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Tighter restrictions on Finnish visas for Russians now in force

As of Thursday, Finland is issuing a severely limited number of entry visas to Russian nationals.

The Finnish-Russian border at Nuijamaa. Image: Kare Lehtonen / Yle
Yle News

It is now increasingly difficult for Russian citizens to acquire visas for travel to Finland, and to other parts of the European Union.

Several EU countries bordering on Russia have backed Ukraine's request to stop granting tourist visas to Russian citizens and on Wednesday, EU foreign ministers agreed to freeze a 2007 agreement to ease travel between Russia and Europe.

On Thursday, Finland moved to limit the entry of Russian citizens into Finland or through Finland to the rest of Europe.

Under the terms of a Finnish government decision made in mid-August which came into force on 1 September, the issuance of visas as a whole has not been stopped, but the number of applications accepted is being severely restricted.

Only about 100 applications will be processed per day. In July and August Finnish officials were handling up to 1,000 a day.

Before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Russians submitted some 3,000 to 6,000 visa applications for entry to Finland per day.

Over the past three months, the number of visa applications which were rejected was clearly on the rise. Most of those are reported to have been applications for multiple-entry visas.

On Wednesday, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) stated that unlike some other countries, Finland does not see Russian tourists as a security issue, but rather as an ethical one. While Finland is trying to help Ukraine in every way, this is not the time for Russians to be enjoying luxury vacations abroad, he said in Prague on Wednesday.

New priorities

Since 2013, tourist visa applications by Russians have been processed at the Foreign Ministry's service centre for entry permits in Kouvola. While the centre also processes applications from China and the Philippines, among other countries, the majority of applications come from Russia.

"At the moment, about two-thirds of our application handlers process applications from Russia," the centre's director, Sandra Hatzidakis, told Yle.

As of Thursday, priority is being given to applications from Russian citizens wishing to enter Finland for family reasons, work or study. These are also being limited, however, to only about 400 applicants a day.

Finland's government is also examining the possibility of offering a new type of visa to Russian human rights activists, as well as journalists or citizens critical of Russia's war in Ukraine.

If implemented, this humanitarian visa would allow the holder to enter and seek asylum in Finland as assessed on a case-by-case basis.

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