New Belarus Visa Plan May Open Door to Easier Russian Access for Foreigners

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According to the Russian ambassador in Minsk, Belarus, Alexander Surikov, a joint Russian-Belarusian workgroup is reviewing a recommendation for a common visa area for the two countries before 2018.

The media quoted Surikov as saying, “We described it as a mutual recognition of travel visas”. Surikov reportedly continued: “A person who receives a travel visa to the Republic of Belarus will also have the right to visit the Russian Federation. Vice versa, a person who gets a Russia visa will have the right to go to Belarus. A group of experts has been set up. It includes representatives of the Russian and Belarusian Interior and Foreign Ministries who are getting down to more detailed discussions of the issue. I don’t think the discussions will produce immediate results but we’ll sure get some result this year.”

The issue is important on two practical levels: one, Russia is hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup; two, a visa-free agreement with Belarus in place by the time of the World Cup will allow many young Belarusians to work in Russia during the tournament.

Wages in Belarus are lower than in major Russian cities – such as St. Petersburg and Moscow – and the opportunity to work in such an environment to boost income will be welcomed by many Belarusians. Belarusians are already a common sight working in upmarket restaurants and hotels in Russia.

Additionally, depending on the results of the Belarus-Russia visa negotiations, foreign nationals with a visa for Belarus may automatically be permitted entry to Russia. This would mean that Belarusians would not have to go through the sometimes-laborious process of applying at Russian visa centers in their home country.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree on January 9 this year dropping visa requirements for citizens of 80 foreign countries arriving via flight at Minsk, a decree that came into effect on February 9. This notification allows foreigners five days, visa-free, in the country.

All EU countries were included in the scheme along with citizens of Brazil, Indonesia, Japan, and the United States. We will keep readers informed of the outcome of the Russian visa situation as the build up to the 2018 World Cup continues.

 


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