Why You Should Visit Ukraine
Over the past several years, Ukraine’s profile as a cultural and economic hub has been on a steady rise. It’s next to Russia and close to Turkey. Some of the main attractions are the mountain ranges, which are ideal for skiing, hiking, and hunting. The country is abundant with natural resources like oil, iron ore, titanium, magnesium, and highly fertile land. It’s therefore not surprising that there are a lot of people interested in visiting or even migrating to this eastern European nation.
Ukraine receives hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. There are several interesting activities throughout the year, such as music and food festivals, and it’s much cheaper than in other European countries. Medical tourism has become popular in recent years too — the country is slowly becoming renown for quality and affordable dental and plastic surgery, spas, and mud baths.
The most popular places for tourists after the capital Kyiv are the coastal city Odessa and the industrial hub Kharkiv. These cities are not only critical cultural centers but also historical attractions as they contain essential remnants of Ukraine’s long history, such as Saint Sophia’s Cathedral and Primorsky Boulevard. Some of the must-see places are the Carpathian Mountains, Crimean Resorts and Sophievka Park.
If you’re planning to visit Ukraine, we hope that the following information helps you to understand better the country’s passport and visa requirements.
Do You Need a Visa to Visit Ukraine?
Unlike most European countries which are known for their stringent visa requirements, Ukraine’s immigration laws are relatively relaxed. Whether you need a visa to visit the country depends on your country of origin and its relationship with Ukraine.
Basically, citizens of the following countries (read the next section) don’t need visas to visit the country.
Entry Visa Requirements for the European Union
If you’re from any of the 28 countries that make up the EU, you can travel to Ukraine with just your international passport and no visa. This is in line with an agreement between the regional body and Ukraine that grants all EU citizens and their families the right to travel to any country within the EU without having to apply for a visa. Similarly, Ukrainians can also travel visa-free to all countries under the EU umbrella. The travel regime, signed in May 2017, was seen as a significant step towards an eventual EU membership by the former Soviet Republic.
Nonetheless, there are some restrictions on the amount of time one can stay in Ukraine, even if they are EU citizens. Generally, you can only stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days within any 180. This means that you can stay in Ukraine for up to 6 months in a year with just a passport for identification, which is more than enough time for a long vacation. Anything beyond that and you will have to pay a visit to your nearest Ukrainian embassy for a permit.
It’s worth noting that the 90-day maximum-only stay applies for a continuous stay. You can leave and reenter the country as long as your stay hasn’t exceeded 90 days in any six months. If you plan on staying longer or more than 90 days in any six months, you’ll need a visa. In the past, expats would enter and exit the country on a rotating schedule to make it harder to determine how long they had been in-country and to minimize immigration issues; but, this loophole has closed as Ukraine has modernized its border entry system. This also makes it difficult for foreigners to skirt Ukrainian immigration law by using multiple passports in an entry/exit scheme.
Other Countries Without Entry Visa Requirements
There are also other countries whose citizens don’t require visas to travel and temporarily stay in Ukraine. These countries typically have great economic and political relationships with the former Soviet Republic and include Japan, USA, and Canada.
Citizens of these countries can only stay up to 90 days within a 180-day period without visas, just like the EU and CIS citizens.
Countries with Entry Visas Requirements
Citizens from most countries require visas to get into Ukraine. These are mostly from countries that don’t have direct regional or political partnerships with Ukraine. The visa regulations, however, are not uniform as some nationalities are required to apply for visas way before they travel while some get visas upon landing in the country. Nationalities that require advance visas include all African, Asian and Southern American countries.
Now, there are some countries whose citizens are allowed to travel to Ukraine without a visa but are required to get one as soon as they land. These countries include Turkey, Australia, Guatemala, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Malaysia. It is worth noting that only single-entry visas which are valid for about two weeks can be acquired on arrival. Thus, if you plan on staying longer than that, you might want to get an advance visa from a Ukrainian embassy or online.
You can go directly to the webpage at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to determine your visa requirements for your specific country.
If you determine that you need a visa, go directly to the webpage by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine titled Ukraine entry and transit visa registration to begin the process.
What Are the Requirements for Obtaining a Ukrainian Visa?
