Archive for April, 2010

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More Visa questions about Ukraine and the 90/180 days rule…..so some answers

April 26, 2010

Well dear readers, I get many messages about Visas and Ukraine and really, sometimes it seems everyone tries to make it harder than it is.

There seems to be an incredible amount of confussion over Visa duration and time allowed in country when they have absolutely nothing to do with each other at all.

All Visa holders and tourists are subject to the 90/180 day rule.  That is the starting point.

Some visas, such as the IM1 Visa holder, because it relates to work which a Ukrainian citizen allegedly cannot do, can have time in country extended by the OVIR every 90 days to allow uninterupted work in Ukraine which benefits the employer (and therefore Ukraine) for the period of the Visa being valid.

Diplomatic Visas holders can also have time in country extended by the OVIR, as like I say, throwing a foreign diplomat out of the country or forcing them to leave every 90 days……well, it does not make for good diplomatic relations between Ukraine and another nation.

Student Visas holders can also obviously have time in country extended by the OVIR or there would be no point in foreign students studying here to be thrown out mid-course.

An EU, US (or any other nation not requiring a Tourist Visa) citizen married to, parent of, or guardian of a Ukrainian citizen do not need a Visa of any sort to get time in country extensions from the OVIR, as to throw them out every 90 days goes against the Family Code of Ukraine (forced seperation of the family unit by the State or some such interpretation) and various international agreements Ukraine is signed up too and has ratified regarding family rights.  

Continued 3 monthly registrations end of course when Permanent Residency is applied for and granted.  The OVIR time in country extension does not mean, whilst waiting for their PR Status, they are exempt from having a Business Visa if the will carry out business on the territory of Ukraine whilst awaiting residency though.  The same applies with work and Work Permits should they work here whilst awaiting such status…..all such documentary troubles disappear when it is granted of course.  (This is a technicality which I have never known be checked…..but one day it may be.)

Science Visas, God Squad Visas, Sports Visas, are, I am informed, granted over differing periods of time and with differing caveats on issue, so some maybe used to quantify extended time in country whilst others may not.  As these are normally by invitation of Ukraine, the Church, Dynamo Kyiv or Shakhtar Donetsk  (whichever one), then of course there is someone with influence looking after the back of the Visa holder anyway.  

Visas such as Business Visas, Private Visas, Tourist Visas (for those it applies to, like Ozzies, Kiwis, Iranians, Turks etc etc) cannot officially be exempt from the 90/180 rules and have time in country extended by the OVIR anymore.

As an example, a Business Visa means you can carry out business activity on the territory of Ukraine for 90 days out of 180.  If you plan on doing business for longer than this (or when added together 180/360 over the period of a year) here, then you should apply for the IM Visa which you may or may not get (although technically, if you open a Ukrainian LLC company, you can sponsor yourself).  

It is quite obvious that a Ukrainian citizen cannot do your job if you are the owner of the company even if they are capable of running it, they are not capable of owning it and therefore directing it unless you were to give POA or sell it to them.

A Private Visa is for visiting a Ukrainian.  Who visits and stays with friends more than a solid 90 day period in 180 days regularly?

How many tourists have more than 90 consecutive days off work to bimble aimlessly around Ukraine?

Common sense dictates that not many people stay with friends for 3 solid months or bimble around Ukraine with 3 month holidays in one go and therefore this is why the 90/180 day rule applies to such Visas.  The same can be said of the Business Visa, as there are not many business transactions which take 90 solid days in country to complete.

A Business Visa is not a poor mans IM Visa or there would be no need for one or the other of them if they granted the same thing.

Unless you hold a Visa which can have time in country extended by the OVIR that would avoid the need to leave Ukraine every 90 days (or have personal circumstances with a Ukrainian listed above) you will have no choice but to leave every 90 days on whatever Visa you hold and then take advantage of the loose interpretation of the regulations and return the same/following day, as long as the Visa remains valid of course.

The biggest Visa problem in Ukraine is brought about by foreigners getting the wrong Visa for their purpose here in the first place.  Just because you have a Visa valid for 5 years (or whatever) it does not mean the OVIR can neccessarily grant extended time in country.  A Visa and exemption from the 90/180 day rule are not the same thing at all.

If you have to be in Ukraine for more than 90/180 (or 180/360 over the year) then you must ask yourself why you must be.

