UPDATE (March, 13):
Since publishing this post, we have done more research on the visa issue. In short, we have decided that at this point, religious visas (type-R) are the way to go for our team. We were able to get letters of invitation for our family and the Day family at a very reasonable price. In the morning, we leave for Poland where we will apply for our visas at the Ukrainian consulate in Krakow. We would appreciate your prayers for smooth border crossings, and successful visa application. If all goes well, we should be back in Ukraine Wednesday morning.
We just got word that Denise and the Bardwells were able to cross back into Ukraine today without any trouble. This does not mean the immigration problem is solved. It is, however, another demonstration that rural borders are typically later to adopt protocol than the airports. Thanks for pr**aying!
Just a few days ago, a missionary friend of ours named Dan Bardwell flew to America for a one-month trip. As he was going through Ukrainian customs control at the L'viv airport, he was detained. The officials told him that he had overstayed his allowed time, fined him 600 grevenas (~$75), and informed him that he could not reenter Ukraine for 50 days.
We made some inquiries, and it appears that Ukraine is beginning to implement the stricter interpretation of a very vaguely written law. The law states that foreigners may stay in Ukraine for up to 90 days. That part is clear enough. But what happens when the 90 days are up? It really depends on who you talk to. Some claim that you can leave the country and immediately return. (This is what we have been doing and is the reason behind our frequent crossings into Poland.) Others maintain that after being in the country for 90 days, one must then be absent for 90 days. 90 in, 90 out. This is most certainly correct for those who do not have visas, but we have been told that since we do have visas (5-year, mulit-entry) that this part of the law does not apply to us. Well, Dan has the same type of visa that we do, and the officials at the airport essentially kicked him out.
The solution? It is possible to apply for an extension of stay beyond 90 days (commonly called registration) but we've already been told that our visa type (cultural) is no longer being accepted for registration. The likely outcome of all of this is that we will have to apply for new visas.The details remain unclear at this point, but this process has the potential to become expensive. These are the basic costs involved for one person.
- Visa - $150
- Letter of invitation from a Ukrainian organization - $250
- Registration (for one year only) - $290
- Total for one person: $690
Ouch. Please pray that God would intervene on our behalf and keep the doors open. Pray that we will have wisdom to know which type of visa to get and who to get it through. And especially pray for the Bardwell family. Dan will now have to remain in the US much longer than he planned to. In addition, Laurel and the children had already scheduled a border crossing today, as their 90 days is nearly up. Densie Hutchison will be accompanying them. Based on what happened to Dan, there is a possibility that Denise and the Bardwells could get stuck in Poland. We'll update this post with more details on their situation once we have them.
Thank you for praying for us and for the ministry here in Ukraine.