Czech Republic to bolster visa services in Ukraine

10:28, 23 January 2008
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More than a dozen new diplomats will arrive in Ukraine

The Czech Republic plans to send more than a dozen new diplomats and administrative officers to its consular offices in Ukraine to improve the system of visa issuing, Silvia Simkovicova from the Foreign Ministry said at a seminar on migration from Ukraine Tuesday, according to the Prague Daily Monitor.

Czech consular offices in Ukraine deal with an enormous number of visa applicants. At present, they register applicants whose visas will only be discussed in March and April.

Czech deputy Zuzka Rujbrova-Bebarova (junior opposition Communists, KSCM) recently accused officers of Czech diplomatic offices of corruption in connection with visa issuing. She mentioned offices in Vietnam, Mongolia and Ukraine.

Rujbrova-Bebarova said she discussed the problem with many foreigners in the past weeks and they all confirmed that none of them received the Czech visa without a bribe.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova admitted previously that in Ukraine local people on the street demand bribes from visa applicants outside the Czech embassy to allow them to approach it.

She said that in an effort to resolve the situation the ministry allowed visa applicants to agree with embassy employees on an interview by phone.

Simkovicova confirmed that at the Czech consular offices in Kiev and Lvov a new phone call system will be introduced to arrange dates of visa interviews.

She said three diplomats and five clerks are to join the consular office in Kiev, and two diplomats and four clerks are to arrive in Lvov.

Some participants in the Prague seminar Tuesday complained about the long visa waiting times. They also said it was impossible to reach the Czech consular offices by phone. The only possibility visa applicants had was to pay a mediator if they wanted to get their visas, they added.

According to the Czech foreigner police, over 126,000 Ukrainians stayed legally in the Czech Republic at the end of last November, including some 32,000 having permanent residence in the country.

On December 21, the Czech Republic joined the Schengen area and border checks between the old and new EU countries were lifted.

Jiri Celikovsky, from the Interior Ministry, said foreigners with permanent and long-term residence in the Czech Republic can easily travel across the European Union.

The Czech Republic issues not only Czech visas, but also Schengen visas, valid for the Schengen area. Ukrainians pay 35 euros for a Schengen visa.

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