Visa applications to Ireland from Russian nationals have surged during the first six months of the Ukraine invasion, new data shows.
The threefold spike in requests can be seen in the context of Russians attempting to leave their country as the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine grinds on into the winter.
Last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared a mass mobilisation of military personnel in a move that has already driven many of the country’s citizens to leave the country.
According to the Department of Justice, there were 1,052 applications for various visas to Ireland by Russian nationals between February 24th and September 7th, compared to an average of 369 for the same period over the previous four years.
The next highest annual level of applications – 461 in 2019 – was less than half of those sought during 2022.
A large proportion (40 per cent) of this year’s applications were from those seeking to join family members, with others relating to employment and study.
Russians must have visas to enter Ireland. A department spokesman said each application is assessed on individual merits and that the department monitors developments at an EU level on an ongoing basis.
It was not immediately clear what proportion of visas were approved, or how the recent intensification of Russia’s invasion might drive others to seek a path to Ireland or other European countries.
According to widespread reports, the Kremlin’s mobilisation announcement on Wednesday sparked a surge in people, notably young men, attempting to exit the country before they could be called up.
Western travel options for departing Russian nationals have been curtailed. Advice posted on Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs website notes “severely limited or no flight routes to the EU” and advises Irish citizens wishing to return to Ireland to book via Istanbul, Dubai, or Abu Dhabi.
Travelling to countries that require visas can delay trips. In the aftermath of Putin’s mobilisation announcement last week, direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul, Yerevan, Tashkent and Baku – allowing Russians visa-free entry – were sold out. The cheapest one-way flight from the Russian capital to Dubai cost about 370,000 rubles (€6,600).
The Reuters news agency reported that social media groups had begun dispensing advice on how to leave Russia while one news site in Russian gave a list of “where to run away right now from Russia”. Long tailbacks were reported at border with Georgia.