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If one destination offers visa free travel and the other requires visiting a consulate and spending time and money, people tend to pick the destination which makes things easier. You buy a ticket, you want to be able to get on the plane without any extra expense, or hassle – right?

It’s for that reason that many interested travellers shake their head at the prospect of visiting Russia, or China – two of the world’s most unique destinations, both of which are wrapped in bureaucratic red tape which make getting there more difficult than it should be. According to President Vladimir Putin, that will be changing soon, at least in Russia, with the introduction of electronic visas. With easy air travel access from virtually all of Europe, it could create quite a buzz.

First, it’s important to understand the fundamental difference between visa free, and e-visa travel. Visa free travel means that you can basically get on a plane just by waving your passport and all will be ok. E-visas require you to fill out a form and often to also pay a fee in advance of showing up at the airport, otherwise you won’t be allowed to board. In many instances, it’s a tit for tat situation where one country charges citizens of the other to enter, so the other country creates an e-visa to then do the same.

Many countries love to pretend that these are not in fact visas, because the word visa has a negative connotation, though most people would consider any barrier between buying a ticket and boarding a flight to be a visa of some kind, however it’s actually issued.

Russia has announced that by 2021, the country will offer e-visas to citizens of select countries, in response to widespread feedback that the current in person draconian visa requirements are a huge barrier. According to the Moscow Times, countries within the European Union, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and China are likely candidates. The USA has not yet been discussed.

Presently, citizens of most countries need to appear in person at a Russian Consulate, or send an official on their behalf to initiate the process. Even with that hassle, the visas are still very expensive, invasive and frustrating to acquire. People do not like parting ways with their passport, even if for a moment.

Under the new system decreed by President Vladimir Putin, visitors would gain single use one entry visas, which would grant 16 days in Russia at a proposed cost of $50. All elements of the application process would be completed online. The only time this was previously possible was during the FIFA World Cup 2018, where holders of match tickets could apply for visas online and the electronic trial was apparently such a tremendous success, it’s become the catalyst for this new initiative aimed at boosting Russian tourism.

Though Russia has a unique way of creating negative headlines around the world, the country offers staggeringly beautiful cities and countryside escapes along the Black Sea. It’s absolutely worth a visit and if that visit no longer requires a pain in the _ _ _  process, it’s all the more reason to go.

Are you more likely to visit Russia after electronic visas roll out?

HT: YHBU

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