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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Monday, 01.06.2020, 10:49

Estonia to revoke long-term visa fee waiver for Ukrainian, Belarusian nationals

BC, Tallinn, 20.09.2019.Print version
The Estonian government is to revoke the long-term visa fee waiver for citizens of Ukraine and Belarus, accroding to the Postimees information reported LETA/BNS.

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to an round of approvals on Thursday two draft orders seeking to annul the the long-term visa fee waiver, which has been in effect for Ukrainian and Belarusian nationals since 2010 and 2011, respectively.

The draft orders left the Foreign Ministry exactly a week after Mart Helme, the minister of the interior and chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE), said that he has has ordered an inquiry into possibly lifting the visa-free entry of Ukrainian citizens altogether. Helme said that the reason for his wanting to lift visa freedom is that Estonia is under pressure from the east.

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said that there are no links between Helme's statements last week and the draft orders embarking on a round of approvals today, and that the timely proximity of the two is entirely coincidental.

"The proposal to end visa fee waiver for Ukrainian and Belarusian nationals was already on the table at the Foreign Ministry in spring and it was also approved in the budgetary strategy. As this step is linked to the state budget, the draft legislation must be submitted prior to the finalization of the budget," Reinsalu said.

The foreign minister said that ending the visa fee waiver is not a political decision and Ukraine will remain an important partner to Estonia.

"Our friendship with and support to Ukraine will not change because of this," Reinsalu said. 

He added that Ukrainian nationals are currently allowed to enter the European Union on the basis of a visa freedom agreement between the EU and Ukraine. A long-term visa is required for instance for working in Estonia.

Reinsalu said he does not deem it likely that imposing a visa fee on Ukrainians and Belarusians will have any great effect on the number of visa applications.

"I wouldn't forecast a decline in visa applications. The introduction of a fee may naturally serve as an argument for some people not to submit their application, however," the minister said.

He added that Estonia's foreign representations may occasionally lift the visa fee requirement for humanitarian reasons, however.

Inga Bowden, director general of the Foreign Ministry's department of communication, told Postimees that Ukraine and Belarus are the only states the citizens of which benefit from a long-term visa fee waiver in Estonia. When the fee is reintroduced, submitting a visa application will cost the citizens of the said states 80 euros.

Around 90% of the Ukrainian nationals who apply for a long-term Estonian visa do so in order to be able to work in Estonia.

In 2018, a total of 6,689 long-term visa applications were lodged with Estonia's representations by citizens of Ukraine, 6,657 of them in Kiev. Applications by Belarusian nationals numbered 629, of which 619 were submitted in Minsk. 

The Estonian Foreign Ministry forecasts additional revenue to the state budget as a result of the reintroduction of a visa fee will total 750,000 euros from citizens of Ukraine and 50,000 euros from those of Belarus.

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