If it is to work, then the correct Visa is the IM1 (with Work permit) which means you do not have to border hop.  I know this is easier said than done for some due to sh*tty employers or self employed status.  Like I have pointed out above though, you can set up your own Ukrainian LLC and sponsor yourself through the IM process (technically at least…..I have no idea if you would be successful).

At present a Business Visa/Private Visa/Tourist Visa (if apllicable) means you have to leave every 90 days and under the current interpretation, this really holds no problems for a foreigner either (I am thinking of self employed teachers here mostly of which there seems to be an endless stream) other than expense of border hopping and lost earnings through not being able to teach.  Problems will occur should they tighten up on the returning the same/next day and strictly inforce 90/180 for such Visa holders however.

If all Visas meant automatic time in country extension for the duration of the times granted on a Visa, then there would only be a need for 1 Visa for everybody and then specifications put on any accompanying Work Permit as to what work (or not) you can do here and for whom.

If we stick to the most commonly held Visas for people who visit Ukraine, then it is simple.

Business Visa means you can carry out business activities for a total of 90 days in the territory of Ukraine in a 180 day period.  That is all it means, no matter how long it is valid for.

Tourist Visa (if applicable) means you are here as a tourist for a total of 90 days out of 180 days and cannot work, do any form of business under the terms of that Visa.  All you can do is look at the sights during your stay.

Private Visa means that you are here on the invitation of a Ukrainian and can visit them for a total of 90 days out of 180.  You can also look at the sights.  You cannot do any work or business activity under the remit of this Visa.

The IM Visa means (when accompanied by the Work Permit) you can come and go as you please and work (for the sponsoring company) for the duration of the Visa.  You can also eat, drink and be merry, visit the sights and spend more than 90 days in the company of your favourite Ukrainian.  There is no necessity to ever leave Ukraine at all whilst this Visa is valid and the OVIR has registered you.

EU/US and others citizens that do not require a Tourist Visa to enter Ukraine, if married to, parent or guardian of a Ukrainian citizen, need no Visa at all to get OVIR extensions if they have an address to register at, pending timelines and granting of PR Status.  You can also see the sights, spend more than 90 days in the presence of your favourite Ukrainian, eat, drink and be merry and come and go from Ukraine as you please.  Technically though if you do any form or business or work during the time it takes to be granted PR status, then the appropriate Visa and/or Work Permit should exist relating to that activity.    

I don’t really see why it is so hard to grasp the basics of this.  

The bottom line is OVIR registrations depend upon the benefit to Ukraine or a Ukrainian.  If you work for a Ukrainian legally and above board, (IM) then registration is possible.  If you are a key family member of a formally recognised Ukrainian family unit, OVIR registration is possible.  If you are the foreign striker for Dynamo this season, registration is possible.  If you are a leading church member but not of Ukrainian nationality, then registration is possible.  If you are a key scientist working on a long Ukrainian project, registration is possible.  If you are a student in mid-academic year, registration is possible.  If you are a diplomat on a long term assignment, OVIR registraion is possible.

If you are none of these, do not expect to be able to register with the OVIR regardless of what Visa you have and how long it is valid for.

It all comes down to your “worth” to the Sovereign State of Ukraine on an “official basis” as to whether you are “officially” worth keeping here longer than 90 days and therefore worthy of the time and effort to register by the OVIR.

I hope that helps.

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Prince Andrew in Ukraine – International Trade and Investment

April 25, 2010

Well dear readers, Prince Andrew………that is the UK Prince Andrew…….in case there are a few…….visited Ukraine on Friday in his role as Special Representative for International Trade and Investment on the invitation of the Ukrainian Government.

No, I did not meet him…..I haven’t seen Prince Andrew since a garden party in York when he was there with the Queen back in the late 1980’s.  Eh?……Oh yes, I did meet him and the Queen then.  I have met the Queen a few times actually…….once in London and several times in York at either Garden Parties or having a day or two at the Ebor meet.  I know, I know, what are they doing spending their time with low-life like me?  The answer is a long story which we won’t go into today.

All I can say is I am pleased not to have been born into the Royal Family.  Garden Parties involve an aweful lot of standing around nibbling on food and talking about many things……..which are completely inconsequential.  To do it as often as they do it can only be a chore……..seriously, it is not fun if it is done often!

Anyway, back to Prince Andrew being in Kyiv.

What was the point?

Well obviously as far as Kyiv is concerned, it is another high profile visitor and the credibility factor on the international stage will be maximised of course.

For the UK though, what does it do?

