On 7th July World Chess Federation President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, asking for help resolving visa problems in advance of the Tromsø Olympiad. The CEO of the 2014 Chess Olympiad, Børge Robertsen, has now issued a response on behalf of the organisers.
Response to FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s Open Letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister about potential complications obtaining Norwegian visas:
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.
Chess Olympiad Tromsø 2014
In the meantime more federations complaining about the trouble and costs brought up by the visa procedures.