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Latest updates, november 6, 2023 visa centre is closed, visa centre in helsinki updated working hours, privacy overview.
Finland to join European neighbours in shutting out Russian tourists
- Russian tourists will not be able to cross from midnight
- Baltic States, Poland took same measure earlier in Sept
HELSINKI/VAALIMAA, Finland, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Finland said on Thursday it would close its border to Russian tourists at midnight, shutting off the last remaining direct land route to the European Union for them as thousands of Russians seek to avoid conscription into the war in Ukraine.
The government said the move would lead to a significant drop in cross-border traffic after almost 17,000 Russians crossed the border into Finland during the weekend.
"The entry of Russian citizens in tourist purposes into Finland endangers Finland's international relations," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a news conference, explaining that the decision had followed talks with Ukraine and neighbours.
Haavisto said entry for family visits, as well as for work and studies, would still be permitted.
The decision means the Finnish government, wary of being a transit nation into western Europe's passport-free Schengen zone, joined the other EU member countries sharing land borders with Russia which had already barred Russian tourists.
The EU bans were part of a series of sanctions and other steps taken against Russia by the West since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what it calls a "special military operation".
Baltic states and Poland argued that Russian tourists posed a national security threat. Estonia expressed frustration that Finland had not joined them. Ukraine has said Russians should stay at home and seek to stop the war.
The EU has banned all flights from Russia, leaving only rail and road transport links available, and this month it agreed to limit issuing free-travel Schengen zone visas.
Young Russian men who spoke to Reuters after crossing into Finland last week said they left out of fear of being drafted.
The almost 17,000 Russians who crossed the border into Finland during the weekend, represent an 80% rise from a week earlier, Finnish authorities said on Monday.
[1/5] Cars queue to enter Finland from Russia, at the Vaalimaa border station, in Vaalimaa, Finland September 29, 2022. REUTERS/Janis Laizans Acquire Licensing Rights
On Thursday, there was a steady stream of cars coming through at the Vaalimaa border crossing, according to a Reuters witness, although traffic had calmed somewhat after the weekend.
"We have indications that the Russian authorities have changed their policy," head of the border controls Tuomas Laosmaa said, adding the number of young Russian men coming through had dropped on Wednesday.
"According to information provided by border crossers, there are military authorities at crossing points (on the Russian side)," Laosmaa told Reuters, adding it was unclear if officials were conducting voluntary recruitment or mandatory call-ups.
The presence of Russian military officers appeared to have led to a change in who comes to the Finnish border, Laosmaa said.
"The passenger profile has clearly changed. There are fewer young men than before," he said.
One Russian man who had just crossed, software architect Andrei Antonov, said he had seen an improvised building on the other side with military colours and signs saying "call-up centre or contract service, something like that".
Travel agent Maria Muratova confirmed there was an enlistment office on the Russian side. "But I didn't see anyone being brought in so far. They are launching it on the way back, it will be there on the way back," she said, referring to Russians returning to Russia from the Finnish side.
Reuters was not able to confirm the reports and there was no immediate comment from Russian authorities.
While the number of arrivals from Russia remains below pre-pandemic levels, many Finns have expressed worries over the recent rise.
"It's very unfortunate that we're in a situation that Russia has caused, but in this situation I don't feel it okay that they are coming through Finland for tourism," said Erkki Helaniemi, a finance specialist who spoke to Reuters in the capital Helsinki.
Norway, an EU outsider but a member of the Schengen zone, still kept open its Arctic border with Russia where arrivals have recently risen to number a few hundred people a day, Norwegian officials said.
Last week's announcement of Russia's first public mobilisation since World War Two, to shore up its faltering Ukraine war, triggered a rush for the border, the arrest of protesters and unease in the wider population .
Reporting by Anne Kauranen, additional reporting by Janis Laizans, writing by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Philippa Fletcher
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Finland – Changes for Tourist Visas from Russia; Issuance of Tourist Visas Stopped Finland – Changes for Tourist Visas from Russia; Issuance of Tourist Visas Stopped Finland – Changes for Tourist Visas from Russia; Issuance of Tourist Visas Stopped
GMS Flash Alert 2022-178
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- Finland – Changes for Tourist Visas from Russia; Issuance of Tourist Visas Stopped
The Finnish government has placed new restrictions on the entry of Russian nationals travelling to Finland based on tourism. Finland has also stopped accepting tourist visa applications and issuing tourist visas. The restrictions entered into force on 30 September at midnight (local time) and will remain in force for the time being. 1, 2
WHY THIS MATTERS
Entry to Finland is further restricted for Russian nationals traveling for tourism purposes, which should be considered by anyone planning to travel from Russia to Finland with a tourist visa. Finland has stopped the issuance of new tourist visas, and visas issued by Finland can be revoked at the border if the conditions of entry are not met. The decision of entry is always based on individual overall consideration conducted by the Border Guard of Finland.
The restrictions may also affect Russian nationals travelling with visas issued by other Schengen countries, as Finland can ban the entry of a Russian national travelling with a visa issued by another Schengen country if the conditions of entry are not met. Finland would not, however, revoke a tourist visa issued by another Schengen country, unless another Schengen country has requested to do so. 3
On 29 September 2022, the Finnish government announced that tourists arriving from Russia in high volumes and tourists transiting to other countries through Finland after the mobilization declared in Russia on 21 September 2022 put Finland’s international position and relations at danger. 4 Therefore, Finland decided further to restrict the entry based on tourism from Russia. The new restrictions are based on Article 6(1)(e) of the Schengen Borders Code. In short, the Article states that the entry of third-country nationals into any Schengen country requires that they do not pose a threat to public policy, internal security, public health, or the international relations of any of the member states. 5
According to a press conference held by the Finnish government on September 29, the border will remain open for persons entering for essential purposes, as well as for people travelling to Finland with D visas or Finnish residence permits. According to the new restrictions, the Border Guard can revoke visas issued by Finland, but Finland would not revoke visas issued by other Schengen countries unless requested. The Border Guard can, however, prevent a person travelling with a visa issued by another country from entering Finland. 6
Exemptions for Certain Groups
According to the Border Guard, the restrictions do not currently apply to the following special groups when certain terms are met (please see The Finnish Border Guard’s webpage " Restrictions on the Entry of Russian Citizens ") for the detailed terms for each category):
— Family members of Finnish citizens and third-country nationals permanently residing in Finland
— This includes family members of Finnish citizens and third-country nationals permanently residing in Finland (spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, and dependents, as well as persons applying for a visa based on an established relationship).