Now that the visa requirements for various nationalities are clear, it’s only right to take a look at the requirements for getting a Ukrainian visa. Hint: They’re not as stringent as the USA’s. That said, visa requirements vary according to the nature and length of your intended stay in the country. To begin with here’s what you need to have before you hand in your visa application for a regular travel visa:
- An international passport which is set to be valid for the entire duration of your stay and three months afterward. Probably to facilitate deportation if you try to overstay your welcome.
- At least two blank pages in your passport for the visa stamps, signatures, et al.
- Colored passport size photograph of yourself – with no makeup or decorations, of course.
- A valid health insurance policy with a value of at least €30,000. You might be a tourist bringing in the money and all, but the Republic of Ukraine wants nothing to do with your medical bills.
- Payment of the necessary consular fees which vary with the type of visa required. Short term single-entry visas cost between $45 and $90 while 90-day visas cost between $100 and $160. Visa fees, however, only apply to citizens of the EU and any other countries with visa requirements. US citizens are not required to pay visa or consular fees to enter Ukraine.
- Valid proof that you have sufficient financial means to cater for your stay in the country comfortably. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this means that you need to have at least $750 for every 15 days you intend to spend in the country. This is the minimum amount, but it’s advisable to have more money on you to cater for unforeseen expenses and emergencies.
Ukraine also gives short-term visas for tourists and people looking to sightsee or visit family and friends for a short time. The permits are typically valid for between 3 and nine days and can be renewed while still in the country. Single entry visas are the easiest to get as they don’t require much documentation apart from invitation letters or proof of hotel bookings for tourists.
Where Can I Apply for a Ukrainian Visa?
Until recently, Ukrainian immigration laws insisted that one had to physically visit an embassy or consulate to apply for a travel visa. This regulation meant that people from countries that didn’t have Ukrainian embassies had to travel to countries that did. That is not a thing anymore, and you can apply for a visa from wherever you are either through contacting your nearest embassy via email or phone or directly visiting the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. If you are unsure of what to do, you might want to contact the Ukrainian Embassy in the USA or any EU immigration office.
How Long Will It Take Me to Get a Ukrainian Visa?
How long your visa takes to be processed depends on, among others, your country of origin, type of visa required, and the extent to which you met the stated requirements. Ordinary visas normally take about ten business days to be processed. This is about two weeks, but might even take a month or two due to corrupt officials. The waiting period can also be delayed for up to 30 days if, for instance, the embassy requires more information about you or when you need more time to meet the financial requirements. If you don’t want to wait for that long, you may want to pay some extra fees for an urgent visa which is processed within one business week (5 working days).
For your visa to be processed faster, ensure that you have all the required documents in order and be cooperative with the embassy staff and provide whatever information they need from you. While at it, look out for corrupt officials who will promise to “fasten” the process for a few hundred dollars. Such will waste your time and money and may even not deliver in the first place. Even worse, you might find yourself in legal trouble if caught giving bribes. As such, try as much as possible to stick to the rules no matter the temptations.
What Are the Penalties for Overstaying My Visa?
Like with most countries, you stand to incur significant penalties if you extend your stay in Ukraine beyond what your visa allows. Generally, authorities have three ways of dealing with the issue – deportation, fining, and banning. Out of these, fining is the most common punishment with fines ranging between 500 UAH to 820 UAH which translates to between $19 to $32, a tiny figure compared to other jurisdictions like the United States.
Immigration officials may also decide to expel you from the country with or without paying a fine. This is very rare, but it does occur. They can also ban you from visiting the country for up to 3 years depending on the nature of your infraction and the temperament of the official(s) dealing with your case.
All that is according to the law which is rarely followed because, as you will find out, there are quite a few corrupt officials in Ukraine, particularly in the police and immigration agencies. To make it worse, they are poorly paid, leaving them to resort to bribes and intimidations. A lot of people who have overstayed their visas in the country will attest that there are no major consequences of doing so. We however strongly advise that one should follow the legal channels if they intend to extend their stay in the country.
How Do I Stay in Ukraine for More Than the 90-Day Maximum?
Technically, it’s somewhat hard to stay in Ukraine beyond the maximum 90 days, and as mentioned above, being found doing so may attract penalties. However, you can legally go beyond the 90-day rule and even gain residency through the following ways:
- Don’t overstay for more than 180 days – As earlier stated, the maximum amount of time that you can stay in Ukraine with a tourist visa is 180 days per year. Even with a 90-day visa, you won’t have any problems with the immigration officials when you stay a little longer unless your stay goes beyond 180 days. In such a situation, you might get fined, detained or banned from entering the country for up to 3 years.
