Electronic visa to Russia is now promised in August

E-visa to help restart inbound tourism

An e-visa to Russia is now promised in August

The government announced the next date for the introduction of the electronic visa system in Russia – August 1, 2023. Later, on July 20, Alexei Klimov, Director of the Consular Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, confirmed this information.

The electronic visa will be universal and single entry. It entitles a foreigner to stay for 16 days on the territory of Russia on a guest or business visit, as a tourist, as well as to participate in scientific, cultural, socio-political, economic, sports events and make relevant connections and contacts.

A trip for up to 16 days can be made on any date within 60 days after its registration. At the same time, the date of departure from Russia cannot be later than the 60th day from the date of its issuance.

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko announced that an electronic visa would be issued only to citizens of friendly countries.

But Tatyana Golikova on July 19 proposed to keep the list of 52 countries previously approved by the government, as well as add three more countries to it : Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar.

“The preservation of a simplified regime for citizens of these countries to enter Russia for tourism purposes, to participate in scientific, sports, cultural events, as well as to maintain business contacts under sanctions restrictions, will primarily meet the interests of our state,” explained Tatyana Golikova.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the list of countries will remain as it was and will be supplemented by the indicated three countries. The list now includes countries such as Japan, Turkey, China, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

There are also EU countries on the list, but only ordinary citizens will receive a visa.

“To holders of diplomatic and service passports unfriendly foreign countries, a single electronic visa will not be issued,” Alexey Klimov specified.

To obtain an electronic visa, a foreign citizen will have to fill out an application on a specialized website of the Russian Foreign Ministry or through a mobile application. It can be downloaded on the same site.

The application must be completed no later than 4 calendar days before the expected date of entry into the Russian Federation.

A digital photograph and a scan of the page with the data of the machine-readable passport of the foreigner are attached to the application. Documents confirming the purpose of the visit are not required.

Then the visa will need to be paid through a specialized website. The cost of an e-Visa, including consular fees, bank fees, transaction costs of the payment system, and the fee for preliminary verification of documents, is expected to not exceed the equivalent of $52.

For children under the age of 6, the cost of a visa, including transaction costs of the payment system, will cost no more than $2.

Uniform electronic visas are valid for entry into the Russian Federation and exit from the country by air, road and water transport, as well as without the use of vehicles only through certain checkpoints, the list of which was approved by the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation of October 23, 2020 No. 2741-r.

Currently, the specified list already includes 92 checkpoints. It will be expanded to 100 soon.

Now this list includes, among other things, the international airports of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Vladikavkaz, Volgograd, Grozny, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Samara, Saratov, Sochi and many other cities of Russia.

Tour operators in the field of entry tourism has long been waiting for the introduction of an e-visa system. It was originally planned that visas would work in 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented.

Later, different dates were called, and according to the latest information, it was assumed that the visa would work in mid-July 2023. However, this did not happen.

If the e-visa still comes into effect on August 1, this will give an incentive for the gradual restoration of inbound tourism in the Russian Federation, according to tour operators. The Ministry of Economic Development thinks the same way. The ministry believes that by the end of the current year, “the inbound tourist flow could grow to 10 million people, including thanks to the launch of an electronic visa and visa-free group travel agreements with China and Iran.”

“Any visa facilitation is good for tourism. The tourism community has been talking about this for the last 20 years. The introduction of an e-visa is a good step for the future, as in the current geopolitical situation it will not be possible to use visa facilitation to the maximum due to the lack of demand from Western European tourists. But in any case, there remains a certain amount of foreigners from Western countries who come to the Russian Federation for business purposes – and for them an electronic visa will certainly be a boon, ”says Alexander Kurnosov, Vice President of ATOR, CEO of Academ-Online and co-founder of the Union of Business Travel Agencies (SAD).

At the moment, all tour operators have requests from foreign tourists.

“When we receive confirmation of the launch of electronic visas, we will immediately begin to notify partners abroad. With an electronic visa, the flow of foreign tourists to Russia will gradually rise,” says Marina Levchenko, general director of the Tari Tour tour operator.

According to her, citizens of Southeast Asia, India, Turkey, and Arab countries are now showing interest in traveling to Russia. “It would be nice if citizens of Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia could receive an e-visa. We are now seeing an increase in demand in these countries for tours to Russia,” says Marina Levchenko.

Market participants, however, still have a number of questions about the details of the mechanism and functioning of the system.

“Of course, in the future, the launch of electronic visas will give an impetus to inbound tourism, but it is very important to ensure the smooth and correct operation of the system. All market participants are concerned about the question of whether online payments will work, whether such tourists will actually be let through at the border, whether there will be cases when tourists with an e-visa will be turned away, because. payment failed.  Now a visa to Russia is expensive and difficult for foreign guests. If the cost of an e-visa is lower than a regular visa, of course, this will be an effective measure to increase the attractiveness of entry into our country. But at the moment, partners have a lot of questions about the complexity of the questions in the draft application form for an electronic visa – they emphasize in the inbound tourism department of the Intourist tour operator.

After the launch of the electronic visa mechanism, the authorities expect an increase in inbound tourism, which decreased first due to the pandemic, then due to sanctions restrictions. “According to the results of the current year, the inbound tourist flow may grow to 10 million people, including thanks to the introduction of an electronic visa and agreements on visa-free group trips with China and Iran,” the Russian Ministry of Economic Development expects. 

The Foreign Ministry expressed a more restrained assessment. According to diplomats, in the short term, a multiple increase in tourist flow should not be expected: “The development of inbound tourism to the Russian Federation is hindered, first of all, by complex transport logistics, the high cost of tickets, the inability of foreigners to pay for goods and services in Russia in a non-cash form, etc.”

Payment for services really seems to be a serious problem, as the participants in the tourism market are talking about. Despite the fact that a law was recently adopted allowing foreigners to remotely open accounts in Russia and actually receive a Mir card for settlements in our country, the issue of replenishing an account remains unanswered. International transfers are blocked by sanctions, so foreign tourists will have to come to Russia with cash, which is inconvenient. At the same time, the volume of foreign currency imports is limited to 10 thousand dollars, everything above must be declared.

In some regions, the introduction of electronic visas can spur the development of inbound tourism more than the national average. For example, in the Kaliningrad region surrounded by EU borders, where e-visas were introduced as an experiment a few years ago. “Since July 2019, 54 countries have been open to Kaliningrad. People answered 19 questions in the questionnaire and received an electronic visa within a day. As a result, 100,000 people came to the Kaliningrad region in six months without any advertising,” said Anton Alikhanov, Governor of the region, at SPIEF 2023. Explosive demand is unlikely to repeat, but the flow of tourists from Europe to the westernmost Russian region may increase. 

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