Estonia bars entry to Russian citizens with Estonian-issued visas

Urmas Reinsalu
Urmas Reinsalu Source: Jürgen Randma / riigikantselei

Estonia will ban Russians with Estonian-issued Schengen visas from entering the country, the government announced on Thursday (August 11). The rule does not affect permanent residents and will enter into effect on August 18.

"This sanction means that the visas will remain valid, but the visa holders will be sanctioned when entering Estonia, they will not be allowed to enter Estonia," said Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) at the government's weekly press conference.

The decision does not concern Russian citizens with visas issued by other EU members. But this issue will be raised with the EU later this month, he said.

It will also not affect Russian citizens whose homeland is Estonia or who are permanent residents of Estonia, Reinsalu said.

Exceptions to the rule include:

  • Russian embassy employees and their family members working in Estonia;
  • Employees directly involved in the transportation of goods and passengers;
  • Those who have the right to freedom of movement under EU law;
  • People visiting close relatives;
  • People entering for humanitarian reasons.

The government is now pushing for all EU member states to adopt the rule.

"We agreed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior will prepare their possible proposals for next week regarding the question of how it would be possible to close the Estonian border to those citizens of the Russian Federation who have a Schengen visa that has not been issued in Estonia," the minister said.

Reinsalu deputized for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas at Thursday's meeting.

The new rules can be read here in English.

Additional border checks to start next week

Veiko Kommusaar, undersecretary for Internal Security of the Ministry of the Interior, said additional visa checks will take place from next week at the Narva, Luhamaa and Koidula crossings which border Russia.

No extra checks will take place at the Port of Tallinn or on the southern border in Ikla and Valga, he said.

"If another member state has taken responsibility and admitted Russian citizens to the Schengen area and has granted a residence permit for this, then in the context of Schengen free movement, people have the right to visit other countries as well," Kommusaar said.

Estonia has issued 53,000 valid short-term visas and just over half will be affected by the new regulations.

Students can extend visa for one year

An additional exception has been made for Russian students studying in Estonia who will be able to extend their residence permits for one year.

Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) said Russian students who have not managed to complete their studies in the nominal time have been left in an awkward position due to the sanctions imposed in spring.

"For many of them, given the situation at present, returning home may be dangerous if they have spoken out in support of Ukraine and criticized the Russian regime and its aggression," he said.

"People there are facing prison sentences for doing so, which is why it was necessary, as an exception, to extend those students' residence permits by one year, so that they can complete their studies."

Last month the government said visa extensions would not be granted for Russian students studying in Estonia, leading to complaints from the students union.

Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify the exemptions to the restriction and additional information about student visas.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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