Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Visa Regulations in Ukraine as of September 10, 2011

Ukraine has been steadily bringing its immigration control in accordance with European standards. This has meant a gradual decline in the numbers of expats getting away with long-term unofficial residency in Ukraine. More and more, the 90/180 rule is being enforced, just like the Schengen zone countries, the U.K., and many others worldwide.

The latest development is that previous visa categories are going to be abolished and replaced with a simpler system with just three visa types: transit, short-term, and long-term. The first two will be of no use to nationals of countries enjoying visa-free visits to Ukraine (within the 90/180 day rule).

It is not yet clear whom long-term visas will be issued to, besides those with work permits. Presumably students and those with family ties will be included in the list. There is a small chance that there will be other groups as well (I have my fingers crossed).

Currently valid visas will NOT lose their validity after these changes are made, and their terms and conditions will remain valid through expiration. Any new visas issued after Sept. 10 will naturally belong to one of the new categories.

We also very much hope for a simplification of the registration process which is almost always quite a bit more difficult than getting the visa itself. A tightening of the visa procedures should be accompanied by simplification of related paperwork, i.e. registration, work permit issuing, and obtaining temporary and permanent residency papers. There is no good reason to keep native English (and other language) teachers from teaching their languages in Ukraine legally. So work permit regulations should be simplified to make it possible for more schools to comply. Now, in order for that to happen, many aspects of government relations with small business might need to be changed...

Back to Ukraine after a 3 month absence

After over three months backpacking around Europe, I'm back in Kiev. It's great to be back in the only place where I feel like a local. Things are quite cheap here compared to much of western Europe (my last stop was Oslo — my goodness!).

This time things are a bit different than during my previous stays in Ukraine, which were mostly long-term and continuous. This time I entered without a visa using the visa-free regime and plan to spend no more than 90 days here. Then I'll leave and move somewhere for a while before coming back to Ukraine. It is extremely annoying, but there appears to be no reasonable way that I can live here year-round even with 9 years in Ukraine under my belt and an independent source of income coming from outside Ukraine.

If I wanted to legally stay here year-round, probably the only options I have are to find a cheap university that could get me a student visa even if I don't actually attend or only do so occasionally, or to find an employer who would get me a work permit even if my work there is nominal. However, last years' experience with work permits and registration was a nightmare I would rather not repeat.

It's just not worth all the effort right now. I will use this situation to get to know some other countries, too, spending no more than half my time in Ukraine. That's the silver lining on this cloud. I'm particularly interested in Georgia and the more liberal Stans where Russian is a prevalent second language. Georgia, by the way, allows 1-year visa-free entry...

I'm crossing my fingers that upcoming changes in Ukraine's visa regime will allow for more categories of people to apply for residency. For instance, those that have >n years of experience in the country, or those that do not work in Ukraine but have an external source of income (that would be me).