Obtaining a Visa to Ukraine
Last update: April 2014
Citizens of many countries can enter Ukraine without a visa with just a passport alone, for periods of up to 90 days out of 180:
USA, Canada, EU nations, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, many countries of the former USSR. See complete list below.
Note that a few "first-world countries," namely Australia and New Zealand, aren't included in the list; citizens of these countries must obtain visas even for short visits.
Ukraine's 90/180 rule for visa-free entry
Upon entering or exiting Ukraine, your passport is looked over or scanned by a computer to determine the number of days in the previous 180 that you have spent within Ukraine. (Note that 90 days is a little less than 3 months, and 180 a little less than 6 months.) If this number is above 90, you could be refused entry or fined as you leave. This is more likely at airports such as Kyiv Boryspil and less likely at some land border crossings, such as Schehyni-Medyka near Lviv, where the 90/180 rule continued largely to be ignored for some years after its official adoption.
***NEWS: Citizens of the following countries can now visit Ukraine without a visa for periods of up to 90 days over a 180 day period with a valid passport:
EU / EFTA member countries
Mongolia (certain documents required)
*Note that two developed countries are conspicuously missing from this list: Australia and New Zealand
Citizens of these countries can stay in Ukraine for up to 90 days within any 180 day period without a visa. For longer stays a visa will be required. For a while there was no 180 day stipulation, which meant that foreigners could simply cross the Ukrainian border every 3 months and avoid getting a visa. As of July 11, 2007 this is no longer possible, though in practice it was still possible at certain border crossings for some years thereafter. If you intend to stay in Ukraine for more than 90 days out of any 180, you will need to get a visa.
Citizens of the following countries can stay visa-free for a total of 30 days within a 60-day period:
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Citizens of the following countries can stay visa-free for a certain period of time:
Hong Kong (14 days)
Turkey (60 days)
Origins of the 90/180-day rule
Most Ukrainians are surprised to hear that westerners cannot stay in their country indefinitely, as if a U.S. or E.U. passport should guarantee visa-free access to most of the world for trips of any duration. This is what most Ukrainians assume. The reality is that there are very few countries in the world where one can just go live for as long as one wants. The E.U. zone's 90/180-day rule has become standard practice for countries overhauling their visa and immigration policies, particularly those on the fringes of Europe. Even Georgia is now instating such a policy as of September 2014. Before then citizens of the developed world could stay year-round visa-free.
Countries whose citizens can stay in Ukraine indefinitely
A number of post-Soviet states enjoy special visa-free privileges in Ukraine and just need to "border hop" every 90 days or less or register at the OVIR. Russia used to be on this list but has now (as of April 2014) been moved to the 90/180 rule as a result of the post-Euromaidan worsening of relations between the two countries. In the future we can expect more of these countries to be moved to the 90/180 rule as Ukraine continues to move towards harmonization and integration with EU policies.
Entry Requirements for U.S. and European Area Citizens
(from the former site of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv — also applicable to all countries with a 90/180 policy)
A passport valid for six months beyond the planned date of travel is required. According to Ukrainian Presidential Decree #1008 dated June 30, 2005 (with amendment dated August 18, 2005), U.S. citizens traveling to Ukraine on short-term tourist, business or private travel do not need a visa to enter Ukraine. Visas are still required of other categories of travelers including those who intend to study, reside, or work in Ukraine. Short-term travelers entering Ukraine under the auspices of this decree can stay in Ukraine up to 90 days...
However, you still must have a passport with you to enter Ukraine! Also, watch out for the new financial requirements for visitors to Ukraine (as of late March 2014); now foreigners may have to prove they have "sufficient funds" for their stay in Ukraine. The amount is not trivial — essentially $2000 USD per month!
The information below is somewhat out-of-date and will be reviewed and updated shortly (April 2014).
If You Still Must Get a Visa to Ukraine
You will still need to get a Ukrainian visa in the following cases:
- You are not a citizen of one of the countries listed above
- You are from one of those countries, but plan to be in Ukraine longer than 90 days, regardless of the purpose of your journey
- You plan on being employed or studying in Ukraine, regardless of the length of your visit
Getting a Ukrainian visa was never too difficult to begin with, and the past five years have seen new developments that have made it easier for foreigners to arrive in Ukraine:
- Foreigners are no longer required to go through the hassle of registering at the local OVIR (Department of Visas and Registration, also called VVIR in Ukrainian) within three days after arriving in Ukraine (More on this >>). Instead, they only need to register their passports if they are in the country for more than three months (six months for U.S. citizens).
