In order to visit Ukraine, citizens of 123 countries must obtain a visa. At the same time, the presence of an insert in the passport does not guarantee that a person will be possible to cross the state border: border guards can send a foreigner home because of the "lack of evidence confirming the purpose of the trip," even if all the documents are submitted. And Ukraine is losing its attractiveness and potential money from the visitors.
However, officials still make money on those who wish to come to Ukraine. The consular fee for applying for any type of visa is now $ 65. And although it is cheaper than before (before 2017 a type B transit visa cost $ 85, short-term C $ 130, long-term D $ 200), the price for such goods is still not good: applying for Schengen visa is $ 35-60.
Moreover, taking into account the principle of reciprocity, for citizens of some countries a Ukrainian visa can cost tens of times more. For example, in order to apply for a long-term D type visa for family reunification or immigration, a UK citizen needs to pay 2002 euros. And for an urgent visa, the amount of the consular fee is doubled.
But it’s not even the price of our visa: for citizens of countries with high GDP this is not a big money, and citizens with low income do not travel abroad without a strong need. Foreigners face unreasonable refusal to apply for a visa and shameless offers of consulate staff to “help resolve the issue” for a certain monetary reward.
"Recently, the Honorary Consul of Tunisia said on Facebook that the staff of the Ukrainian consulate offers some phone number of the Kyiv company, which helps to issue invitations, for example, for study or treatment. These services cost $ 500. If you make this invitation yourself and by law, they create obstacles in applying for a visa," says Anna Romanova, head of the Verkhovna Rada Subcommittee on Tourism Development.
According to her, such corruption opportunities are already laid down in legislative acts (which are approved in the Cabinet of Ministers): employees of diplomatic institutions can interpret them as they want. For example, in addition to the mandatory package of documents for applying for a visa (visa application form, passport, photograph, medical insurance, invitation, confirmation of financial viability), the consul might require something else at his own discretion.
The task of obtaining a Ukrainian visa turns into a difficult quest in which you cannot just beat and defeat the boss: the same consul is considering an appeal for refusal of a visa, which initially made a negative decision on this issue.
If if the date of the trip to Ukraine has already been planned, it is easier to make concessions, since in general, a visa can take up to 90 days from the date of submission of the visa application form.
Citizens of countries of "migration risk" must undergo a personal interview with the consul to obtain a visa and additionally obtain the consent of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU). To do this, the consul scans documents and sends them to Ukraine via the Visa information and telecommunication system, where SBU employees must accept a solution to this, but there have been cases when, in fact, they did not check anything.
However, after drawing public attention to the problem of corruption in the Ukrainian consulates (NoVisaToUkraine project of journalist Bogdan Logvinenko), the Foreign Ministry reacted: they canceled the obligation to issue invitations at the migration service departments, reduced the cost of the consular fee and visa processing time - up to 10 days in ordinary cases and up to 5 days if urgently. In addition, from January 1, 2019, citizens of 52 countries that are not on the “migration risk” list have the opportunity to apply for electronic visas.
“The issuance of such a visa should take ten days. But often our clients wait for 15 and 20 days, and they can’t contact the consulate either by phone or mail to find out the reasons for the delay. In such cases, trips are canceled, sometimes it’s possible to agree with the air carrier on the maximum reimbursement of the cost of the ticket," Pan Ukraine tour operator notes.
An electronic visa costs a little more than a paper visa - $ 85. However, the consular fee is not refunded either for a refusal to apply for a visa, or for the time overlay. However, even the existence of the coveted document does not guarantee anything. According to experts, there is an unwritten directive to border guards to restrict the admission of citizens of the countries of "migration risk" and Israel, despite the presence of all permits.
