Finland has banned most Russian travellers, even those with visas. This includes medical and health tourists. The country wants all EU and Schengen countries to follow suit. The rapidly shifting legal position combined with payment problems means that medical tourism from Russia to much of Europe has virtually ceased.
The original plan in Finland was to ban all Russians, but with thousands of Russians fleeing a military call-up, discretion to allow them in changed that.
The Finnish authorities have asked the European Union’s Commission to issue a common recommendation for all Schengen Member States on the invalidation or cancellation of visas issued to Russian citizens and the imposition of entry bans for Russian citizens.
Many EU countries have called for a complete halt to the issuance of visas to Russian citizens. However, due to some dissenting votes – including from Germany and Austria – this plan was not implemented. The visa facilitation agreement between Russia and the EU, which has been in force since 2007, will be suspended.
Finland will significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens after it saw an influx over its eastern border following Russia’s mobilisation orders. Those crossing the border on tourism grounds alone will be barred from entering. This applies both to Russians travelling on tourist visas issued by Finland and tourist visas issued by any other Schengen country.
As a justification, Finland cites severe damage to its international position, in contrast to the Baltic countries that have classified tourism from Russia a security threat.
Over the summer, Russian air travel to Europe was just 26% of what it was in 2019.
Russian tourists who plan to avoid Europe altogether have other options for where to spend their holidays. According to ForwardKeys, several leisure destinations reported an increase in the market share of Russian tourists over the summer compared to 2019 including the Maldives (from 5% to 20%), Seychelles (3% to 7%), Turkey (4% to 8%), and United Arab Emirates (1% to 3%).
Poland and the three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have started preventing from entering their territory all Russian tourists showing up at their borders, regardless of their Schengen visas. Since the ban became effective Russian citizens have been turned away from the borders of these countries.
The Finnish Border Guard has announced that a high number of fake travel documents have been detected at the country’s eastern border. Apart from detecting fake travel documents, the authorities said that they also found fake stamps of different Schengen countries in many passports.
According to the EU Commission, as of September 1, 2022, there were around 963,000 Russians holding valid Schengen visas.