Timely bolstering of the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Missions ahead of the coming tourist season

In response to postings on webpages regarding the issuing of entry visas, including photographs of a large number of applicants outside one of the private Visa Application Centres operating in Moscow, we clarify the following:

For months now, the Foreign Ministry has been implementing a systematic plan aimed at bolstering our Consular Missions (in Russia, Turkey, China, Ukraine, Iran and other countries) ahead of the adoption by all of the Schengen Area member states of an upgraded and more secure system for providing visas. Central to the Foreign Ministry’s planning were our three Consular Missions in Russia (Consulates General in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novorossiysk), as increased tourist movement from Russia is expected this year.

Our Consulate General in Moscow, in particular, has already been bolstered with 8 trained Foreign Ministry personnel, in addition to those already serving there, while a further 15 personnel from the Citizen Protection Ministry will be seconded to Moscow in the first half of May, to be followed by another 15 staff by the end of May. Moreover, provision has been made for 55 seasonal positions to be filled through local hiring (i.e., 2/3 of the total 84 seasonal personnel to be hired at all of the country’s Consular Missions abroad). The first 10 of these will be hired in the coming days, while hirings in this specific category will continue at the pace deemed necessary by our Consular Mission itself, which has been instructed to carry out ongoing assessment of the situation.

What’s more, since mid-April the work stations for issuing visas have increased from 32 to 47, and the visa center has been extended to include two floors, while the procurement and installation of an additional 30 work stations by early June is already under way.

Whereas 20 Visa Application Centres went into operation in December 2015, there are now 28 Centres operating throughout Russia, and there are plans to further increase the number of Centres. Finally, the necessary technological and support equipment (data transmission lines, visitor counters, etc.) has been upgraded, while improvement of visa issuing software is continuing and will allow for a drastic reduction in the time required to process each application.

Through these actions and any others deemed necessary as the tourist season approaches, the Foreign Ministry is supporting the Consular Missions in a timely and effective manner, enabling them to better serve tourists wishing to visit our country and to benefit the national economy.

The goal is for our Consular Missions to continue to issue visas within the time limit provided for by law; i.e., 10 days. In no case has this time limit been exceeded, while an effort is naturally being made to issue visas in as short a time as possible. The Moscow Consulate General has asked travel agencies to ensure the timely submission of applications by travelers, while, to the Consulate General’s knowledge, not a single group flight or individual fare has been cancelled due to a delay in visa issuing.

The photographs of large numbers of prospective tourists outside of a Visa Application Centre concern a unique case where one of the two private Visa Application Centres in Moscow that our Consular Authority collaborates with accepted applicants without appointments, contrary to the established practice. On the very day of the incident in question, our Consular Authority instructed that this practice not be repeated and that the two Visa Application Centres operate exclusively by appointment so as to better serve applicants.

In the interest of providing as complete a picture as possible, we note that, until recently, only one Visa Application Centre collaborating with the Greek Consulate General was operating in Moscow. A second Centre has already entered into operation, along with a further 7 Visa Application Centres throughout Russia, so that more visas can be issued and in order to support the increased tourism flows expected from Russia to Greece this year.