Visa application process
Russian citizens need to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the Schengen Area.
Since 14 September 2015, first-time visa applicants have to appear in person at a consulate or an authorised visa application centre when applying for a short-stay Schengen visa to have their biometric data (10-digit fingerprints and digital photograph) collected. This data is stored in the Visa Information System (VIS). The VIS is a means for Schengen countries to exchange data on visa applicants to facilitate the process and enhance security.
The procedure of collecting biometric data is simple and discreet, taking a few minutes. Frequent travellers to the Schengen Area do not have to have their fingerprints scanned for each visit, as the VIS stores scans for further visa applications over a 5-year period, irrespective of where the previous visa application was lodged.
This requirement is waived for children under the age of 12 and persons who cannot physically provide fingerprint scans.
Applications should be lodged at the consulate or visa application centre of the country of destination. Check the countries currently in the Schengen Area. For practical questions, applicants should contact a relevant Schengen consulate or a visa application centre in Russia. For more details check FAQ and VIS website for Russia.
Travelling between the EU and Russia was made easier in 2007 when the EU-Russia Visa Facilitation Agreement entered into force. This agreement lowered the visa fee, made obtaining multiple-entry visas easier, simplified the list of supporting documents required, and waived visas for diplomats. The EU-Russia Joint Visa Facilitation Committee oversees on an annual basis the proper functioning of the agreement.
Russia has been for the last 10 years the top source country for Schengen visa applications, with almost 3.7 million applications in 2018. Of these visas, almost 82% were issued as multiple-entry visas in 2018, one of the highest shares in the world. Furthermore, the refusal rate was only 1,6% in 2018, one of the lowest in world.
To make travelling even easier, the EU and Russia were negotiating amendments to the existing agreement. The aim was to sign an upgraded Visa Facilitation Agreement that would have further facilitated travelling for citizens by providing a multi-year and multi-entry visa to more categories of ordinary and frequent travellers. Following Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, the EU suspended negotiations. As of 2020, the new EU Visa Code will enter into force, and will bring further facilitations to Russian applicants as well.
Visa Liberalisation Dialogue
The EU and the Russian Federation have been negotiating the possibility of a visa free regime in the future based on the ‘Common steps towards visa free short-term travel of Russian and EU citizens’ that were agreed at the EU-Russia Summit in December 2011.
These ‘steps’ consist of a ‘roadmap’ and foresee detailed work and reforms that Russia needs to accomplish. These benchmarks are distributed in four large blocks:
- Document security, including biometrics;
- Illegal migration, including readmission;
- Public order, security and judicial cooperation;
- External relations.
There is no target date or automatic cut-off for the visa free regime to begin. It is rather an open-ended dialogue, guided by senior officials from both EU and Russia, which reviews progress on the ‘Common Steps’ and examines how the long-term aim of visa free travel can be achieved in practice. A number of expert meetings were organised to assess progress made on the ground, based on which the first EU evaluation report was published. Work was proceeding on schedule before the EU suspended the talks following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014.