As of June 11, 2017, citizens of Ukraine will no longer need to secure a visa to travel through the European Schengen zone. The decision was announced by Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, earlier in June. In practical terms, this means that Ukrainian citizens with biometric passports will be able to travel to EU-member countries freely without needing to apply for a traditional visa.
Prior to having these travel restrictions lifted, Ukrainians had more stringent requirements placed on them whenever they traveled within the European Union that many regarded as unfair or even humiliating. For example, Ukrainian citizens were required to check in at EU embassies and were sometimes asked to leave deposits (e.g., documents or money) as a means of ensuring that they would not overstay their visas.
Destroying “the Paper Curtain”
Under the new regulations, Ukrainians can stay in Schengen Area countries a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period without needing to apply for a traditional visa beforehand. The visa-free system allows Ukrainian citizens with a biometric passport to enter the Schengen Area and some non-E.U. areas, like Switzerland and Iceland.
The United Kingdom and Ireland, however, still remain off-limits to Ukrainians. Moreover, Ukrainian citizens who wish to work in the European Union must still obtain working visas. Ukrainians must also still show they have a return ticket, appropriate accommodation, and sufficient funds and insurance for their trip.
But the mood remains high. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko praised the elimination of visas the evening before the changes came into effect. Speaking at the culmination of a countdown ceremony before the start of the visa-free policy, President Poroshenko declared that the “last sound of the countdown” will mark “the fall not of the concrete Berlin Wall, but of the paper curtain that has been separating Ukrainians from the European family for years.”
“We will never return to the Soviet Union because we, a proud and democratic nation, return to the family of European nations,” the president continued.
At the same ceremony, Hugues Mingarelli, head of the European Union’s delegation to Ukraine, also welcomed the news that Ukrainians will be able “to travel to 33 countries of Western Europe without any visa requirements.”
Mingarelli also expressed hope that the change would mark only the “first step toward intensifying relations” between the E.U. and Ukraine.