Increased Number of Russians Applying for Schengen Visas Despite Tightened Rules

The number of Russians applying for Schengen visas has started to increase significantly with the summer season approaching despite tightened rules applying to them.

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Travel agents in Russia have said that the interest in Schengen visas is expected to surpass 2023 figures this year, and the same have said that this travel enthusiasm is leading to long queues at Schengen visa centres, SchengenVisaInfo reports.

Since it has been difficult to find available appointment slots and due to the long waiting times, some Russians are seeking assistance from travel agents, with Italy, France, and Spain being the top choices.

As RBC explains, Russians tend to apply for an Italian, French, or Spanish Schengen visa since their visa policies are deemed to be the most favourable, and these three countries remain the most “loyal” to Russians.

In addition to these three Schengen countries, Russians are also applying for Schengen visas at other member states’ consulates.

However, due to the high demand, long waiting times have been reported. This is mainly due to the visa rules that the EU applies to Russians.

Up until the war in Ukraine, Russians who met all the requirements were generally issued multiple entry visas with longer validity periods and shorter processing times.

On the other hand, in 2022, the EU suspended the simplified visa regime for Russia, increasing the visa fee and the processing time.

Russians Opting for Combined Tours to EU

The member states that accept Schengen visa applications filed by Russians are now mainly issuing single-entry visas with shorter validity that only cover the trip period, especially to those with weak visa history.

This pushes Russians to apply for the document each time they plan to travel to the Schengen Area.

To avoid applying for a Schengen visa several times during a year, Russians are now opting for combined tours, visiting multiple countries when entering the Schengen Area.

Schengen member states still issue multiple-entry visas to Russians, but they are no longer issued with a long validity period. In general, multiple-entry visas to Russians are issued for a six to 12-month period.

According to RBC, tour operators have revealed that those who choose to do combined tours to Europe mainly do these combinations: France – Italy, Spain – France, France – Italy – Switzerland, and Germany – Italy.

Greece and Portugal also remain some of the most popular destinations among Russians, whereas Cyprus and Hungary are garnering newfound popularity.

As for Bulgaria, which received a high number of visa applications over the years, tour operators noted that the country is expected to register a decline in Russian tourist arrivals this year due to increased visa costs and processing times now that the country has partially joined the Schengen Area.

The increase in Russians’ interest in applying for Schengen visas has also been attributed to their adaptability to longer flights with layovers now that direct air transport to the EU countries is limited.

To ensure a seamless travel experience and avoid any unwanted inconvenience, Russians who plan on travelling to the Schengen Area have been advised to apply for the visa well in advance.

Tour operators have called on Russians to apply for visas at least two months before their intended travel dates.