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Transport Ministry drafts a law to allow 72-hour visa-free stay for transit train passengers

08:07, 28 февраля 2014

The Ministryof Transport of the Russian Federation suggests establishing of 72-hour visa-free regime for foreign citizens transiting through Russian territory by railway. Corresponding amendments to a law governing arrivals and departures from Russia has been prepared.


The planned amendments imply that foreign citizen arriving in Russia with the purpose of tourism by rail transport will be able to remain in the country with no visa for up to 72 hours. A list of countries, citizens of which will have a right to make use of the new rules is to be approved by the Government.


The Ministry expect the new regulations to increase the flow of tourists to the country and eventually the tax revenue to local budgets.


The Russian Union of Travel Industry supports the initiative of the Transport Ministry, as well as a similar draft law concerning transit air passengers prepared by the Ministry of Culture. But with a slight exception.


A 72-hour visa-free stay only for transit passengers is not going to do a lot of good. Out of all passengers traveling through Russia's airports and railway stations a share of foreign citizens is quite insignificant. Thus it won't have such a stimulating effect on the tourist flows as it has done with cruise and ferry passengers who are now enjoying the same visa scheme. Not to mention the fact that it's not clear what's the difference between a transit passenger and the one who has Russia as an ultimate destination and leaves within 72 hours in terms of safety, economy and other things.


Fears that the new law is to increase the inflow of illegal immigrants are groundless. Mind that we are talking of citizens of economically developed countries the list of which is going to be approved by the authorities. It didn't lead to illegal work migration when tourists arriving by sea had been granted the right to enter the country for 72 hours with no visa. But it did attracted many more visitors to Russia, particularly to Saint Petersburg.


Such made up restrictions like a requirement of a transit seem to tell about the Government's intention not to extend the visa-free regime unilaterally. And the only ones to benefit from it are those involved in providing visa services to foreign citizens.


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