Will Belarus abolish exit permit stamp for foreign travel?

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The Department of Visas and Registration’s (OVIR) staff say there is a 50/50 probability that the stamp will be abolished effective from January 1, 2008. The Constitutional Court is 100 percent sure.

In the internet, a resident of Minsk wrote on one of the forums that he was proposed by OVIR to get his exit permit stamp for five years on the grounds that it would hardly be abolished until 2011.

But in most cases, OVIR is advising to apply for only one-year stamp, saying that it would be abolished soon.

Last July, Belarus Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau repeated that the permit stamp was to be abolished effective from January 1, 2008. The European Radio for Belarus explores whether the government has changed its mind.

Viachaslau Skurda, a Constitutional Court official who oversees the implementation of the court’s rulings, has assured that it is mandatory.

“The border guards and the Interior still have time until December 31. They report to us on what has already been done in this regard regularly,” Skurda said.

But the staff at OVIRs in Minsk is confused and unable to elucidate on this matter.

OVIR, Minsk’s Partyzanski District: “We have received no order in writing. However, we have been informed that the stamp is to be abolished on January 1. But we are not aware how this measure is going to be implemented. Therefore, people who currently apply open their stamp for one year”.

The Interior Ministry’s Department of Citizenship and Migration describes the probability that the exit permit stamp will be abolished as 50/50.

“It is better to get a stamp for one year, because the law has not been signed yet. So, it is still unclear what happens after the New Year. Nobody can give you now a 100-percent guarantee. Call again in December”.

The European Radio for Belarus has also called the border control authorities who assured that whatever depends on them would be ready by December 31.

“We have been doing concrete things for a long time now. We are in the process of amending some procedures at the crossing points. Whatever depends on us will be done by December 31,” Yury Kazachenka, a State Border Control Committee press officer told the European Radio for Belarus.

Thus, OVIR officials don’t know exactly whether the stamps will be cancelled. The risk is there that if you need to extend the permit in order to travel abroad early next year, you might not make it because of huge queues.

The officials are not sure either if your money is refunded in case the stamp is indeed abolished. An officer at one of OVIRs in Minsk doubts that you get your money back.

“I don’t think that anyone would deal with a one-man problem and the amount of Br30,000 ($15). People should make their own decision whether they are ready to give away this money as a gift to the state or not,” he said.