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New Russian e-visa may include Kiwis but not Australians

June 19, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed an order to introduce an electronic single-entry visa for foreigners visiting Russia – but while the nationalities it will cover may include New Zealanders, there’s no mention of Australians.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, which has seen the document Putin signed, reports that electronic visas valid for travel throughout the whole of Russia will become valid from 1 January 2021.

The single short-term (up to 16 days) e-visa will be universal, allowing people to visit Russia for tourism, business or humanitarian purposes.

The list of countries whose citizens will be eligible for electronic visas is being finalised by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Kommersant and Russian news service RT.com, many EU countries and non-EU Schengen states will be included on the list. So will China, South Korea and Japan, “as well as possibly New Zealand”.

There is no mention of Australia, but reports say the list will pointedly exclude Britain, the US and Canada. Australia is generally considered more closely aligned with the US than is New Zealand, so Russia may lump Australia in with the US and Canada, rather than with New Zealand.

An e-visa service already exists in Russia, but it is limited to the Russian Far East region, where citizens of 18 countries can use electronic visas issued online. Starting from 1 July 2019, tourists will be able to visit the Kaliningrad region using an electronic visa. Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.

While the current e-visas for Russia are free, the proposed all-Russia electronic visa will cost up to USD 50. A special mobile application is planned.

Putin proposed an e-visa earlier this year, when he told a conference: “We must also switch to a wider use of electronic visas. It’s obvious.”

Tourists arriving on cruise ships at Saint Petersburg can currently stay in the city, a superb repository of European art, for three days without a visa and “this practice must be generalised and expanded” throughout Russia, Putin said.

For Russia, eliminating the need for visas would be like removing the cork from the tourism bottle.

Currently, to enter the Russian Federation for tourist purposes, foreigners (including Australians) must possess a valid visa. A Russian tourist visa can be issued for no longer than 30 days and when entering Russia, visitors may also be asked to present at the border checkpoint their tourist confirmation, voucher and a return ticket with a fixed date of departure from Russia. Visitors must also prove they have sufficient funds for their trip.

Written by Peter Needham

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