The UK business and investment in Ukraine is nowhere near as active as it should be……..certainly when it comes to internationally recognised “names” on the ground.  When it comes to the hoy polloy like me, quietly doing “very well thank you” then there is a bigger presence……but still not that big…….and compared to other nations, it is almost non-existant when it comes to people on the ground here.

Ukraine’s economy is heavily biased towards manufactoring of various sorts (and agriculture).  The UK economy is very much more “service orientated” as opposed to manufacturing. 

It does not take a genius to work out that without a good service industry, manufacuting suffers by way of sales.  It also does not take a genius that a good service industry needs clients to “service”.

There are a few steel producers…….five actually……who are listed on the LME for example……but there are much more than five steel producers.  I am good friends with a steel mill owner in Dnepropetrovsk for example who is not LME listed.  Apart from the Ukrainian market, his main markets are China and Turkey.

Why is he not LME listed?  There are several reasons, firstly he gets a higher price for his steel from China and Turkey than what is traded on the LME……..but more importantly, he does not speak English at all, is way too busy (as he is politically active in Kyiv as well) to struggle through the registration forms in English for the LME and jump through the relatively few hoops required to gain LME registration.

He has, since we became friends, managed to sell more materials as I am not unknown to a few serious buyers around the globe……and of course can speak Russian adequately and English……..also adequately. 

This proves there is a space for the service sector in Ukraine as provided by the UK.  That said, there needs to be a very large degree of “flexibility” from a service sector point of view when dealing with Ukrainian manufacturing………particulary in explaing the financial nuances.

I have also managed to get tens of millions of investment for people here for hard asset projects with the money coming from Germany, Cyprus…..well Cyprus registered companies……Greece, Austria, USA and Holland in Ukraine.

How much have I brought into Ukraine from my own nation of the UK?  Aside from what I have spent here…….absolutely nothing!  Seriously……nothing!

Now I do not live in Kyiv and I tend not to engage with other Expats here.  I do not have a pompus title or earth shattering email address that you simply must open if you get an email from me………and yet I have a very influential set of political and business friends here because I have managed to get some people to part with their cash in Ukraine.

Why, if I can get investors from Europe and the USA to part with their money here, have I managed to get sweet FA from my own nation?  How do these people manage to find me when those in the UK don’t?

Is it that the UK is unneccessarily adverse to a market that has not failed others I have introduced?  Is it that the UK sees nothing outside of Kyiv?  Landkom would seem to break the mould for investment outside of Kyiv but that was done through the will of people here on the ground.  Would it have happened if the decision had been down to a pencil pusher sat in an office in Blighty?

Now Prince Andrew himself will not bring UK investment into Ukraine, but he will highlight Ukraine to the UK business community once again.

It is quite easy to dismiss such visits as “jollies” which have no real effect on the UK or Ukraine……other than a nice luncheon and a chat……similar to Garden Parties……..but it is the publicity that counts here for both sides of this bilateral visit.

Even if one more UK company comes to Ukraine……..or even invests a few million from EC1…….the trip will have achieved something…….even if that investment foolishly remains Kyiv-centric ignoring the rest of Ukraine.

Maybe I get more done from other European countries because there are 17 Consuls in Odessa, many of which are European.  Historically, for example, the Greek Consul here in Odessa has been very active for their potential investors.  When investors have gone to their Consul here with specific interests in “X” assets, the Consul know who will know about such assets……..and the good ones are always “off market” and not in the domain of public knowledge.

Is this why I have not attracted any investment from the UK in Odessa, Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk or Lviv?  Is it because we have no presence outside of Kyiv?  To be fair, when I told my father I was moving to Odessa, he could not see the sea on a Google map……..because he was looking at Odessa, Texas.

Given the extent of such knowledge, how many more UK investors view Ukraine as nothing more than Kyiv because that is the only place we have “official people”?  How many “official people” do we have in Kyiv who know what is happening in Lviv, Odessa or Donetsk in real time with regards to investment opporuntities over and above a dated wiki entry about that particualr region?

Is this why other nations are stealing a march on very good opportunities over and above the UK?

It is of course not my problem really as long as I find the occasional asset and investor matches when something good appears on the radar that will float the boat of certain investors interested in certain opporunities.  I have never been one to prostitute myself as an open market place anyway.

Still, it is good to read that Prince Andrew came here under the guise of this specific role and it is hoped that something will come for someone that will be mutually beneficial because of this visit…….as I am sure this will have been yet another tedious trip as far as he is concerned…….no different from Garden Parties in York.

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No time for anything meaningful today…….

