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Belarus To Expand Visa-Free Areas, Intensify Visa Talks With EU And Russia

Belarus will expand its visa-free areas and intensify work on the European Union (EU) and Russia visa-free travel options, Belarusian Premier Sergei Rumas told media last Friday, 2 August.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will submit its proposals on visa-free travel with the EU and Russia to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in the near future.

At present,  the only way for a third-country person to travel between Belarus and Russia directly is by air and with two visas, a Russian and a Belarusian one.

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In addition to that, the participants of the meeting discussed the visa waiver for foreign visitors. Particularly, it was decided to expand the visa-free zones in Grodno Oblast and Brest Oblast.

“These measures are expected to give a boost to tourism. We told the head of state about the positive effect of the previous decisions on visa-free travel. We expect an increase in inbound visits,” Sergei Rumas said.

Recall that the agreement on visa facilitation between Belarus and the EU is to be signed before 2 February 2020. While no specific date was announced, the parties reassured to sign the agreement as soon as all formal legal procedures are complete.

When the amendments to the visa code take force, the Schengen visa fees increase to €80. For Belarusians, the estimated fee will be €35 per person, as soon the parties sign an agreement on simplifying the visa regime.

Meanwhile, fewer Belarusians have been applying for Schengen visas. During 2018, Schengen embassies in Belarus collected a total of 681,106 visa applications. The is 5% fewer compared to 2017.

Last year, 681,106 residents of Belarus applied for a Schengen uniform visa, whereas in 2017 Schengen embassies reported 715,433 visa applications. Most of them were reportedly approved.

Belarus-Russia visa recognition agreement was supposed to be signed by the end of 2019. Negotiations on the agreement that started in 2015 are reportedly now at its final stage.

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