Estonia one of strictest Schengen states on visa issuing

The newly renovated Estonian Embassy in Moscow.
The newly renovated Estonian Embassy in Moscow. Source: KAOS Arhitektid

Estonia has among the strictest Schengen visa regimes of all member states, with diplomatic missions in Turkey, Egypt and India standing out as having the highest rates of refusal to issue a visa of all European Union countries.

Last year, the Estonian embassy in Cairo, Egypt, rejected just under two-thirds of all Schengen visa applications.

This is the highest such percentage by some margin, and is followed by Malta at 43.1 percent, Slovakia at 42.2 percent and Sweden 29.4 percent of all requests.

In India and Turkey, the picture is much the same – Estonia declined Schengen visas in 56 percent and 52.1 percent of cases in these countries respectively.

This compares with, in the case of India, a 45.0 percent refusal rate from Malta, 44.5 percent from Slovenia and 36.2 percent from Portugal.

In Turkey, Finland declined 40.6 percent of Schengen applications last year, Belgium 37.7 percent and Latvia 33.2 percent.

Foreign ministry spokesperson: All Schengen area states have high rates of visa rejection

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tallinn justified these figures due to question marks over many applications.

The ministry's press officer Anna Tisler-Lavrentjev told ERR that with regard to Egypt, Turkey and India: "The problem is the reliability of documents proving the purpose of the trip which are submitted when applying for a visa in these countries, and when there is reason to doubt that the destination is Estonia and not another Schengen Area state."

The percentage of refusals to issue Schengen visas processed by other member states is also high, Tisler-Lavrentjev added.

Estonia is also among the countries with the highest share of refusals to issue Schengen visas at its missions in Russia and in Belarus, countries where in many cases individuals are subject to sanctions relating to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Misleading information provided is also a factor, Tisler-Lavrentjev added, noting that many applicants claim relatives residing on a permanent basis in Estonia who they wish to visit, only for it to become clear during the application process that those relatives, while they exist and may even have resided in Estonia at one time, now live elsewhere.

The Schengen Area visa information system reveals that Estonia rejected 21.6 percent of visa applications last year at its diplomatic mission in Moscow. 

This was, however, lower than many other member states; Sweden's figure stood at 30.8 percent (Moscow), Austria's at 27.8 percent (Murmansk).

Passport control at Tallinn Airport. Source: ERR

The Czech Republic refused in 25 percent of cases at its consulate in Moscow, Malta in 24.5 percent of cases and Norway in 24 percent of cases.

Of two German consulates in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Schengen visas were declined in 23.1 percent and 20 percent of cases respectively.

Estonia closed its St. Petersburg, Pskov consulates last year

When Estonia did have consulates operating in St. Petersburg and in Pskov, both close to the Estonian border, rates of rejection were much lower, at 6.6 percent and 7.3 percent respectively. However, these missions were closed in early May 2022, meaning the above figures reflect more the situation prior to the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

In Minsk, the Estonian embassy, while the rate of rejection of Schengen visa areas was only 5.4 percent, this figure was still higher than at most other member states' diplomatic missions – only Latvia's consulate in Vitebsk, had a higher rejection rate, at 6.7 percent. Latvia shares a border with Belarus.

People crossing the pedestrian bridge at the Narva-2 border checkpoint connecting Narva with Ivangorod. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Tisler-Lavrentjev noted that the Estonian government imposed sanctions on visa applications from Russian and Belarusian citizens on April 8, 2022, while additional restrictions came into force on August 18 last year also.

Under EU visa regulations, a visa can be refused if there is a doubt about the authenticity or accuracy of the accompanying documents or the reasons given for the visit.

Further afield, Sweden's embassy in Abuja, Nigeria had a Schengen visa application rejection rate of over 90 percent, and at its embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, the rate was just over 76 percent.

Malta's embassy in Algiers, Algeria also stood out – the Schengen rejection rate there was nearly 86 percent.

The Schengen area does not quite coincide with the EU's borders.

EU member states Ireland, Romania, Cyprus and Bulgaria, are not in the Schengen area – and neither was the U.K. prior to leaving the EU – while non-EU states Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are nonetheless members of the Schengen zone.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Andrew Whyte

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