In the recent past, Westerners could travel back and forth, to and from Kiev hassle free. That is because after the Orange Revolution in 2004, new laws were enacted that enabled travelers from WTO countries to visit Kiev for a period of less than 90 days without a VISA. Plus, both private and business VISAs were frequently granted that allowed foreigners to stay in Kiev for years on in. Hundreds of thousands of Westerners took advantage of this new relaxed law and visited Kiev. And some of those who visited the capital of Ukraine decided to move to beautiful Kiev, if only for a brief period of time. But unfortunately, as of May 2009, the Ukraine updates days of relaxed border rules are gone as a new controversial law was enacted to replace this VISA-free regime. And the monumental headache that ensues from all attempts to decipher this new confusing law on foreigner’s legal lengths of stay is sure to turn off many Kiev travelers for good.
While this law is certainly unintelligible, I will attempt to summarize it here. The law basically says that whether you have a VISA or not, new rules are now in place which allow foreigners from WTO countries to stay in Kiev, Ukraine for not more than 90 days continuously and for not more than 180 days in any given year. No one knows whether a year starts at the beginning of a calendar year or is counted from the day when you happen to first arrive in Ukraine. Also, if you want to stay for more than 90 days at any one given time, you must get approval from OVIR. That approval is really only good though to ensure a hassle free exit from Ukraine because when you decide to come back to Kiev, Frontier (the border guards) will not let you back in the country based on a previous OVIR approval allowing an increased length of stay.
It also appears that expatriates must wait 90 days before they can re-enter Ukraine if they have already stayed 90 days. Or they must wait 180 days if they already stayed 180 days (presumably legally with an OVIR extension of stay stamp and within either a calendar year or the date from which they first entered; Huh, you ask? You are not alone.) Since we already know that OVIR sometimes permits increases of stay for up to one year, does that mean foreigners must wait another year before they enter again, if they stayed continuously for a year? Or is it okay to re-enter after 180 days? 90 days? How about “none of the above?” No one is really sure at this point since it would appear that foreigners are being let back in the country under almost all circumstances, for the moment. Some speculate that that will all change in 2010, now that everyone has been put on notice about the new law in 2009.
Incidentally, those Western travelers who shift gears, stay for an appreciable amount of time, and decide they want to work in Kiev are in for a bureaucratic headache that is not even explainable here in a few short sentences. Which really brings us front and center to the stated intent of this new law: it was enacted with the purpose to prevent foreigners from taking Ukrainian jobs. If you happen to run afoul these rules that no one fully understands by the way, you may be fined, or banned from the country for up to 5 years, or both.
Many foreigners are also left to wonder if exceptions to this law will ever be carved out. For instance, what if you are recently married to a Ukrainian and/or have a Ukrainian child? Or if you own property in Ukraine? Don’t these reasons seem to warrant an exception to lengths of stay? Doesn’t Ukraine want foreign investment as well as to keep families together? Since it would seem that the answers to these questions are yes, the government does want to see more direct foreign investment as well as to keep families together, the application of this law is far from decided.
Either way, the next few months should be very telling as experience begins to add up. That is, even without clarification from the government about this new confusing law, foreigners should have a much clearer picture as time goes by, from the experience of others, most of whom are forced to deal with Frontier at Borispol airport in Kiev. For an update of these foreigner’s outcomes and a more in depth analysis of these new laws, please visit my website where these issues are consistently explored.