By Yevgeny Semiletov
Poland has decided to allow Belarusians entry on a national visa free of charge (removing previous charge of 20 euros). The pan-European Schengen visa (issued by Polish consulates in Minsk, Brest and Grodno) will still cost 60 euros for Belarusians, which is more than is paid by Russians and Ukrainians.
Polish consular establishments issued 172,500 visas last year — both national and Schengen. Pawel Marczuk, the First Secretary of the Polish Embassy, explains that only particular categories of citizens can apply for a national visa: those intending to stay in Poland for a long period of time, having been invited to work by a Polish company. From January 1st, our citizens do not need official permission to work in Poland, merely requiring a document from their employer, confirming employment. National visas are issued in some emergency situations, such as needing to attend the funeral of a relative in Poland.
Mr. Marczuk promises that, soon, Poland will explain the details of how to receive a free national visa, via the press. Judging by the published articles, Lithuania is also considering a similar scheme for Belarusians. Andrei Savinykh, the Press Secretary of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, notes that this would please Belarus, since the reduction of visa barriers should aid mutual understanding, while aiding collaboration between European states. “We hope that Poland’s example will enable the European Union to accelerate negotiations with Belarus, to ease visa procedures,” he adds.
Parliament has recently ratified agreements with Poland and Lithuania, enabling residents from border areas to move freely across the border.