Visa problems for the Chess Olympiad

by ChessBase
7/10/2014 – In order to travel to the Olympiad in Tromsø many players require a visa. But in countries without Norwegian embassies this can pose a problem. European laws require biometric data to be supplied personally, forcing players to travel to a different country. In an open letter FIDE President has complained to the Norwegian Prime Minister, and the Olympiad CEO has replied.

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Visa problems for Norway

Moscow, 7 July 2014

H.E. Erna Solberg
Prime Minister, Norway, Oslo

Your Excellency,

I am approaching you in respect of the World Chess Olympiad which is scheduled to be held in Tromso, August 1-15.

When bidding for the Olympiad, Norway and the city of Tromso declared that all countries in the world will get visas to attend this worldwide event.

Now we are less than one month from the event and only recently we have learnt from several Federations who have no Norwegian Consulates in their country that they have to travel to another country to apply and collect their visas and moreover, each and every member of the respective team (sometimes 12-15 people) have to do it individually in person.

I would like to mention this has no precedents in the history of FIDE and probably not in any other sport. Needless to say that no one from the Organisers’ side has ever mentioned such a possibility as the common understanding between FIDE and them has been, as in previous Olympiads, that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior of the organising country coordinate this issue to avoid such unfortunate situations.

FIDE Secretariat has been receiving a considerable amount of letters of complaint from the Federations which are unable to bear huge expenses of 15 persons travelling to another country (within the African continent, for example, or from Syria to another country).

Other Schengen countries allow people to collect visas from other Schengen countries that have embassies in the individual countries, thus sparing the cost of so many people travelling, but apparently Norway does not allow this.

So far, all our requests addressed to the Organising Committee of Tromso 2014 have been answered in the same manner, claiming that in spite their goodwill, they are unable to solve the problem.

I wonder whether this problem will be solved before the decision on the Winter Olympic Games 2022 is taken, and in case of a positive solution, whether it can also refer to the coming event in Tromso.

Your Excellency, I am approaching you with the request to use your authority to instruct relevant Norwegian institutions to find a way for solving the problem and avoiding a worldwide chaos.

Thank you so much.
Yours very truly.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

A day later the CEO of the 2014 Chess Olympiad, Børge Robertsen, issued a response on behalf of the organisers, responding to the FIDE President's Open Letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister.

The COT is working on this matter, and is fully aware of the international regulations concerned. We have already sent approximately 1500 personal letters to all of those who require a visa.

The Norwegian immigration authorities have a user-friendly web site with a clear, easy to follow visa application process. The entire process can be handled online, and Olympiad participants can apply individually. At the end of the application process a message instructs the individual to book an appointment with an embassy - and it is this final step that has posed challenges.

In the summer of 2013 an agreement was implemented in the Schengen countries regarding the exchange of biometric data. This is an unalterable requirement agreed by the Schengen nations, not a special Norwegian regulation.

This means that one must appear at a Norwegian embassy to supply fingerprints. If Norway does not have an official office in a country, then one must go to the closest country with Norwegian ambassadorial representation. We fully understand that this is extremely frustrating if, for example, you are from Gambia and need to travel to Ghana to get a Norwegian visa.

The current problem is not that participants will not receive visas, but rather that they may be compelled to travel far to do so.

We are currently cooperating with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), and have a good working relationship with them. Norwegian embassies carry out visa services on behalf of the UDI.

We have asked the UDI if there are possible exceptions to this regulation. We have been informed that the Chess Olympiad does not meet the requirements for exemption from this rule.

The FIDE President writes in his letter that Schengen nations have previously been granted exemption from this regulation. We have tried to find out how, but have not learned how this was done or who has achieved this earlier. This information would be extremely helpful for us.

The COT understands that the current situation can be extremely upsetting for many. We can only state the hard fact that we, the organisers, are in no position to change internationally agreed laws.

We hope that as many as possible of the registered participants will be able to attend the event, and are doing everything in our power to help make it happen.

Kind regards

Børge Robertsen
CEO, Chess Olympiad Tromsø 2014

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