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Putin Orders Radical Improvement to Tourist Visas - Apply Online, 4 Day Turnaround, No Consulates, No Passports - Coming Soon

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For Westerners, traveling to Russia has always meant overcoming a series of bureaucratic hurdles. In the heyday of the Soviet Union, slogging through a tedious visa application process was just the beginning. American and European travelers usually had to stick to a strict itinerary, and were accompanied by a government appointed minder. 

But the barriers are falling fast, and Putin is eager to make traveling to Russia easier than ever.


Electronic visas will increase the tourist flow by 25%. The Tour Operators of Russia Association stated that. Vladimir Putin tasked the prime minister, foreign minister, minister of internal affairs, and the FSB to create a single e-visa. The deadline is January 1st, 2021. By the way, the system is already being used in the Russian Far East.

Dmitry Moroka figured out what advantages this service has.

Foreign tourists will be able to get permission to enter Russia online without unnecessary bureaucracy and queues. From January 1st, 2021, a system of single electronic visas will operate for them. They began to prepare to launch it on the President's instruction.

The visa of the new format will be single-entry, its validity will be up to 16 days. Supposedly, its registration will take no more than four days. Foreigners will no longer have to waste time visiting consulates. It'll be enough to fill in the data through the Internet - and welcome to Russia.

Yury Parfyonov, MinComSvyaz official: "There'll be two ways to request an e-visa - either on the website of the MFA, as it's possible to do now to enter the Russian Far East, or using a mobile app. The visa will be completely in electronic form on the basis of the electronic model. For the convenience of foreign citizens, a QR-code and an opportunity to print it and present in a printed form at the border checkpoint will also be provided."

The authorities expect that the simplified system of visas will increase the tourist inflow and preserve the so-called World Cup effect. Last year, over 3 million foreign tourists arrived in Russia. Many of them used a Fan ID to enter. It was a way easier to obtain it than a visa. But the championship is over, and the demand for a simplified entry procedure remained. So, the Federal Agency for Tourism forecasts that the introduction of e-visas will increase the tourist inflow by 20-40%.

Russia may enter the top-12 destinations by the World Tourism Organization rating by 2025. By the way, its General Assembly will be held in St. Petersburg this September. The agreement on this was signed in Baku by the head of Rostourism, Zarina Doguzova.

Zarina Doguzova, Head of the Federal Agency for Tourism: "Our target is to reach the aggregated share of tourism in the country's GDP of 4.8% by 2025 and to increase exports of tourist services to $20 billion by the same date. We also expect that by 2025, Russia will enter the top-12 tourist destinations, according to the UNWTO rating."

The electronic visa service is now being successfully tested in the Russian Far East. One can get permission for a period not exceeding 8 days for free. To do this, one should open a special page on the website of the Russian MFA.

According to local authorities, 20,000 electronic visas have already been issued this year. They enjoy the greatest demand among the citizens of China and Japan. In the list of 18 countries for whose citizens the new service is available, there are also Iran, India, Mexico, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Lyudmila Kanaeva, Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic official: "I'd like to say for sure that the tourist flow increased, comparing to the initial flow. We take the period of time from August 2017, when the mechanism of electronic visas was introduced, to this day. The flow is increasing."

In the near future, they'll start using the system in Zabaykalsky Krai, then in Kaliningrad Oblast, and all over the country in two years. Then the list of countries whose citizens will be able to apply for electronic visas will expand. They plan to include countries of the EU and non-EU countries of the Schengen Area in it. To obtain an all-Russian e-visa will cost about $50. Now, to obtain an entry permit in an ordinary manner, the same Europeans pay up to 70 euros.

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