- School – It is quite easy to get a Ukrainian student visa which will be valid for up to 4 or more years. All you need to do is get an admission letter from a local college or university, and the good folks at the immigration department will be inclined to give you a long-term visa so as not to interfere with your “education.” As earlier stated, corruption is very high in Ukraine so getting admission letters, whether genuine or not, is not a big issue.
- Work visa – Want to stay in Ukraine for years? Get a regular job. A work visa typically lasts for years, after which the process of acquiring citizenship is very straightforward. If you want to stay for more than the permitted 90 days, look for a job within the period and present your appointment letter to the department of immigration, and you’ll be sorted. Note that doing so will also obligate you to pay taxes, so you better look for a real job and not just a pretend one.
Ukraine doesn’t have strict immigration laws, and even if they did, they don’t have the means or resources to implement them. As a matter of fact, no country (except North Korea), can claim to be 100% successful in preventing visa overstays, including the USA. So, to answer the question – yes, it’s actually possible to stay beyond 90 days, even for more than a year as long as you get the necessary documents.
May I Work in Ukraine Without a Visa?
One doesn’t necessarily require a visa to get a job in Ukraine unless it’s a high-level job. For the longest time, expats only needed to register as private entrepreneurs, and they would be allowed to live and work in Ukraine for as long as they wished. However, changes in immigration laws in 2011 made it a requirement for all expats in the country to have work permits which can only be applied for by employers.
The requirements for a work permit include a police clearance certificate from both the Ukrainian and your local police, proof of academic and professional qualifications and a letter from your future employer stating why they chose you (a foreigner) over a native.
With a work permit, you can earn a living and stay in Ukraine for the entire year for as long as the permit is valid. With the 90-day visa rule, the maximum number of days you can stay in the country continuously is 180 days or six months. Thus, it is more economical to get a work permit than a visa if you are interested in working and living in Ukraine.
However, it’s somewhat difficult for foreigners, especially Americans, to get work permits in Ukraine, partly because of widespread mistrust of foreigners and partly because the unemployment rate in the country is steadily rising. Both the government and private corporations are focusing on creating jobs for the locals. That said, if you are a native English speaker, you can easily find employment in Ukraine as an English teacher.
How Do I Acquire Ukrainian Citizenship?
There’s no doubt that despite her current problems, Ukraine is a beautiful country with great people and a wonderful culture. It would therefore not be a surprise if you visited the country and fell in love with her and her people and consequently decide to be a permanent resident, aka citizen. In that instance, you would be overly lucky as getting Ukrainian citizenship is not as hard as it is with most European countries. There are several ways through which you can gain citizenship, including:
- Marriage – Marrying a Ukrainian is undoubtedly the surest way to obtain citizenship. But there’s a little catch. First, you and your spouse should be married for at least two years at the time of application. Secondly, you and your spouse must be living in Ukraine at the time of applying for citizenship. So yeah, that eliminates the commercial marriage loophole.
- Naturalization – You are liable for citizenship if you have been continuously living in Ukraine legally for at least five years.
- Adoption – A child born in another country will gain Ukrainian citizenship if adopted by Ukrainian parents.
- Permanent residence visas – If you have the means, you can apply to be a lifelong resident of Ukraine. If granted, you will be obligated to obey the laws and constitution of Ukraine and will also enjoy all the rights and privileges of a citizen of Ukraine.
As you can see, the process of acquiring a Ukrainian passport is more or less similar to other countries. The only difference might perhaps be the bureaucracy involved, which is also not uncommon for most countries. That said, it is worth noting that Ukraine does not allow dual citizenship and you will have to renounce your current citizenship before you are granted permanent residence status.
Ukraine is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe, a rising player in European politics, and a top tourist destination with beautiful sights such as the Carpathian Mountains, the Bukovel ski mountains, and the architectural masterpiece that is the city of Kyiv. Whatever your reason for visiting Ukraine, I sincerely wish you the very best of experiences.
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"Kyiv is a bilingual capital, something unusual in Europe and unthinkable in Russia and the United States."
-- Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America