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Ukraine and the EU Further Simplify Visa Regime

The European Union and Ukraine signed an additional section of the current visa facilitation agreement with Ukraine. The document extends the list of categories of people falling under the simplified procedure for obtaining visas while travelling to the EU member states.

The European Union is committed to strengthening personal contacts between the citizens of the EU and Ukraine, commented Štefan Füle after signing of the document. The Ukrainian side was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Kostyantyn Hryshchenko.

The newly signed amendment expanded the list of categories of Ukrainian citizens who may follow simplified procedures while obtaining visas before travelling to the EU. For example, in addition to the journalists the list also included members of their teams - videographers, sound engineers, etc., reports Interfax. From now on, the journalists may present the proof of employment letters from their respective employers instead of the invitations from the host party.

The simplified visa obtaining procedure now is also available to the four new categories: members of civil society organizations, participants in international forums (seminars, exhibitions, etc.), representatives of religious communities, as well as participants of the cross-border cooperation programs within the EU programs.

In addition, the amendment covered citizens who visit their relatives - citizens of Ukraine currently residing in the EU, as well as relatives who are the EU citizens. The list also includes the accompanying persons of those who are in need of medical treatment.

In 2011 alone Ukrainian citizens received 1.1 million of Schengen visas. The volume of multiple entry visas compared to single entry visas for Ukrainian citizens increased to 35.5 percent (in 2010 - 27.3 percent) and every third visa has been issued free of charge.

The visa liberalisation dialogue was initialed in 2006. The two-stage Visa Liberalisation Action Plan (VLAP) for Ukraine toward the establishment of a visa-free regime for short-stay travel was adopted in late 2010. VLAP outlines four blocks of issues: document security, including biometrics; irregular immigration, including readmission; public order and security; and external relations and fundamental rights.

Currently, Ukraine is at stage one of the Action Plan and the next step is for Ukrainian Parliament to approve the introduction of biometric passports for travelling abroad.

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