April 24, 2010

Sorry dear readers, no time for anything meaningful today…….no, I am not heading to Kyiv to protest outside the RADA about the RBSF lease extention…….sorry Yulia……..I have something much more important in my calendar……like a certain anniversary.

Needless to say, my complete and undivided attention needs to be elsewhere.

You’ll have to entertain yourselves until tomorrow…….whilst I entertain someone very important to me.

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Back to the RBSF deal……the Lease and the Constitution

April 23, 2010

Well dear readers, I was intrigued by my post yesterday as to how both Yushenko and Yanukovych both felt it in their power to extend the RBSF lease in Ukraine without a breach of the Consitution of Ukraine.

As I said, when Yushenko was President he claimed he would not extend it……and yesterday Yanukovych did……both inferfing they had the power to do so without Constitutional change.

The answer lays (unbelievably) within the Constitution of Ukraine itself.

Whilst Article 17 states no foreign troops can be stationed on Ukrainian soil…….and remember the current lease to the RBSF was drawn up years before the Ukrainian Constitutition…….there appears to be recongition of this in the Constitutution:

Ukraine’s Constitution allows the continuance of the existing lease agreement which also includes the right for an extension.

“Chapter XV (14)
The use of existing military bases on the territory of Ukraine for the temporary stationing of foreign military formations is possible on the terms of lease, by the procedure determined by the international treaties of Ukraine ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.”

Now ratification of the extention is simply a majority vote in the RADA.  The minimum number of votes needed is 226…….and PoR has 241 as their majority.

Done deal and no violation of the Ukrainian Constitution it seems.

Now, Yatseniuk is asking the President not to ratify this deal in the RADA…….as it seems he knows the Constitution………Tymoshenko is claiming it is a breach of the Constitution under Article 17…….so she obviously does not know the Constitution……or at least is very unfamiliar with Chapter XV (14) of Ukraine’s Constitution allowing the continuance of the existing lease agreement which also includes the right for an extension, despite being Prime Minister for over 4 years……..bit worrying that!

The Ukrainian Constitution is on line for anyone to check it……..she is going to look pretty stupid if she doesn’t acknowledge this very quickly.

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From the fringe to the centre…….Eduard Bahirov Human Rights Activist

April 22, 2010

Well dear readers, President Yanukovych made human rights his personal area of interest when becoming President…….which would explain Ukrain now wading through a pile of European Court of Human Rights rulings that were not dealt with by the last administration.

However it seems not enough to deal with the historical backlog for President Yanukovych.  It seems proactive measures are also high on his agenda and thus he has now appointed Eduard Bahirov (Human Rights Activist) to a senior position in Ukraine…….whereas 50 years ago the chap would have been cooling his heels in a gulag in Siberia…..or worse!

The Interior Ministery introduced the well-known human rights activist and new head of the public council at the Interior Ministry, Eduard Bahirov, to the staff of the ministry. .

“We must do everything to protect human rights, [and] observe democratic principles in our country,” the press service cited Yanukovych as saying.

Now this chap, Mr Bahirov has been highly critical of Russia, Ukraine (and the USSR when it existed) historically with regards to Human Rights.  He is head of the International League of Protection the Rights of Ukrainian citizens, a particularly vocal group and author of a book called “Gastarbajter“…….which doesn’t pull its punches……albeit a novel rather than direct criticism.

However, he is not slow in coming forward when it comes to direct criticism either in the media.

This seems to be a very brave move by President Yanukovych as Mr Bahirov will not be a “Yes Man” or silent over issues which he has campaigned about for years.

I would anticipate some gradual changes within Ukraine on human rights, not only as it is the President’s pet project……but having appointed a human rights activist to a position of power and unlimited press access…….to keep him quiet things simply will have to improve.

It can only be seen as a very positive appointment.

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Russian Black Sea Fleet looks set to remain in Ukraine after 2017

April 22, 2010

Interfax-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych said Ukraine will receive around $40 billion worth of gas as Russian assistance as a part of a deal made on Apr. 21 in Kharkiv. Ukraine will also get $100 discount when it buys gas at $330 per 1,000 cubic meters.

Russia and Ukraine also signed an agreement opening the way for the Russian Black Sea Fleet to keep its bases in the Ukrainian region of Crimea after 2017, when the current lease agreement expires. Russia’s fleet in Sevastopol will be able to stay an additional 25 years, with the option to extend the lease for five more years after the new term expires.

