Waiting time reduced to 20 seconds

Elena Goncharuk is one of the 20 new employees at Norway's new visa center in Murmansk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

MURMANSK: Norway has the world’s most effective visa center and experiences a 40 percent boost in issued visas in Murmansk so far this year.


Forget about the times when you had to queue up, sometimes for hours, in the cold outside Norway’s Consulate General in Murmansk to hand over the papers for a visa-application. Today, you effectively register your application online and are served nearly at once when you enter the newly opened visa-center.

“Longest waiting time for applicants was 50 seconds, but in average we serve our customers 20 seconds after they enter the door,” says Marit Egholm Jacobsen, head of the visa section at the Consulate General to BarentsObserver.

Norway’s Consul General, Øyvind Nordsletten, adds with a smile: “Our goal is to start receiving the papers even before the applicants enter the door.”

The new visa-center with 13 counters opened in late January.

Over the two first months this year, 4,773 visa applications were received, up 40 percent compared with the same period 2012. It takes 3 to 5 days to process a visa in Murmansk. 94 percent of all applicants receives multiple-entry visa to the Schengen area, valid for one, three and finally five years.

“Our vision is full visa-freedom between Norway, the Schengen states, and Russia,” says Øyvind Nordsletten.

People on Russia’s Kola Peninsula are crossing the borders to Norway and Finland in the north like never before. 22,347 border-crossings were counted at Storskog in February, the only land-border check-point between Russia and Norway. That is an increase by 35 percent compared with the same month last year.

Shopping and pleasure tours are popular both ways; also the number of Norwegians traveling under the near-border visa-free regime to Nikel and Zapolyarny are growing. 6,766 Norwegians entered Russia without visa in January and February. Norway is the first Schengen member state that has introduced visa-freedom for inhabitants in the near-border areas with Russia.