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Published on : Friday, May 12, 2017
Russian travel to Finland is fast catching up, with over 4,000 visa applications per day now being submitted in St. Petersburg alone. Processing times at the Finnish consulate in the city are getting delayed for months due to the rush.
Some 50,000 outstanding visa applications are yet to be processed at the Consulate General in St. Petersburg, as Russia tourism to Finland regains its momentum after a long period of dormancy.
Kari Lehtonen, the head of Finland’s visa unit in St Petersburg says, “It’s been a huge change, no doubt, but it was expected. Now the problem is that there is a month-long waiting period, as our resources can’t keep up with the workload.”
The city of Vyborg has also seen a boom in visa applications, but other major Russian cities located close to Finland, like Petrozavodsk and Murmansk, haven’t recorded a similar increase.
When the ruble was weak, it was simply too pricey for Russian residents to travel abroad. Now that the Russian currency has regained some of its value, people are again up for exploring.
Lehtonen said, “The ruble exchange rate is good, conducive enough to travel to Finland and make some purchases.”
Now that tourism from Russia is reviving, there aren’t enough employees to process the applications accordingly. “There’s a risk people will get their visas from a different consulate as a result,” says Lehtonen. The longer processing times have led many Russians to cancel their trips to Finland. Both individuals and travel agencies have been disappointed.
The Foreign Ministry will try to clear up the visa application backlog by hiring 30 new seasonal employees for its Kouvola unit, but Lehtonen says the consulate would also need more staff.