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No, citizens of all 55 African states cannot enter Russia ‘visa-free’

IN SHORT: The claim that Russia is now visa-free for all African countries is not true. Only citizens of six African countries can travel to Russia without a visa.

Russia is now visa-free for all African countries. That’s the claim in two YouTube videos that have been going viral on Facebook since April 2024.

One, on the channel The New Tourist, is titled: “West in PANICK As Russia Announce VISA FREE For All AFRICAN COUNTRIES … ” Text on the video reads: “Russia is now visa free for all Africans.”

The other is on the Displore channel and is titled: “West In Panick As Russia Opens VISA FREE ACCESS TO ALL AFRICAN COUNTRIES.” The video’s text adds: “Russia is now visa free for African countries.”

A visa is a permit issued by a country to allow citizens of other countries to travel to and stay in that country for a limited period. There are several different kinds of visa, depending on the reason for the visit: travel, business, study or work, for example.

Most countries have agreements that allow citizens of other selected countries to enter and stay without a visa. They do still need a passport.

The claim can also be seen here and here. (Note: See more instances listed at the end of this report.)

But can citizens of all of Africa’s 55 countries now enter Russia without a visa?

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Only six African countries completely visa-free

In March Russia’s foreign ministry announced that it was in talks to open up visa-free travel to 11 Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries. But the only African country on the list is Zambia.

Russia’s visa agreements with other countries depend on the type of passport the traveller holds. These are:

  • Diplomatic passports, issued to members of the diplomatic corps
  • Service passports, issued to government officials
  • General or ordinary passports, issued to everyone else

According to the Russian foreign ministry’s consular services website, citizens of only six African countries can travel to Russia without a visa on all three types of passport. 

These are Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, and the island countries of Cape Verde, Mauritius and the Seychelles. But travellers from these countries can only stay in Russia for a maximum of 90 days.

Holders of diplomatic passports, or diplomatic and service passports, from 26 other African countries can travel to Russia visa-free. Again, the stay is limited to a maximum of 90 days. But people with ordinary passports still have to apply for a visa.

In Zambia, only diplomatic passport holders can enter Russia without a visa. The new negotiations are likely to extend this to people with service and ordinary passports.

A visa is required for citizens in the rest of Africa – 22 countries – no matter what passport they hold. The only country not mentioned by Russia’s consular services is the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, a self-declared state that claims authority over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The claim is false. Russia is completely visa-free for only six African countries. For another 26, only diplomats – and sometimes government officials – can enter the country without a visa.

The claim can also be found here, here, here, here and here.

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