Nearly 500,000 Ukrainians have taken advantage of the visa-free travel agreement with the European Union. In June 2017, the Council of the European Union decided to introduce a visa-free travel agreement for Ukrainian citizens for short-term visits to 30 countries of the European Union. Ukrainians with a biometric passport can now travel freely to the Schengen Zone for periods of up to 90 days. Relationships between the European Union and Ukraine are shaped through the Ukraine-European Association Agreement and also by the Eastern Partnership and the European Neighbourhood Policy. The president of Ukraine has been working toward bettering the relationship.
Though Ukraine is an Eastern European country, in the past, Ukrainian citizens were required to obtain a visa to visit Schengen Member countries. This visa-waiver deal was a huge step toward the strengthening of EU-Ukraine relations. The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine reported in a statement, "In general, about 500,000 Ukrainians have already taken advantage of the visa-free regime with the European Union since June 11, 2017. Most of them were airline passengers." Currently, the only document required of Ukrainians is a valid biometric passport. This visa-free regulation, however, does not apply to the UK and Ireland, as both regulate entry requirements of their perspective national laws.
Visa-free travel agreement
Ukraine is not the only country that has a visa-free travel agreement with the European Union. There are 60 countries that are part of a visa waiver program and its citizens can travel freely to any country in the Schengen Zone. However, this will change in the future and the EU will require visitors from visa exempt countries to apply for an online travel authorization called ETIAS. The launch of the ETIAS system is expected in the year 2020.
ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorization System and has been developed by the European Union in order to protect its external borders, identify possible threats and potential risks associated with visitors traveling to any of the Schengen member countries. The ETIAS for Europe will be an obligatory requirement for travelers from visa exempt nations and will be needed in order to enter the region. In order to obtain the ETIAS authorization, travelers will need to complete an online form, provide their personal and passport details, an email address, and pay a fee. The ETIAS program has similarities to the U.S. ESTA or Canada's eTA.
Many more countries are designing electronic systems that allow travelers to obtain a visa or authorization. These electronic systems allow governments to screen travelers before they even board a plane. The ETIAs system, for instance, will compare data provided by a traveler with a series of databases such as the Europol and the Interpol. Ukraine also has launched an electronic visa system that allows citizens from eligible countries to obtain their visa to enter Ukraine for tourism or business purposes. The Ukraine online visa simplifies the process of obtaining a visa to travel to the country and it saves traveler's time as they no longer need to go to an embassy or a consulate.