The Hassle of Getting a Ukraine Visa

 

 

One of the most frustrating things about visiting Ukraine is getting a visa. The annoyance is compounded by the fact that almost nobody needs a visa for Ukraine – except for Australia and New Zealand. Brits don’t need visas; nor do Canadians or Americans. Generally when it comes to visa requirements, Australia and New Zealand are in the same boat as at least Canada and the US. Not in Ukraine. While pretty much everyone else can just waltz across the border and spend 90 days roaming around, I had to go to the hassle of getting a visa in Hungary. And it seems like they really don’t want Australians to go.

 

Firstly, you need to get an official letter of invitation, covered in official stamps and authorised by their tourism peoples. This wasn’t too hard – the hostel I’d booked for Lviv agreed to send me the required letter once I’d given them all my passport information and told them the dates that I wanted a visa for. I got the letter a few days later.

 

Secondly, the Ukrainian consulate in Budapest is only open a few days a week, for a few hours. They’re closed on Thursdays, because apparently a weekend isn’t enough for embassy and consulate staff. So on Friday morning off I went to the consulate, on the other side of Budapest, armed with my passport, visa application forms and a huge wad of cash.

 

I took a tram and then a bus to the consulate and luckily the bus stops right over the road from it so it was not too hard to find. I arrived at about 10.00am, plenty of time. I handed everything over to the unsmiling and rather cranky looking official behind the window, who after looking briefly at the application form told me that I’d filled out the wrong forms and to come back when I had the correct forms completed.

 

I explained to him that I had downloaded the application forms from their website that very morning, so if they were the wrong forms that wasn’t my error, and could he give me the right forms to fill out. He disputed that their website had the incorrect forms – this would be ‘impossible’. He also didn’t want to give me the right forms, but expected me to somehow locate them myself. After I insisted, for about ten minutes, that  the website had the wrong forms he gave in and checked it; having confirmed my story he then handed me the correct forms to complete. Really, would it have been so hard for him to have passed those sheets of paper over earlier?

 

I was a little concerned as the new forms required me to include the name and contact phone number of my employer. This was a little difficult for me as I’m unemployed. I told him I was a student [not true, but usually the easiest way around that question], but he said I still needed to put a name and number there. I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t check that detail, so I wrote down ‘Red Energy’ but the wrong phone number just in case they did try. Once I’d duly completed the new forms and stuck my photos to them, I handed them back to him along with my passport and invitation letter. He vanished with them for about five minutes and then returned telling me that the letter of invitation was a fake and wasn’t acceptable. I explained that this was the letter of invitation I had been provided by the hostel and they advised this was the official letter authorised by whoever it was had to authorise it. I showed him the email that included it. I’d printed it out in colour so that all the stamps on the damn thing could be seen. He couldn’t tell me what was wrong with it, or show me what the letter ‘should’ look like, and after going back and forth about for half an hour he decided that the letter was acceptable after all. He said that because I was Australian it didn’t matter too much if he wasn’t sure about the letter but that I was lucky that I wasn’t from China.

 

So far it seemed like they just don’t want tourists to bother. But it got even more annoying.

 

It was after eleven by the time he decided it was all OK, and then told me how much the visa would cost – $215. At that point I started to seriously reconsider whether I really wanted to go to Ukraine, but I figured that I’d bothered to come all the way to the embassy so I might as well.  To be fair, had I had two weeks to wait for a visa the price would have been about $130. And after all, I’d asked for five weeks in the country so it wasn’t so bad.

 

Then it was time to pay, and the cranky consulate dude then tells me that I can’t actually pay there – I have to go to this specific branch of this specific bank and deposit the payment into a specific bank account and then return with the receipt. OH and we close at 12pm. The bank wasn’t all that close, 20 minutes on a bus, then waiting in line at the bank, then waiting for a bus back to give the consulate, that would be closed anyway, the receipt. After realising there was no way I’d be able to get back by 12, he said that he would let one of the girls working in the embassy section know that I’d be coming back with a visa payment receipt and they would let me in.

 

So, off I went. I only had to wait ten minutes for the bus there, and only about en minutes in line at the bank and luckily the girl at the bank spoke English. I paid my exorbitant visa fee and headed back to the consulate where, despite Unsmiling Official man’s claim he’d make the other staff aware I’d be coming back, I sat at the gate ringing the bell and generally being annoyed for twenty minutes before they let me in and took the receipt. At least that part was all done.

 

When I went back the next week to pick up my visa, it took them an HOUR to find my details and the visa sticker. At first they told me that I had never returned with the receipt, then that they hadn’t received my application form. After an hour of insisting that they had both of those things, miraculously they found all my information. They took my passport, and somehow it took another forty minutes for them to figure out how to peel the back off the visa sticker and stick it into my passport. Apparently it’s more complicated than it seems.

