I entered Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe after 92 days in the Schengen zone, meaning a two days overstay which immigration ‘overlooked upon’ exit. No worries, I’ll go to Ukraine afterwards with a shiny visa I’d get in Minsk and forget about the whole overstay thing.
A couple embassy visits later, I wasn’t going to be getting a Ukrainian visa; multiple (non-official) people said it was due to the beard – not going down that rabbit hole…time to evaluate the options.
- Fly to a non-Schengen country
- Fly to a Schengen country
- Enter Russia (non-Schengen) overland
- Enter the Schengen zone overland
Option 1: Flights out of Minsk are expensive, minimum 130€ for a flight to a non-Schengen country. Not a good option for my tight budget.
Option 2: I should get turned away at immigration due to being over the 90 day limit already. Not ideal and would not want to deal with that given the option 1 would be the next alternative.
Option 3: They aren’t giving Russian visas to foreigners from the embassy in Minsk at the time of writing. No deal.
Option 4: Take the train ‘illegally’ from the border Brest to Terespol, Poland and then fly to Georgia. The budget-friendly option. I sent out a plea on Facebook enquiring: “What happens if I leave Belarus but am not allowed in Poland, and am in no man’s land?”.
I chose option four.
No one could give me a firm answer for this situation, not even Wikipedia! I was taking a slight risk. Would I become Edward Snowden’s apprentice? If you’re looking for more information, this post has good information if you are not sure what to do when you have overstayed your visa.
Do note, it is possible to visit Europe with a criminal record so it’s not exactly the end of the world if you’ve overstayed your visa in most situations or want to come into Europe despite some past mistakes.
My train of thought: this particular border near Brest,(Belarus isn’t a major tourist destination) is seldom crossed in a situation like mine so it’s safe to bet on them not even considering the legalities of it all.
September 22nd was BC day (border crossing day), allowing me enough time to figure out an alternative route if denied at the border (Belarus visa was valid until September 30th).
The train from Brest to Terespol is only 20 minutes, so with an extra 20 minutes either side of that for immigration stuff the whole ordeal would be over in an hour.
I bought my ticket after leaving Good Morning Hostel, and headed towards immigration a few metres away. This was the easy part, leaving Belarus – so I thought. With a lack of communication, it was soon pointed out I should have left Belarus on September 18th, not September 30th like stated on my visa. Um what?
When you cross into Belarus, you’re given a piece of paper from immigration that you need to get registered within five days of arriving (if staying in the country longer than three days). I got my registration sorted after a few failed attempts, and confirmed to the registration lady I’d leave on the 29th or 30th. For some reason she wrote the 18th!
Note: Always check your paperwork.
The immigration lady chatted to her boss man, who came over. After switching his gaze between my passport and I, eventually signaling to the lady to let me go (no repercussion). Yay! Step one complete.
As I walked onto the train everyone looked at the random bearded guy with a backpack. I sat down and didn’t really sit still. Before I knew it, it was time to join the next immigration queue.
I was 5th in line at the immigration queue, feeling bad for the people queueing up behind the silly backpacker. Not bad enough to go to the back of the line.
The immigration boss seemed harmless, early – mid thirties, a head full of hair. Seemed like a relaxed fella. Handing over my passport, he flicked through the pages. Probably checking for a previous EU entrance stamp, hidden away in the top left of page 40.
After a few more looks through the passport, I think given my passport having a few visas/stamps worked in my favour. He stamped me through and I proceeded to go buy a coke while waiting for the next train to Warsaw.
I made it into Poland successfully after a wonderful time in Belarus. It is somewhat common to overstay the Schengen visa yet there’s no set rules about how you’ll be treated. Personally, not wanting to suffer a huge fine on a tight budget I’m due to fly to Georgia on September 28th, making it a total overstay of eight days. Given Poland let me in, hopefully they will let me leave with no harm done. Fingers crossed!
Update: No issues at all.