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Bulgaria Foreign Ministry Upholds New Visa Procedures

Date: 27.04.2010

The Bulgarian Ministry refused to amend the new visa waiver procedures for Russian tourists during discussions with representatives of the Bulgarian tourist associations.

The meeting was held Monday and was initiated by the Bulgarian tourist branch after the Ministry announced 16 April that the Bulgarian tour operators dealing with Russian tourists will no longer be using e-visa services.

Instead, paper copies of the entire documentation are to be delivered to a visa center in Moscow run by the Indian Company VFS Services, which has increased the application processing fee from EUR 9 to EUR 12, due to the rise in its own expenses.

Officials of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry did not explain what brought about the change in the visa waiver procedures for Russian tourists.

Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister, however, promised to revise the demands of the Bulgarian tourist agencies and set up a work group for resolving the issues that have been raised.

In 2010 all Bulgarian tour operators must use the services of the Moscow based visa center. According to the Bulgarian tourist associations this decision contradicts the EU visa code that stipulates that all physical and juridical persons have a right to consulting services.

The Bulgarian tourist associations accused the Moscow visa center in conflict of interests. Right now all individual tourists can apply for visa at the consulate – they only need to make an appointment. Yet the call center where appointments are made is also run by the Indian Company VFS Services that manages the Moscow based visa center.

“The clerk at the consulate who takes the calls and makes the appointments can simply say that there are no dates available and redirect tourists to the visa center in Moscow,” commented representative of the Bulgarian Association of Travel Agents (BATA).

The Bulgarian Tourism Chamber firmly opposes the changes in the requirements to issue visas to Russian citizens, made just before the beginning of the summer season.

The new requirements include a ban on online applications, increasing the application fee, a more complicated procedure with new forms and the need of 5 copies of all documents.

They have been announced verbally on April 16 to major Russian travel agents by officials from the Bulgarian Embassy in Moscow.

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