- Invitation letters or any other supporting documents are no longer required for citizens of the United States, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Turkey, or citizens of the countries of the European Union (but an invitation letter never hurts, and at some Ukrainian consulates abroad it is even required).
- Now, citizens of many countries do not require a visa at all for visits to Ukraine of up to three months.
Where to get a Ukrainian visa
Visa descriptions and requirements can be found at the websites of Ukrainian consulates and embassies abroad. Plan to send in your visa application no less than three weeks before you plan to visit Ukraine, though you can pay more to get it done in three or four days' time. For U.S. citizens, which of the consulates (New York, Chicago, or San Francisco) or Embassy (D.C.) you send your passport and application to supposedly depends on which state you live in, but they will process applications from any state. If you do not reside in the United States, find a listing of Ukrainian embassies and consulates around the world here, or, if you speak Ukrainian or Russian, call the Ukraine Ministry of Foreign Affairs information bureau at (38-044) 238-17-37, or, more specifically, the visa department at 238-15-25.
If you do not yet have a passport, getting one is your first step. Read all about U.S. passports at this U.S. Government page.
Note that you cannot get a Ukrainian visa in Ukraine, even if you have come to Ukraine without a visa as a citizen of one of the visa-free countries in the list at the top of this page. You must leave Ukraine and apply for a visa at any Ukrainian consulate abroad.
Ukraine visa application forms can be downloaded in PDF format at http://www.ukrconsul.org/visa/VISA.pdf or requested by mail.
Also very useful is this example of filling out the visa application form.
Here is what you will need to mail to the embassy or consulate:
- your passport (original, not a copy)
- one completed application form printed or written in block letters in black ink
- a self-addressed prepaid express envelope. They accept only mail delivered by FedEx and Express Mail couriers, so don't send your application by regular mail. You'll need to enclose a self-addressed express envelope "prepaid by the account number" — whatever that means — for them to send your documents back to you.
- one recent passport-size color photograph
- a money order made out to the embassy or consulate for the sum shown on the websites (for example, $100 for 9-business day processing). This is called their "application fee."
- unless you are requesting a single-entry visa (which requires no additional payment), a second money order for the sum shown on the websites. This is called the "visa fee."
- if you are not a U.S., E.U., Canadian, or Japanese citizen, you will probably need a letter of invitation. Check with the Ukrainian consulate in your country or contact the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For a tourist visa you will need a letter of invitation from a travel agency that is registered in Ukraine. If you need one, you can contact my partners at a travel agency in Kyiv.
I personally do not know of U.S. citizens or Europeans being refused a visa. Read this interview on the subject with Ukraine's consul general in Washington, D.C. Citizens of these countries are offered visas for up to five years.
Visa application pitfalls
As you can see the visa application procedure is really quite simple. Don't worry if you write "Kiev" instead of "Kyiv" or wrote your inviting party's address in cyrillic. Those things don't matter. However, it does matter that you have filled in the full name and address of your inviting party and that you have a temporary address in Ukraine. Failing to fill in these boxes can cause your application and passport to be returned to you. I've heard of this happening.
Extending Ukrainian visas
Visas can be extended in Ukraine within 4-5 business days at the city OVIR (office of visas and registrations) — not the neighborhood OVIR. Apply for an extension no sooner than 4-5 days before your visa expires. You cannot change the category of visa and are not allowed multiple entries back into the country during the period your visa has been extended for. In other words, if you have a multi-entry visa and extend it in Ukraine, you will only be allowed one more exit from Ukraine. As soon as you leave the country, the visa becomes void.
Remember, you cannot get a new visa while in Ukraine — you can only extend your existing visa. You must leave Ukraine to get a new visa — at any Ukrainian consulate in any foreign country.
Hence, if you plan to make multiple trips out of the country during the period you want to extend your visa for, it would make more sense to receive a new visa during your next trip abroad or even make a special trip to get the visa (to Krakow or Budapest, for example) rather than extend your current visa.
I know firsthand that the workers at the Krakow, Poland consulate are cooperative and will have the visa done within a few hours if you visit them in person. There are almost never lines, but be the first to be waiting at the door in the morning!