Ukrainian work visa, residency system is too expensive expensiv and overly bureaucratic
As Ukraine Week in London approaches on Oct. 8, Ukraine and the United Kingdom are keen to start negotiations on a strong and comprehensive, post-Brexit trade agreement. It will be an important opportunity for both countries to strengthen and deepen the bilateral ties that already exist.
More broadly, Ukraine and Britain will move to improve relations as the U.K. continues the process of leaving the European bloc and looks to new opportunities and new relationships outside the EU.
The time is right for more British opinion leaders, business executives, diplomats and journalists to turn their focus to Ukraine's promising, frontier economy. But the
process of doing so should be made as hassle-free as possible and both countries can make efforts to be more open.
British passport holders currently pay by far the most expensive visa fees that Ukraine has to offer, with no sign of this improving after Brexit, and the process of getting short-term residency here for all foreign citizens is still a migraine-inducing, bureaucratic nightmare.
Expensive journalist visa
The British journalists here in Ukraine can be counted on one hand.
Many of those who cover Ukraine and the Russian-backed war against Ukraine are actually Moscow-based and frequently criticized for this.
But the Russian Federation has made efforts to make Moscow appear a hospitable and comfortable place for Western journalists. Deceptive as this perception may be, the process to get a visa and be based there as a foreign correspondent is relatively hassle-free and affordable.
In comparison, a British journalist wanting to work in Ukraine has to provide a mountain of paperwork and pay $800 for a 3-month visa, $1,600 if you need it within a week or so.
After that, this journalist is eligible to apply for one-year temporary residency that costs, through the most competitive agencies, about another $800. Using such agencies is basically essential because navigating the complex application for temporary residency as a foreigner is such a headache.
But journalists still pay less for a three-month visa than a British citizen who wants to come to Ukraine in order to be with their family here, for example.
That fee is now a staggering $2,002 for only three months ($4,004 if you need it quickly), with further oneyear residency fees and mind-boggling bureaucracy to follow.
Maybe you're a young Brit who is intrigued by this unique country and simply wants to study the Ukrainian language in Kyiv or Lviv for your 3-month stay? That visa will still be $450 ($900 if expedited).
At the same time, Russians can still — despite the de-facto state of war — travel relatively freely to Ukraine without paying a cent.
At the Ukrainian Embassy in London, with a stack of supporting paperwork that included work contracts, invitation letters, bank statements, medical certificates and insurance documents, this journalist was confident of getting his new type-D visa.
The consul official checked the documents and filed the application, but the confident smile quickly dropped from my face when he requested payment of the new, higher fee.
One London-based business news wire that I write for, about business and investment opportunities in Ukraine, flatly refused to support me in paying such a high fee. Some major newspapers and agencies pre- fer sending their reporters to Moscow because it's easier and cheaper.
Daylight robbery, some American and Canadian news colleagues have called it. They pay more than $100 for the same visa.
Observers will defend these costs, citing principles of mutual reciprocity. They'll say that visas to the United Kingdom are unaffordable and too complex for Ukrainians. But this isn't really true. A six-month multiple-entry visa for a Ukrainian coming to the United Kingdom (this also allows for busi- ness meetings, attendance of conferences and trainings) is only $115. If a Ukrainian wants to work, in a permitted paid engagement from an employer for one month, this is still only $120.
Way to improve ties
Nothing is gained by making visas unaffordable for your friends and Ukraine has few allies in Europe at the moment who are more supportive than the United Kingdom.
Circumstances have seen the U.K. take a robust stance against Russian aggression and London is a strong voice against the Kremlin when it brazenly violates Europe's territorial integrity, assassinates and imprisons its citizens.
Both the U.K. and Ukraine need to win friends and influence people at the moment, and both countries can do more to improve bilateral ties by making the process of travelling for work and official purposes easier and more affordable.
Ukraine especially needs to attract foreign influencers and journalists to come here and see the country first-hand.
The country should try to be more hospitable and welcoming to such professionals — this won't be achieved by making them feel extorted.
Jack Laurenson is a staff writer of the Kyiv Post.
JACK LAURENSON NSON
A worker decorates the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ukraine on July 2, 2016, in Kyiv. (Volodymyr Petrov)