
"We have been told that the shortest time is three or four days", says Tanja Bektas, assistant to the managing director of Finnsov Tours.
The new rules have been issued to tour operators orally so far. However, travel entrepreneurs expect that written instructions promised by the Russian Consulate might clarify the situation.
"Now it feels like every day brings new rules", Bektas says.
Embassy of the Russian Federation: Visas information