On the Finnish border waiting for the influx of Russian tourists

In connection with the lifting of coronavirus restrictions on entry into Finland, the number of Russian tourists at the Finnish border may increase sharply for some time, said Colonel Tuomas Laosmaa, head of the border control department of the Main Directorate of the Border Guard Service.

“It is difficult to estimate the exact volumes, but a certain jump after the lifting of restrictions will happen for sure.”

On June 21, the Finnish Ministry of the Interior announced that entry restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic would end on June 30.

This means that third-country representatives coming to Finland will no longer be required to present vaccination certificates or coronavirus test results, and no more coronavirus tests will be performed at checkpoints. Third countries are countries outside the EU and the Schengen area.

Once the restrictions are lifted on the eastern border of Finland, normal entry rules will be used. The coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s special operation in Ukraine are likely to continue to influence the number of people wishing to enter Finland.

According to Laosmaa, it will not be possible to return to pre-pandemic indicators – at least not immediately.

“Sanctions imposed because of the events in Ukraine will not prevent Russian tourists from getting to Finland, but they will still greatly affect the purchasing power of Russians and their desire to travel,” Laosmaa said.

“Coronavirus restrictions have been in place for more than two years, during which time many Russians have run out of the Schengen visa required to travel to Finland.”

Before the pandemic, the most visited Nuijamaa crossing point was crossed by about eight thousand people every week.

Movement across the Finnish border began to be restricted on March 19, 2020. Restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic have been in place since then.

According to the forecast of Krista Napola, head of the immigration department of the Finnish Foreign Ministry, after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Russians are unlikely to start applying for visas en masse.

“We do not expect a strong increase, but we are still closely monitoring how the tourist desires and opportunities of Russians will develop. We also do not know what restrictions will be from Russia.”

In June, Russians filed about 500 visa applications daily.

Compared to the pre-pandemic period, this is a very insignificant figure: in 2019, 3.5 thousand applications were sent per day, and visa denials were very rare: applications were accepted in 99% of cases.

“Before the pandemic and the events in Ukraine, there was a normal, active movement at the border,” says Napola.

Krista Napola emphasizes that visa applicants will still need to meet visa requirements.

“Currently, the issuance of visas is also affected by the partial suspension of the visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Russia due to sanctions,” says Napola.

However, according to Krista Napola, sanctions rarely prevent ordinary Russian tourists from obtaining a visa, since they are primarily aimed at official representatives of the Russian state or companies.

Napola and Laosmaa stress that the necessary resources are available for border security and visa processing.

“We will be able to respond to a significant increase in the number of tourists on the eastern border,” says Laosmaa.

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