American musicians had to pay a fine for counting the number of visa-free days in Belarus incorrectly. State Border Committee explains how to avoid a similar mistake.
The unfortunate accident was told on Facebook by the duo’s friend Natalya.
The woman wrote that American musicians Anne Louise-Turgeon and Edward Turgeon, who had been invited to Belarus to play some concerts, were detained at Minsk airport before their return flight.
According to Natalya, the Americans spent about 3 hours talking to officers from the Department of Citizenship and Migration, and paid $256 for a fine and one-day visa.
The worst part, Natalya wrote, was that Anne and Edward missed their flight, and had to buy tickets to another one. The unforeseen expenses have thus amounted to $3000.
The problem seemed to be in the count of the number of days that foreigners can spend in Belarus without a visa according to visa-free rules.
As Natalya told the Belarusian media, the organizers of the festival, who invited the American musicians, counted days and nights, e.g. 24-hour periods. Americans arrived at Minsk airport at 17.45 on 28 February and were suppossed to leave at 7.30 on 5 March, which made 4 days and 17 hours.
Border Committee: “It’s not a new rule”
However, according to State Border Committee, travelers have to count days, not days and nights.
“The count of visa-free days starts from the moment of arrival. For example, if you arrived in Belarus at 20.00 on 1 March, it will be counted as the first day of your stay”, State Border Committee’s spokesman explained.
The FAQ section on the website of State Border Committee provides the same explanation:
“Starting date of stay in the Republic of Belarus is the date of arrival at the country. For example, you arrived in the Republic of Belarus at 23.00 on 20 February, and it is considered to be the first day. Within 24 February till 23.59 it is necessary to depart from Belarus.”
State Border Committee’s spokesman added that the rule is not a new one. The duartion of stay in Belarus has always been counted by days.
Visa-free entry for citizens of 80 states started operating on 12 February, 2017. The State Border Committee could not recall similar incidents with travelers during this period, although a number of violations of visa-free rules did take place.