What is the change? Foreign nationals are increasingly being denied entry to Russia on the grounds that they have been barred entry to Belarus. Under an agreement between the two countries, a foreigner who is denied entry to one country may be automatically barred from entering the other.
What does the change mean? Foreign nationals who are denied entry to Belarus should anticipate that they are likely to be denied entry to Russia, and vice versa. Additionally, Belarus is increasingly denying entry to foreigners who violate the five-day visa waiver program that was recently extended to nationals of 80 countries.
- Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
- Visas/permits affected: All entry visas, including visa-free travel.
- Who is affected: Foreign nationals who are denied entry to Belarus or Russia.
- Business impact: Employees and assignees should be aware of the increased enforcement of the entry-ban agreement and make sure they are in compliance with the terms of their stays, including terms of visa-free travel.
Background: In March 2015, Russia and Belarus reached an agreement to share information with each other about banned foreign nationals, and that the denial of entry in one country serves as grounds for the foreigner to be barred entry to the other.
According to Belarus legislation, third-country nationals must enter and exit via international checkpoints; however, since there is no border control in the Minsk Airport for flights between Russia and Belarus (which are considered domestic flights), there is no way for third-country nationals to be checked. Under current policy, Belarusian authorities do not consider third-country nationals who take direct flights to and from Russia to be in violation of the law as long as they do not arrive under the five-day visa waiver program. However, this policy may change at any time and foreign nationals are reminded that the only fully legal option is to enter and exit Belarus by flying to or from a country other than Russia.
BAL Analysis: Foreign nationals traveling to Belarus and Russia should be aware of the mutual entry-ban agreement and those using Belarus’ visa waiver program should know that Belarus is stepping up enforcement against those who overstay the five days or violate other terms of the program.