Russia: Are visa policies becoming easier?
German Magazine Spiegel reports that Russia and Poland now allows visa-free travel for residents within 50 km of the Kaliningrad border. While this policy change only currently affects our Cheapos in Gdansk (Cze??, czytelnicy!), the hope is that moves such as this, which “Kremlin officials are viewing … as a first step toward a complete elimination of the visa requirement,” will mean that complicated travel preparations for Schengen Zone passport holders and Russians will soon be a thing of the past.
Americans shouldn’t feel left out, however. In the middle of July, the United States and Russia announced an agreement easing visa requirements for their citizens. The new “default” visa for both countries will be a three-year multiple-entry visa granting stays for up to six months at a time. While the official statement argues that formal invitation requirements for Russia will be eliminated, it also states that “applicants seeking Russian tourist visas will continue to require advance lodging reservations and arrangements with a tour operator.”
The former announcement is a huge improvement for regular travelers between the two countries, but it remains to be seen how the latter will play out in reality. This change will take effect within the next few months, after both countries have finished necessary preparations.
The question remains: Are these first steps toward a radical change of Russian visa policy for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics? Dare the Slavophiles in the crowd dream of an end to draconian visa regulations? Tell us what you think!