 

So I got my passport back with visa inside and I was pretty happy. Then when I looked at it a little closer, I saw that they’d issued me a visa for 24 days, not the five weeks I’d asked for.

 

And that’s basically Ukraine in a nutshell.

 

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12 responses to “The Hassle of Getting a Ukraine Visa

  1. I am a frequent visitor to Ukraine, and a one-time visitor to Russia.

    The guy at the Ukrainian embassy in Canberra is exactly like that character in Hungary. The Ukrainian government must have a factory to create such officious people. And the procedure you describe is still the same in 2015. And for no reason that I can understand, this seems to only apply to Australians and New Zealanders. Procedure at the Russian embassy is identical, as are the fees, and as is the targeting of us Aussies and Kiwis. At least the Russians are (marginally) friendlier, and they have a consulate in Sydney. Ukraine has officially resigned from the CIS, so one would think that they might also change their Cold War policies too. Alas, government bureaucracies have more inertia than the moon.

    Russian and Ukrainian government employees are reknown in both countries for rudeness, and incompetence.

  2. Reading your post I assume you just landed on a “bad” guy. I’ve had my internship couple of years ago at the Ukrainian Consulate in Warsaw (Poland), and I can assure you that the people there are quite friendly and I have never seen such an inappropriate behaviour there. The other thing may be the so called ‘reciprocity approach’, Ukrainians should obtain visas in order to travel to Australia, and even what is worth, Ukrainian have to go to foreign country Moscow (Russia) in order to file the visa application. Moreover, Ukrainians are very bad treated in the EU consulates. By the way, hostels/hotels in the EU DO NOT provide the invitation letters for Ukrainians. Something to think over. PS. Hope you’ll enjoy your stay in Ukraine.

    • You’re right, I may just have had bad luck! I’m glad I went though, i had such a great time in Ukraine overall. It was certainly the most work for a visa I’ve had to do! There’s definitely a reciprocity aspect with most visas – it’s quite unusual though, Australia has fairly good visa relations with most countries! Do Ukrainians really have to go to russia to get an Australian visa? If that’s the case I understand the hassle for us a bit more!

      Thanks for your comment, it’s always nice to learn something new!

    • Hi Mark,

      It depends on a number of things – primarily where you get your visa! If you’re also Australian, and trying to obtain a visa in Budapest, then yes – it’s going to be a major hassle. If you’re planning to get a visa in Australia I imagine it’s a bit easier – and cheaper. It costs $110 for the visa in Australia, plus charges for getting a money order and for posting the forms and your passport. You’ll still need a letter of invitation, but most hostels or hotels [or tour agencies, if you’re booking tours of some kind] will provide this for you – perhaps free of charge or perhaps for a small fee.

      If you’re not a fellow Australian, chances are it’ll be much easier – most other nationals of ‘western’ countries can get visas on arrival without a LOI.

      It’s worth it if you’re planning to spend a bit of time there. If you’re only going to spend a couple of days there, it may not be worth the cost – especially if you’re on a budget. I’m not sure what a transit visa costs from European countries – I know that if you’re applying in Australia it’s the same price as a tourist visa!

      While there were things that drove me crazy about Ukraine, I’d certainly go back – although I’d try and get a visa somewhere other than Hungary!

      Good luck with your trip!

      Cat

  3. Oh I understand you so well! As a Pole I don’t need a visa to Ukraine, but I need it in order to visit Russia… And I live only 150 km away from the border with Kaliningrad. I have friends there, I studied there for 6 months, I often need Russian books as I graduated from Russian language&culture at university, but still I can’t go there whenever I want! The procedure is very similar, with the invitation etc… But actually i am very surprised that there are nationalities that need visas to Ukraine, I was sure that everyone can go there.. This is so sick :/

    • Yes, it was certainly a pain! I had wanted to visit Russia also, but the visa situation there just made it virtually impossible for me. I’ll have to visit Russia on another trip. It seems crazy that you need a visa for Russia, especially for Kaliningrad! I’d hoped there were different rules for that little part of Russia so that I could at least visit part of the country, but no such luck. They make it so difficult that I wonder whether maybe they simply don’t want any tourists…

      • I’m glad to tell you that the law, which allows citizens of certain countries (incl. Australia) to stay in Russia for 72 hours without visa, are being processed by the Parliament and is planned to come into effect from June 2014.

        Visa exemptions for Kaliningrad is also in process… the trans-border travel agreement with Poland is already in effect.

        There is also rumors about visa free regime in Kalingrad for the time of Football world cup in 2018. But i hope the region will become visa free much-much before.

    • I see your comment was written in 2011 – but in summer 2012 a trans-border travel agreement came into effect and you may be eligble for it if you are living in border regions. Consult russian consulate in Gdansk for more details.

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