For Russians living in the border towns Nikel and Zapolyarny, getting a border certificate granting the right to travel to Norway without a visa, requires driving to Murmansk and back, something that can take a whole day.
Norway has since the introduction of the visa-free regime in May 2012 wanted to open an honorary consulate in Nikel to better the situation for the local applicants, but has yet to receive a positive answer from Russian authorities.
To ease the situation a bit, the Norwegian Consulate General in Murmansk have decided to keep its doors open for border zone citizens on Saturday March 1.
“Our goal is to make it more comfortable for people of the border zone to deliver their documents to us, therefore we will have open on Saturday March 1”, says Marit Egholm Jacobsen at the consulate’s visa department.
The consulate stresses that the Saturday opening is only for border certificate applicants. “If the demand is large enough, we will look at the possibility to repeat the arrangement”. Already 30 persons have announced that they will make the trip to Murmansk during the Saturday opening hours. Jacobsen believes they will receive as many as 100 applications.
The Storskog-Borisoglebsk border crossing point between Norway and Russia saw a record number of 320,042 crossings in 2013.This is nearly 68,000 more crossings than in 2012.
By November 1st 2013, 2911 people in Sør-Varanger had received a border certificate. In Pechenga Rayon, which has a population nearly four times as high as Sør-Varanger, 1100 people had received border certificates by the same date.