Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Poland proposes five-year Schengen visas

The Polish Embassy on Friday declared a willingness to issue Russian tourists five-year Schengen visas if they have already used two Schengen visas.

If the unprecedented decision comes to fruit it will cause a sharp increase in tourist flows into Poland, believes the Russian Travel Industry Union.

However, at the moment, tourists are facing unprecedented difficulties in getting Polish visas for New Year's holidays.

Polish council Michał Greczylo wrote to tour companies announcing the news. “Persons, who wish to visit Poland for tourism and have two correctly used Schengen visas, may apply for a multiple entry visa valid for up to five years,” quoted a letter byGreczylo as saying. The letter, however, stresses that the rule will apply “on an individual basis.”

Russian Travel Industry Union called the idea “unprecedented,” given that no other EU countries offer Russians long-term tourist visas on a regular basis.

Many countries have eased visa sanctions, like Spain, which introduced six months visas and saw “an increased flow of Russians,” said the union’s spokesperson Irina Tyurina.

“Even now, to get a Schengen visa for one year – it’s good, two years - happiness, and for five years – fantastic,” she said.

The union is expecting an influx of tourists to Poland, recalling that this is the main transit country for bus tours through Europe.

According to the Polish consulate in Moscow, 67,000 visas were issued in 2011. Rosturizm stats say more than 22,000 Russian tourists visited Poland in the first half of 2011, which is 1,500 more than for the same period a year ago.

However, the process of applying for a Schengen visa in the Polish embassy in Moscow is very difficult.

Unlike, for example, the French Consulate, the Polish authorities do not accept booking confirmations from the most popular online hotel booking systems (like booking.com), requiring a fax from the hotel to confirm that a 50 percent payment for services has been made, and in most cases - the original of the booking with stamp and confirmation of its payment in full.

The consulate also does not have a visa center, leaving long queues outside the embassy. It is possible to register online, but the closest date for a Schengen visa appointment is on Jan. 10, 2012.In late November, tour operators complained to Greczylo that because of the sluggishness of the consulate they cannot send clients to Poland for the New Year’s holidays.The Polish Embassy did not confirm any plans to issue five-year visas.Tour Operators of Russia executive director Maya Lomidze said that “none of the operators have seen” the five-year visas, stressing the uncertainty of the situation in the way it will be carried out in practice.

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