EC releases guidelines for member states on visa processing for Russian citizens

10 September, 11:11 AM
It will be more difficult for Russians to get a visa to EU countries (Photo:REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

It will be more difficult for Russians to get a visa to EU countries (Photo:REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

The European Commission on Sept. 9 presented guidelines for member states’ consulates on handling short-stay visa applications lodged by Russian citizens.

According to an accompanying EC press release, taking into account the heightened security risks the EU is facing following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, consulates should conduct a strict assessment of security risks. This could possibly lead to visa refusal, as well as to the revocation of existing valid visas, while Russian applicants traveling for non-essential reasons will also face a longer and more thorough process for lodging applications, it said.

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At the same time, the EU will remain open to Russian visa applicants traveling for essential purposes, including: family members of EU citizens, journalists, dissidents, and civil society representatives.

The European Commission stressed that given the current security situation, member states’ consulates should apply particular scrutiny when checking whether Russian citizens applying for short-stay visas could be considered to be a threat to public policy, internal security or to the international relations of any of the member states. If this is the case, the visa should be refused, always on the basis of an individual assessment.

Member states should also refuse a visa in case of doubt about the applicant’s intention to leave the EU’s territory upon expiry of the visa, reads the report.

In addition, the EC has advised that member states refrain from issuing multiple-entry visas with long validity and take a strict approach when reassessing valid short-stay visas already issued to Russian citizens. If it becomes evident that the conditions for issuing a visa are no longer met, for instance because the visa holder is now considered to represent a security threat, member states should revoke the existing visa.

Under the EU visa rules, a member state can also ask to be consulted before another member state issues visas to Russian nationals, on grounds of threats to public policy, internal security or international relations. The consulted member state can object to a Schengen visa being issued to a Russian national, on an individual basis.

It is also advised that consulates should give lower priority to applicants who do not have an essential reason to travel, such as tourism, when attributing visa appointments. In this case, consulates could take up to 45 days to take a decision on visa applications (against 15 days in regular cases) so as to ensure more thorough checks on applications lodged by Russians.

Moreover, member states’ consulates can request additional documents beyond the standard list to ensure a high level of scrutiny, in particular in cases of possible threats to public policy, public order, and international relations.

In parallel with this new guidance, the European Council on Sept. 9 adopted a decision that fully suspends the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia.

Earlier, Ukrainian authorities called for a complete EU visa ban for all Russian nationals. While a complete ban was not implemented due to the resistance of some EU member states, the end of the simplified procedures for issuing visas to Russian citizens was accepted as a compromise.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, said on Aug. 31 that EU foreign ministers had reached an agreement to completely stop the simplified procedure for issuing visas to citizens of Russia.

The issue has risked splitting the EU, with the countries of the bloc bordering Russia highly enthusiastic about banning all visits by Russian tourists, while countries further to the west opposed to the idea.

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