Decision to extend Belarus' visa-free travel program explained


Positive feedback from Belarus' visa-free travel program is behind the latest decision to extend the program. Head of the Central Consular Office of the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrei Kozhan mentioned it while talking about the ministry's initiative to extend visa-free travel arrangements for residents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland onto 2023, BelTA has learned.

Andrei Kozhan reminded that Belarus waived visas for citizens of Lithuania, citizens and non-citizens of Latvia as from 15 April 2022 and for citizens of Poland as from 1 July. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about 370,000 foreigners have used the visa-free option to visit Belarus so far. “You have to agree that it is quite a large figure. They come to Belarus for various purposes: to simply visit their relatives, acquaintances, and friends, in order to visit graveyards, for the sake of business contacts, tourism, for getting medical services,” he said.

The official went on saying: “Since the introduction of the visa-free travel program we've been regularly thanked for it nearly every day. Among other things we received queries from our diaspora associations, which wondered whether the program will be extended into the next year. Taking into account all the positive things generated by the visa-free travel program and questions of Belarusians and diasporas, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came forward with the initiative to extend the program. I am glad that our initiative has been backed by the head of state and therefore the visa-free travel procedure will stay in place for citizens of Lithuania, Poland, and citizens and non-citizens of Latvia in 2023.”

Andrei Kozhan drew attention to the fact that the initiative had gone ahead despite all the restrictions that Belarusian citizens have to deal with, including in the course of getting their visas.

Moreover, scary stories about Belarus are being spread in neighboring countries in a bid to dissuade citizens from coming to Belarus. Andrei Kozhan invited foreigners to come to Belarus and personally make sure that the scary stories have nothing to do with reality. The official recalled how he had to dispel fears of a foreign guest once. An acquaintance of his was coming from a neighboring country but started having doubts a day before coming to Belarus. The acquaintance was not sure his car would be refueled in Belarus due to foreign vehicle plates. Andrei Kozhan said: “I immediately went to the nearest gas station and asked whether they don't sell fuel to foreigners. I was asked how many tonnes my friend needed.”

The official went on saying: “There is no need to be scared. There is no need to listen to scary stories about travelling to Belarus. You'd better come here yourself and personally find out the stories aren't true. The fact that the visa-free travel program has been extended onto 2023 confirms that Belarus is a hospitable country and Belarusians are hospitable people. I hope that after today the problem of where to celebrate New Year will be settled for many Lithuanians, Latvians, and Poles.”

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