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29 Jan, 2020 21:27

Russia will relax tourist visa rules, allowing stays of up to 6 months & simplified applications – Izvestia

Russia will relax tourist visa rules, allowing stays of up to 6 months & simplified applications – Izvestia

Russia has long been known for having a formidable visa process, especially for Western visitors. But since the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there's been a slow liberalization.

Now Moscow daily Izvestia reports cross-party parliamentary support for allowing foreigners to stay for six months on a single tourist visa, as well as making acquiring one a lot easier, by only asking for a hotel reservation. At present, vacations are capped at 30 days and require an invitation. A separate category for business travelers provides for a stay of up to 90 days, within a six month period. But these permits are often expensive and involve a cumbersome application procedure.

The newspaper claims that a bill to this effect has already been drafted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the intention of increasing the attractiveness of the country and assisting the development of the tourism sector. It follows a favorable reaction to the introduction of short term e-visas for certain locations, such as Vladivostok and Saint Petersburg, and the Fan ID system used for the football jamboree, which was regarded as a success.

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It's reported that the initiative is backed by the ruling United Russia party along with A Just Russia and the LDPR. However, the Communist Party is said to be opposed, because it would prefer the Kremlin to focus on domestic tourism. Experts suggest the liberalization of entry into Russia is likely to immediately boost visitor numbers by between 10-30 percent.

As mentioned, the bill would simplify the application procedure. At present, a Russian embassy can only issue a visa if there's an invitation from an organization that is accredited in the federal register of tour operators.

Izvestia quotes United Russia Deputy Chairman Andrey Isaev who says the party is ready to support the proposal. He points out that Russia has a large number of attractions and resorts which are interesting for foreign visitors.

Despite its status as the largest country on earth, Russia's tourism sector is underdeveloped, even in comparison with much smaller European countries. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Russia receives fewer annual visitors than Austria or Greece and about a quarter of the number France attracts.

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The country isn't short on attractions. Moscow is Europe's largest city and Russia boasts 29 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Lake Baikal, the Volcanoes of Kamchatka and the historic centers of Saint Petersburg and Yaroslavl. Additionally, there are world-class skiing facilities at Sochi, the beaches of the Black Sea and, for the more adventurous, vast national parks, such as the 83,384 hectares ‘Roar of the Tiger’ facility in the Far East.

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