— Transit travel to other Schengen countries based on meeting relatives is not allowed. Entry of family members is only allowed in connection with travel to Finland.
— Proof of family ties must be presented at the border.
— Family members of citizens of a member state of the European Union (EU), a member state of the European Economic Area (EEA), or the Swiss Confederation
— Proof that the purpose for entry is work must be presented at the border.
— Logistics and transport industry personnel exercising their duties
— Business travellers
— People arriving in Finland for treatment
— Owners of an apartment or property
— Personnel of diplomatic missions and consular representations
— Other special reasons (necessary reasons, such as humanitarian reasons). 7
The purpose of the travel must always be proven at the border.
For previous issues of GMS Flash Alert on this topic, please see GMS Flash Alert 2022-156 (29 August 2022) and GMS Flash Alert 2022-171 (23 September 2022).
The visa restrictions will not have an impact on residence permit processes from Russia to Finland.
The KPMG International member firm in Finland continues to monitor these matters closely.
1 See (in English) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Finnish government issues a resolution to strongly restrict entry of Russian tourists into Finland” by clicking here .
2 See (in English) “Q&A 29 September 2022, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Border Guard: Government Resolution 29 September 2022 on the restriction of entry of Russian citizens” by clicking here .
3 See (in English) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Finnish government issues a resolution to strongly restrict entry of Russian tourists into Finland” by clicking here and “Q&A 29 September 2022, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, Border Guard: Government Resolution 29 September 2022 on the restriction of entry of Russian citizens” by clicking here .
6 For reports in the press, see: Tulikuuka de Fresnes and H. Tikkala, "Suomen raja sulkeutuu torstaina keskiyöllä venäläisiltä lomamatkailijoita – Sisäministeri Mikkonen: "Vaikutus liikennemääriin on merkittävä” in Yle (online) (29.9. 10:27, Päivitetty 29.9. 15:28)."
7 See (in English) The Finnish Border Guard, ”Restrictions on the entry of Russian citizens” by clicking here .
* Please note the KPMG International member firm in the United States does not provide immigration or labour law services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.
The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Finland.
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GMS Flash Alert is a Global Mobility Services publication of the KPMG LLP Washington National Tax practice. The KPMG name and logo are trademarks used under license by the independent member firms of the KPMG global organization. KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee and does not provide services to clients. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.
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Sunday, November 19, 2023 4:49 am (Paris)
- War in Ukraine
Finland closes its border to Russian tourists
Following Poland and the Baltic States, which announced similar measures on September 19, Helsinki will now turn away Russian citizens with European tourist visas.
By Anne-Françoise Hivert (Malmö (Sweden) correspondent)
Time to 3 min.
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The number of Russians allowed to enter Finland should be reduced by at least half, according to the Helsinki government, which announced on Thursday, September 29 that Russian tourists with Schengen visas would be turned away at the border from early on Friday morning.
Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto justified the decision by saying that: "The entry of Russian citizens into Finland for tourism endangers the international relations" of his country. Since Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania closed their borders on September 19, citing "a threat to their security," Finland has been the only direct point of entry to the European Union for Russian citizens with a Schengen visa.
Since the "partial" mobilization announced by the Kremlin on September 21, border crossings into Finland have increased. The previous week saw more than 28,000 Russians crossing the border, but this number increased to 50,800 between September 21 and 28, an 80% increase – although this number remains lower than in the pre-Covid period.
In a sudden reversal of the trend, just 4,707 entrants were recorded on Wednesday, September 28, compared to 7,000 to 8,000 per day a few days before. According to the Finnish public broadcaster Yle, this decrease is due to the installation of Russian army recruitment offices just before the border crossings. On Thursday, arrivals decreased again. "We don’t really know what’s happening on the other side, but at times it’s extremely quiet. No more cars are arriving," said Matti Pitkäniitty, director of international affairs for the Finnish Border Guard.
The profiles of those arriving are diverse, he said: "We see families, people who are used to making the journey, and young men of wartime age." They all have one thing in common: "Because they had a visa and a place to stay somewhere in Europe, they seized their opportunity to leave, waiting to see what would happen in Russia after the mobilization announcement."
Very few have applied for asylum – only 30 to 40 a day, with about 10 of these at the border. According to Mr. Pitkäniitty, about half travel on visas issued by Finland and only 20% stay there. Every day, between 3,000 and 4,000 people make the journey in the opposite direction. The reason these numbers are so high, compared to the number of people entering Finland, is that without direct flights from European countries, Finland remains one of the last exit points from Europe to Russia.
Since September 1 the Nordic country has drastically reduced the number of visas granted to Russian tourists. From now on, border guards will be able to block not only people traveling on visas issued by Finland, but also visas issued by all other EU countries. "An overall assessment will be made on a case by case basis and an individual decision will be made," said Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen. Exceptions are made for Russians with family in Finland or undergoing medical treatment there. Students will also be allowed to enter to take their exams.
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