Ukrainian work visa, res­i­dency sys­tem is too ex­pen­sive ex­pen­siv and overly bureaucratic

Kyiv Post - - Front Page -

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.

Mu­tual rec­i­proc­ity

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)

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