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New visa rule gives finger to Barents cooperation

It could be mandatory with personal appearance to Russia’s visa centers to give your fingerprints when applying for visa.

Russia will start collecting fingerprints from foreigners applying for visa. For Barents travelers, personal appearance to the nearest diplomatic mission can be too expensive.

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“We need to find a flexible approach to the new rule,” says Rune Rafaelsen, head of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, an organization that over the last 20 years has given grants to nearly 4,000 Russian, Norwegian people-to-people projects. 

Rafaelsen fears the new rule demanding that everyone applying for visa to Russia have to turn up in person at the nearest Russian diplomatic mission to deliver their fingerprints could cause a massive backlash for the Barents cooperation.

“People living far away from Russia’s two diplomatic missions in Norway, in Kirkenes or Oslo, will then have to travel to give their fingerprints. That is expensive. Going from some place in Nordland to Kirkenes or Oslo could cost thousands of kroner in tickets,” says Rune Rafaelsen. He is afraid much of the people-to-people cooperation will stop.

Last year, around 30 football-players from Sortland traveled to their friendship town Monchegorsk on the Kola Peninsula. If all 30 of them first had to show up at the Russian Visa-centers in Oslo or Kirkenes to deliver their fingerprints, the extra costs would be more expensive than the actual football-tour itself. Sortland to Oslo is a distance of 1,385 kilometers by road. The distance to Kirkenes is 1,000 kilometers. 

Today, you can send your passport and application papers by post to a tourist agency that handles the documents to the Russian consulate or visa-center. 

It is the portal where draft regulations from federal executive bodies are posted that informed about the draft on Wednesday. “Valid from July 1, 2014 the fingerprint scanning procedure will be demanded for foreign citizens and stateless persons to get visas for entry to the Russian Federation.”

If approved, the personal appearance to deliver fingerprints when applying for visa will be introduced country-by-country during 2014 and 2015. First out is Great Britain. 

“Let’s hope they will find a flexible solution for people in the Barents Region,” says Rune Rafaelsen.