I think it is well known that in order to visit most European countries, citizens of the Russian Federation have to obtain a Schengen visa. And at the same time, European citizens must also apply for a visa if they want to visit Russia. In this article I would like to talk in detail about the visa relations between Europe and Russia and to determine the prospects for the development of these relations.
What is Schengen?
In June 1985, seven EU countries signed the Schengen Agreement in Schengen (a small village in Luxembourg). This enabled the removal of internal border controls between the Schengen member states, therefore allowing easy movement within the European Schengen area. It also harmonized the visa obligations between all Schengen member states, thus making it so much easier for tourists, students or travelers on business to visit multiple European countries for a period of less than three months. Schengen refers to the EU passport-free zone that covers most of the European countries. This is the largest free travel area in the world.
A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any members of the Schengen Area, per stays up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU States, except of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom. However, Bulgaria and Romania are currently in the process of joining the Schengen Area. Of non-EU States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have joined the Schengen Area.
Schengen visas can be applied for tourism, education/ work, and business. Each visa gives holders specific rights which the others do not. For example, the tourist visa allows holders to visit any of the tourist spots in the Schengen country but does not allow holders to seek employment in the Schengen area. Similarly, the business visa may allow holders to work only in certain countries and not others.
To obtain a Schengen visa, Russian citizens need to collect a lot of documents, which depend on the type of visa chosen. But usually, among other documents, it is required to show round trip tickets, proof of accommodation and financial means, as well as proof of paid visa fee. It should be noted that in case of rejection of an application for a visa, the visa fee is not refundable.
Russian visa policy:
Russian visa is required for most countries of the world, except countries of South America and some countries in the Middle East and Asia. Citizens of other countries, such as EU countries, are required to obtain a visa for entry into the territory of the Russian Federation. According to the law which became effective on June 1st, 2007, Russian consulates located in Europe started issuing multiple entry visas with a limit on how many days a traveler can remain in Russia. This limit is 90 days total during the period of 180 days.
Before applying for a Russian visa, a foreigner has to obtain an invitation to Russia. This document is issued by the receiving party. It can be a private person (relative, colleague, friend) or a legal person (partner firm, employer, tour company). And this is the most difficult part of this bureaucracy process. I know many Europeans who want to visit Russia, but find the process of applying for a visa too complicated, and for this reason, they may never even try to obtain a Russian visa.
Are there any prospects?
For years, Russia and the EU discussed the possibility of visa-free travel, but have not yet reached an agreement. In June 2019 the Russian Federation made a decision to introduce a streamlined electronic visa system, which will allow app-based applications and will be ready by January 1, 2021. The list of eligible countries is yet to be finalized, but will include EU members, plus non-EU countries that are signed up to the Schengen borderless area, such as Norway. The new Russia-wide e-visa will allow for visits of up to 16 days and be valid for both tourist and business travel.
I believe that in the 21st century, in the digital age, this is a necessary and reasonable decision to create an electronic visa system that will greatly simplify the process of applying for a visa and allow more people to travel and discover new countries. And I hope that the EU will also simplify the process of applying for a Schengen visa by launching an electronic system in the near future, if it is not possible to make visa-free borders between Europe and Russia.