“My friend Ibrahim wanted to come from Morocco. He applied for a visa three times, he had to pay a consular fee three times. For the first time, for some reason, the SBU did not receive documents. The second time it refused. By the way, the SBU did not contact the inviting party. The third time, he still managed to come to Ukraine, but still with some difficulties. He had an invitation from the host with him. In addition, we turned to the information check-in at the airport to notify that we were waiting for the guest as an inviting party, but they still kept him for eight hours at Zhulyany airport. In general, a lot of foreigners from Arab countries were eventually sent back - 40% of the total number, especially if they do not speak English well," Serhiy Kobrin, founder of “Kobrin and partners” law firm assures.
Among other things, not all border guards are fluent in English to intelligibly explain to the unwanted guest what the matter is, and the official decree banning entry into the country is drawn up in Ukrainian.
So, according to the State Border Service of Ukraine, from 2010 to July 2019, about 208,000 people were not allowed into the country. In general, this is number is not that high, given the total number of visits by foreigners to our country: in 2017, according to the State Statistics Service, more than 14 million people came to Ukraine. Mostly citizens of Belarus, Moldova, Poland, the Russian Federation, and Hungary. However, even such a number of failures can spoil the image of Ukraine, especially when they are not justified.
“For some reason, often, under the cover of protection from the migrants’ flow, quite wealthy, non-poor foreigners are deployed. Citizens of Africa and the Middle East can have an American, Schengen visa, have notes about traveling around Europe. But we still have them deployed. And the answer is always the same: they could not confirm the purpose of the trip," Anna Romanova says.
According to her, the number of potential tourists whom the Ukrainian economy has lost due to such an attitude towards foreigners is five times higher than the refusals to enter and apply for a visa. At the same time, the tourism business could become a significant revenue item to the budget. The most striking example is Georgia, which after 2008 canceled visas for all countries whose GDP level was higher. Now, according to various international ratings, Georgia is among the ten most attractive countries for tourists in the world.
However, Ukraine is not in a hurry with announcing a visa-free regime, and there are several reasons for this.
Firstly, the EU has some fears that Ukraine might become a gateway for the flow of migrants from Arab countries, so at the secret level, there are some quotas for crossing the border. Although at the same time, visas must be issued to citizens of those countries that do not have a threat of "delivery" of migrants: for example, Australia, Singapore, and New Zealand.
Secondly, the Ministry of Finance expects to receive guaranteed and regular income to the budget due to consular fees. Although on average a foreign tourist can leave a thousand dollars in Ukraine, not sparing money for shows, entertainment, and local attractions. This is indirectly facilitated by the requirement that sufficient funds are available for crossing the border: 265 euros per day and 1,543 euros per month. Other European countries require much less money per day: in Germany - 45 euros, Denmark - 47, Latvia - 14, Lithuania - 40, Poland - 24.
Thirdly, international diplomatic relations are often too ambiguous and confusing, tacking through hidden state interests. “For example, despite the fact that Ukraine and Israel canceled the visa regime, there are problems with crossing the border. This is due to the fact that Israel has stopped letting Ukrainians in, citing an influx of illegal labor. Since the beginning of the year, according to official figures, to Israel about 2,600 Ukrainians were not allowed in. After Poroshenko’s winter visit to Israel, similar measures began on the Ukrainian side: 716 Israelis were not allowed in since the beginning of the year. All these measures are unofficial. It is clear that there are Ukrainians who go illegally to work, but why Should tourists suffer from it?" Eduard Doks, a journalist of the Israeli media and tour guide, says.
However, according to experts, visa liberalization will only benefit Ukraine. "You should increase the period of stay in Ukraine from 90 to 180 days; following the example of Georgia, cancel visas for countries whose GDP is higher than Ukrainian, or allow visa-free entry for those citizens who have an open valid visa to the USA, UK or the Schengen zone. In the end, the security services are strong enough to identify people and migrants dangerous to the country, although the SBU often makes other decisions," Anna Romanova noted.
The decisive factor for visiting Ukraine is not the need for a visa itself, but the conditions and mechanisms of this process. The border guards themselves cannot clearly explain to foreigners the motives for their refusals, forcing them to languish for hours in bewilderment and expectation.