Moving to simplify travel regulations for Western visitors, the government has abolished the requirement that they obtain a written invitation before applying for a visa.
The resolution, which was approved at a Cabinet meeting on May 3, streamlined the visa application process for citizens of European Union countries, the United States, Canada, and Japan.
Visitors from those countries were previously required to produce a letter of invitation stating the length and purpose of their trip as a prerequisite for obtaining a visa.
The Cabinet resolution applied to all major types of visas issued by the Ukrainian authorities, including the B (business), S (service), H (scientific research), K (cultural and sporting events), and P (private) types.
Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko signed the resolution on May 5, automatically making it effective, a Cabinet spokesman said.
'The resolution demonstrates our [Ukraine's] desire to adapt to Western procedures,' Yushchenko told a press conference the day before.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Serhy Borodenkov said Ukrainian embassies had already been ordered not to demand invitation letters from citizens of the countries listed in the Cabinet resolution.
'We have notified our embassies about the resolution and instructed them to comply,' Borodenkov said.
Although the Cabinet's decision will ease the process of applying for a visa somewhat, Ukrainian legislation remains unfriendly toward foreign visitors.
Upon entering the country, foreign citizens, excluding diplomats and several additional categories of high-ranked visitors, are required to buy medical insurance at the port of arrival and then register with the local Interior Ministry Department within the next three days.
Failure to register, if discovered by police, results in a fine of at least Hr 85. However, most foreign visitors are unaware of the registration rule, and police often take advantage of their ignorance and demand higher fines.
Despite numerous complaints from foreign visitors about alleged abuses of the registration rules by police, the government has not acted to curb such abuses.
Ukraine presently has visa-free travel agreements with 26 of the 165 countries it maintains diplomatic relations with. Most of those countries are former Soviet republics (except the three Baltic states) and Eastern European countries, namely Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia.
Earlier, Ukraine also simplified entry regulations for visitors from a number of other states, including Cuba, China, Argentina, and Mongolia.
However, the Czech Republic and Slovakia will soon drop out of the list of countries enjoying unrestricted travel with Ukraine, as both countries recently passed laws introducing required visas for Ukrainian visitors as of late June.
Kyiv has vowed to act in a reciprocal manner against the two countries.
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