Today, the Commission is proposing to fully suspend the EU’s Visa Facilitation Agreement with Russia. A country like Russia, waging a war of aggression, should not qualify for visa facilitations as long as it continues conducting its destructive foreign policy and military aggression towards Ukraine, demonstrating a complete disregard to the international rules-based order. The suspension is in response to increased risks and threats to the Union’s security interests and the national security of the Member States as result of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. This means that Russian citizens will no longer enjoy privileged access to the EU and face a lengthier, more expensive and more difficult visa application process. Member States will have wide discretion in processing short-stay visa applications from Russian citizens, and will be able to ensure greater scrutiny in respect of Russian nationals travelling to the EU. The EU will remain open to certain categories of Russian visa applicants travelling for essential purposes, including notably family members of EU citizens, journalists, dissidents and civil society representatives.
The Commission is also presenting today a proposal on the non-recognition of Russian passports issued in occupied areas of Ukraine.
These proposals follow the political agreement reached by Foreign Affairs Ministers at their informal meeting of 31 August on a common and coordinated way forward when it comes to visa issuance for Russian citizens.
Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, said:
“The EU’s visa policy is a mark of trust – a trust that Russia has completely undermined with its unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine. As long as Russia’s military aggression towards an EU candidate country lasts, Russian citizens cannot enjoy travel facilitations to Europe. Once again, the EU is showing its unwavering unity in its response to Russia’s military aggression.”
Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson said:
“Russia continues to violate international law with its illegal military actions, committing atrocities against Ukrainians and undermining European and global security and stability. These actions breach the fundamental principles on which the Visa Facilitation Agreement was concluded and go against the interests of the EU and its Member States. Today’s proposal shows a strong and united EU response. We will soon follow up with additional guidelines to ensure enhanced scrutiny on visa applications and border crossings by Russian citizens, without cutting ourselves from Russian dissidents and civil society.”
Ending privileged access to the EU for Russian citizens
The proposal to suspend the Visa Facilitation Agreement will put an end to all facilitations for Russian citizens applying for a short-stay visa to the Schengen area. The general rules of the Visa Code will apply instead.
In practice, Russian applicants will face:
- A higher visa fee: The visa fee will increase from €35 to €80 for all applicants.
- Increased processing time: The standard deadline for consulates to take a decision on visa applications will increase from 10 to 15 days. This period may be extended up to a maximum of 45 days in individual cases, when further scrutiny of the application is needed.
- More restrictive rules on multiple-entry visas: Applicants will no longer have easy access to visas valid for multiple entries to the Schengen area.
- A longer list of supporting documents: Applicants will have to submit the full list of documentary evidence when applying for a visa. They will no longer benefit from the simplified list included in the Visa Facilitation Agreement.
The EU has concluded Visa Facilitation Agreements only with a limited number of countries. These Agreements are based on mutual trust and respect of common values between the EU and the given country. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is incompatible with a trustful relationship and runs counter to the spirit of partnership on which Visa Facilitation Agreements are based. It justifies measures to protect the essential security interest of the EU and its Member States.
Since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the situation has worsened, with tragic humanitarian consequences for civilians and widespread destruction of key infrastructure.
Non-recognition of Russian passports issued in occupied regions of Ukraine
Today the Commission is also proposing a common EU approach for the non-recognition of Russian passports issued in occupied foreign regions, as Russia currently extends the practice of issuing ordinary Russian passports to more non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine, in particular the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Member States should not recognise Russian passports issued in occupied areas of Ukraine as valid documents for the purpose of issuing a visa and crossing the EU’s external borders. This legislative proposal will ensure a binding approach, applicable in all Member States, replacing the voluntary actions taken by Member States since the illegal annexation of Crimea. This is a further step in the EU’s common response to the Russian military aggression against Ukraine and the Russian practice of handing out passports in occupied foreign regions.
It is now for the Council to examine and adopt the proposal to suspend the Visa Facilitation Agreement. Once adopted, the suspension will enter into force on the second day following its publication in the EU Official Journal.. Russia will be notified of the decision on suspension no later than 48 hours before its entry into force.
It is for the European Parliament and the Council to decide on the proposal on the non-recognition of Russian travel documents issued in occupied foreign regions. The measures will enter into force on the first day following that of their publication in the EU Official Journal.
The Commission will soon present additional guidelines to support Member States’ consulates when it comes to general visa issues with Russia, including to implement the suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement.
The EU-Russia Visa Facilitation entered into force in June 2007. It eases the issuance of visas to citizens of the Union and the Russian Federation for intended stays of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period.
As of 1 September 2022, around 963 000 Russians held valid visas to the Schengen area.
At their informal meeting on 31 August, Foreign Affairs Ministers agreed on a common and coordinated way forward when it comes to visa issuance for Russian citizens, including the full suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Russia. Ministers also agreed that passports issued by the Russian authorities in occupied areas of Ukraine will not be recognised. Visa applications will continue being processed on an individual basis, based on a case-by-case assessment.