Haavisto: Finland to limit tourist visas for Russians

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The Foreign Office is looking for models “that would be both legal and effective in preventing Russian tourist visa fraud,” Haavisto told the newspaper. Helsingin Sanomat.

Finland is today, with Norway, the only European country with a direct border with Russia which still issues tourist visas. The Baltic States and Poland no longer issue visas unless the applicant has a specific reason, for example journalists in exile, humanitarian reasons or family relations.

While Norway mostly only issues tourist visas, or so-called Pomor visas, to Russian citizens from the northern regions of Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Nenets, Finland has granted tourist visas to all Russians. This has made the country a popular passage for people heading to other destinations in Europe.

A tourist visa for Finland opens the door to travel throughout Schengen Europe.

Haavisto said Finland planned to raise the visa issue at the extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Czech Republic later this month.

“It is clearly a question for the Schengen system. For example, many people come to Helsinki-Vantaa airport with visas from other Schengen countries,” Haavisto told Helsingin Sanomat.

The Foreign Minister notes that there are a few other Schengen countries that issue far more tourist visas to Russians than Finland, such as Greece and Spain. But with all passenger and private flights between Russia and Europe halted, the land border route from St Petersburg via Helsinki has become a popular route after Russia lifted its covid restrictions at land borders on July 15 .

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It remains to be seen what the new rules will look like. The foreign minister told the broadcaster YLE that prioritization of visa applications and longer processing times are some of the legal ways to deal with the situation.

“With this type of arrangement, we could prioritize candidates who really need it,” Haavisto said.

Some restrictions already in place include denying multiple entry visas to first-time applicants and limiting the number of applications to 1,000 per day.

Giving priority to Russians applying for student, family and worker visas would push tourist applicants further down the line.

In a popular initiative launched last week, more than 7,000 Finns have signed a call for a ban on new visas and the cancellation of existing visas for Russians. If 50,000 signatures are collected in six months, Finnish law stipulates that the matter must be considered by parliament.

Cross-border travel from Russia to Norway and Finland has increased since covid restrictions were lifted three weeks ago.

While traffic at the Storskog-Borisoglebsk single checkpoint on the Russian-Norwegian border has more than doubled since July 15, the three busiest checkpoints on the Finnish-Russian border, Imatra, Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa, have been multiplied by 3 to 4 compared to July last year, an overview of the Finnish border guard shows.


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