 

Well dear readers, fairly good news in the short to medium term for a struggling economy on the gas front…….and with the expected trade off of the lease extention of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea.

The original lease which expires in 2017 was written pre the Ukrainian Constitution which bans the presense of foreign troops on Ukrainian soil.

Therefore when the Ukrainian Constitution was written banning foreign troops on the soil of Ukraine, the existing lease with the Russian Black Sea Fleet had to be respected as a pre-exiting contract…….which is fair enough and legally correct.

The issue comes with the legal ways to extend this lease under the rules of the Constitution.

Would an extention to a legal lease granted prior to the writing of the Constitution be unconstitutional if there is a clause in that lease (like most leases) to extend it?

If extending a lease written prior to the Constitution is legal then no problem but if it is unconstitutional then the current administration has to get this through the RADA to change the Constitution…….which is not as easy as it sounds.

It has to get through the RADA twice, firstly with a simply majority of 226 votes in favour which the current administration can do with ease, considering their 241 MPs.

The second round of voting though requires 300 MPs in favour to change the Constitution……..which is a massive task despite some noises from senior opposition people that they may vote in favour also…….as I have previously posted…….somewhere in the historical posts.

However, given the historical announcements by Yushenko when he was President, he stated he would not extend the lease……infering he had the power to do so but would not.  Therefore I suppose both he and President Yanukovych believe it was in their power to extend…..or not……the lease without Constitutional change.

Of course given the choice of cheaper gas for a few years and keeping the Russian Black Sea Fleet for another 25 years, many Ukrainians will take the cheap gas every time…….because life is hard enough financially at the moment.  Fair enough.

Personally I would rather pay a higher gas price, not because I am anti-Russian……I’m not…….I really liked living in Moscow…….and I know 25 years is a very short period of time when all is said and done……..but I personally would like a militarilly neutral Ukraine, happy to work with Russia, NATO the UN or anyone else if there is a bilateral interest to do so……such as piracy or international peacekeeping.

We will see how this develops, expect the usual calls for impeachment or challenges as unconstitutional from the opposition……maybe rightly……and it will be interesting to see the response from the EU, NATO and the US by way of official comment.

http://www.newsy.com/videos/ukraine-and-russia-strike-natural-gas-deal

Me thinks the devil is in the detail of the original lease when it comes to any extentions and who can give them…….considering it was written before the Constitution and has been accepted as a legal lease since the Constitution was created.

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Delusions of grandure……well power and influence to be more accurate!

April 21, 2010

As many a dear reader will know, in Ukraine there are circles of power and then there are circles of power!

No biggy for most as these circles of power are easily identified after you have been here for a while.

The problem comes when some in the less powerful circles think they have more power than they have……..

Interfax-Ukraine The prosecutor’s office of Odesa region hasn’t confirmed the information that a criminal case against ex-mayor Ruslan Bodelan was closed.

“I have no such information. On the contrary, [Odesa region’s Prosecutor] Vasyl Stepanovych [Prysiazhniuk] has told media recently that the case hasn’t been closed,” the press secretary of regional prosecution Olena Abramova told Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday.

Earlier, some media reported with reference to a source in the prosecutor’s office that a criminal case against Bodelan was closed.

Bodelan was mayor of Odesa in 1998-2005. In 2005, following the Orange Revolution, he was charged with abuse of office and put on the international wanted list. In 2006, Bodelan received Russian citizenship.

I have to say, our current Mayor is a marked improvement over the last one, but as he stands down in September this year, I’m not sure if it will be a case of better the devil you know……..or not.  Time will tell.

 

Interfax-Ukraine Simferopol, April 19 (Interfax-Ukraine) – The investigation department of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry’s main office in Crimea is investigating a criminal case opened into the death of a Simferopol District Council deputy, Volodymyr Papunov.

The media liaisons office of the Crimean main police department told Interfax-Ukraine that a burnt out Toyota Prado car was found three kilometres from the village of Krasne in Simferopol district on April 17. The car belonged to the Nyva-Agro farming enterprise, which is located in the village of Hvardiyske in the same district. The charred remains of a man identified as Papunov, born in 1952, were found near the car.

The investigation department has opened a criminal case and is conducting an investigation.

Papunov was elected a deputy of Simferopol District Council on the party ticket of the For Yanukovych Bloc. He also served as deputy chairman of the Simferopol branch of the Regions Party, and headed the Nyva-Agro enterprise.

 

As I said, losing a sense of reality and the power and influence minor politico’s have……..can be a dangerous thing.

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