FINLAND will allow Russians to apply for tourist visas only on one day a week and only in four cities in Russia as of Thursday, Jussi Tanner, the director of consular services at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, told Helsingin Sanomat on Monday.
The applications will be accepted only in the application centres of VFS Global in Moscow, Murmansk, Petrozavodsk and St. Petersburg on Mondays.
VFS Global is a Dubai-based company that is responsible for receiving visa applications to Finland in Russia. The applications will be processing by officials at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
The Finnish government decided a couple of weeks ago to halve the daily number of visa appointments available for Russians. Only 20 per cent of the 500 daily appointments, it also decided, would be available for tourists.
Tanner stated to Helsingin Sanomat that the visa appointments will be made available for booking once a month, adding that he expects appointments for the first month to be booked out immediately.
People applying for a visa for reasons related to, for example, work, studies or family will be able to file their applications also on other weekdays. Tanner on Monday stated to the newspaper that some tourists will likely “try to all sorts of things and schemes” to get around the rules and apply for visas also on other days.
“We’re fully prepared for that, and we’ll try to weed them out as they pop up,” he said.
People applying for a tourist visa on a wrong day will be instructed to book an appointment for a Monday. If they insist on filing the application on another day, however, the law stipulates that the application must be received by VFS Global.
Tanner pointed out that in such cases the declared purpose of visit does not correspond to the actual purpose, enabling officials to deny the application.
“And if a visa application is turned down, there’ll be a record of it that’s visible across the Schengen system when you apply for a new visa. It may not be wise for a customer to try too many tricks,” he reminded.
Finland on Thursday will also scrap the practice of allocating a share of visa appointments for travel agencies that are able to book them for their own customers.
“We thought id could attract too much scalping in this scarce environment,” explained Tanner.
Finland and Estonia have urged the European Union to make a joint decision on the issuance of tourist visas to Russians, despite both countries already taking national action to limit the issuance. Foreign ministers from the 27-country bloc will discuss the issue today at their informal meeting in Prague, Czechia.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT