COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Ukraine continues to experience significant political and economic changes. In recent years, the amount and types of goods
and services available in Ukraine have increased, and facilities for travelers have improved. Nonetheless, the quality of
travel and tourist services remains uneven throughout the country, and it can still be difficult to find some of the goods
and services commonly available in the United States. Ukrainian is the official language with Russian being widely used in
Eastern and Southern Ukraine; English is not widely used. Please see the Department of State Fact Sheet on Ukraine for additional information.
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SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM / EMBASSY LOCATION:If you are going to live in or visit Ukraine, please take the time to register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).If you enroll, the U.S. Embassy can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements, and help your friends and family get in touch with you in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 4 Aircraft Designer Igor Sikorsky Street (some maps and Internet search engines still list the street by its old name, ‘Tankova’), Kyiv, Ukraine 04112; telephone: (38-044) 521-5000; fax: (38-044) 521-5544. The American Citizen Services unit can be reached at (38-044) 521-5566.
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: You need a valid passport to enter Ukraine. If you are a U.S. citizen, you do not need to have a Ukrainian visa as long as
you will be in Ukraine for fewer than 90 days within a 180-day period for tourism. You need a visa or valid Ukrainian residency
permit for all stays longer than 90 days. You cannot get a Ukrainian visa at the airport or at the border. If you need a visa, please get it in advance at a Ukrainian Embassy
or Consulate. Contact information for Ukrainian embassies and consulates outside of the United States is available on the
Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Check your visa carefully so that you know the validity period. You are responsible for knowing the rules for the type of visa you have. Sometimes U.S. citizens try to come to Ukraine before their visa allows. Remember, in Ukraine the date is written day-month-year. For example, a visa issued on 01/05/13 is good from May 1, 2013, NOT from January 5, 2013. If you come to Ukraine before your visa allows, you can be stopped at the border, not allowed to enter Ukraine, and required to return to your point of origin at your own expense. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv cannot stop this from happening.
If you enter Ukraine without needing a visa (meaning you will be in Ukraine for fewer than 90 days within a 180-day period), you are automatically registered at the border for 90 days. Extensions of stay beyond 90 days are rarely authorized. To apply for an extension, talk to your local office of the Ukrainian State Department of Citizenship, Immigration, and Registration (officially VGIFRO, but still referred to almost universally by its old acronym, “OVIR”) at least three work days before your initial registration expires. Although three days is a minimum, it is in your interest to contact OVIR earlier. Most cities will have several OVIR offices. If you are given an extension, you will be allowed to stay in Ukraine until your new registration expires; however, if you leave Ukraine, you may have to wait 180 days to come back without a visa. If you do not get an extension, you must leave the country and cannot come back until 180 days after your initial entry into Ukraine.
If you enter Ukraine on a long-term (“D”) visa, you must apply with OVIR for a residency permit within 45 days from your entry date. Once you have the residency permit you can reside in Ukraine for as long as it remains valid. To enter and exit the country, you will need your un-expired residency permit and a valid passport. For more details regarding Ukrainian visas and registration procedures, please contact the nearest Embassy of Ukraine or consulate abroad, or the nearest OVIR office within Ukraine.
If you are going to visit Russia from Ukraine, remember you will also need a Russian visa. The Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Ukraine is located at Prospekt Kutuzova 8, tel.: (380-44) 284-6816, fax: 284-7936, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details, review Country Specific Information for the Russian Federation. Please note that it currently takes at least two weeks for American citizens to receive Russian visas in Kyiv. The U.S. Embassy cannot intervene to expedite Russian visa issuance.
Ukrainian law requires visitors to have valid health insurance. More information on medical insurance is below.
Visit the Embassy of Ukraine’s website for the most current visa information. Also, see the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
The U.S. Department of State is not aware of any restrictions for persons with HIV/AIDS visiting Ukraine on a temporary basis. However, anyone with HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis cannot get permanent residency in Ukraine. There are no waivers or exceptions to this rule.
Information about dual nationality and prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. Information about customs rules can be found on the Ukrainian State Customs Service website.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: For the most part, Ukraine is a safe country to visit, with little anti-U.S. sentiment. Large demonstrations occasionally occur in the bigger cities, such as Kyiv, and are usually sponsored by political organizations. Most protests are peaceful but you should avoid them if at all possible. Even demonstrations that are meant to be peaceful can become violent and unpredictable. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to what the local news media report. If the Embassy obtains information about a planned protest ahead of time, an announcement will be posted on the Embassy website.
Several bombings targeting public areas have occurred in Ukraine in the last year and caused damage or injury. While the bombings in Ukraine are not related to terrorism and have not targeted U.S. citizens, the Embassy reiterates the necessity to maintain high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase your security awareness.
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CRIME: Street crime remains a serious problem in Ukraine. The country continues to undergo significant economic, political, and social transformation, and income differences have grown accordingly. As a result, you and other foreign visitors may be perceived as wealthy and become easy targets for criminals. United States citizens often stand out in Ukraine, and are therefore more likely to be targeted than in Western European countries where incomes are higher and U.S. citizens may blend in better. The police are poorly paid, motivated, trained, and equipped, and also are considered to be one of the most corrupt organizations in Ukraine. Ukrainian police and emergency services remain generally below Western European and U.S. standards in terms of training, responsiveness, and effectiveness. Ukrainian law enforcement and emergency officials rarely speak English and interpreters are not readily available.
Most street crimes reported to the Embassy are non-violent and non-confrontational, and range from various scams to simple pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and theft of personal items from parked cars. Many of these crimes occur in downtown Kyiv or on the public transport system, including the subway (metro). Muggings, armed robberies, harassment, or the drugging of unsuspecting victims at nightspots and bars (where they are then robbed) have been reported, but less frequently. Cases of assaults in apartment building corridors, elevators, and stairwells, as well as armed break-ins and crimes involving small-caliber firearms have also been reported, but are rare; most criminals do not carry guns, but may have other weapons. When violent assaults do occur, they usually involve punches and kicks, with an occasional bottle or similar item used as a club.
A commonly reported scam in Kyiv is the “wallet scam,” which involves a person dropping a wallet or a packet of money near you. After you pick up the wallet/packet and attempt to give it back to the individual who dropped it, the scam artist claims that the wallet is missing money and accuses you of stealing it. The individual either threatens to call the police if you don’t pay or asks you to show your wallet to prove that you did not take any money. When you show your wallet, the thief grabs your money and flees. A very common variant involves a second person who intercedes and claims to be a police officer, often flashing a badge. The second person also asks to see your wallet, grabbing the money and fleeing or, through sleight of hand, stealing your money. Many variants exist: two wallets, three or more thieves, etc. All variants involve the victim picking up something and returning it to the person who dropped it.
U.S. citizens have reported being robbed by people posing as police officers. Police officers in Ukraine, including plain clothes officers, routinely stop people on the street to check identity documents and U.S. citizens are required to carry their passports and produce them on request. However, if you have doubts about the legitimacy of a police officer, you can ask to see their photo ID.
While most travelers do not encounter problems with crime in Ukraine, there have been hate crimes directed at ethnic and religious minorities, and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities (please see more on LGBT issues under Special Circumstances section ). Many of these incidents are perpetrated by “skinheads” or neo-Nazis and have been reported throughout the country. In Kyiv, these incidents have occurred without provocation in prominent downtown areas commonly frequented by tourists. The majority of people targeted have been of Asian, African, or other non-European descent. Racial minorities may also be subject to various types of harassment, such as being stopped on the street by both civilians and law enforcement officials. Individuals belonging to religious minorities have been harassed and assaulted in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine. The police and government’s slow response to hate crimes is a serious and continuing concern. Although senior Government of Ukraine officials have publicly deplored these hate crimes and groups behind them, Ukrainian street-level law enforcement officials are either unwilling or are unable to deter hate crimes effectively. The U.S. Embassy has received numerous credible reports from victims of violent hate crimes stating that uniformed police officers observed the assaults and did nothing to prevent the attacks, to assist the victims afterward, or to investigate and apprehend the attackers. The Government of Ukraine has established special law enforcement units to prevent and investigate hate crimes; despite these efforts, problems with this type of crime continue to exist.
The general disinterest shown by Ukrainian law enforcement in responding to or investigating crimes against U.S. citizens in a number of cases is a cause for concern. In particular, Ukrainian law differs with regard to sexual assault and rape, and Ukrainian law enforcement officers generally treat such cases with less seriousness and professionalism than their U.S. counterparts. If you become a victim of rape or sexual assault, you should expect little assistance from Ukrainian law enforcement. We recommend you contact the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to help find medical care, and to help you understand the local criminal justice process.
The U.S. Embassy also hears from people who have had large amounts of money stolen by Internet contacts they thought were their friends, loved ones, or romantic interests. These Internet scams include lotteries, on-line dating or introduction services, and even requests from a “friend” in trouble. In many cases, scammers troll the Internet for victims and spend weeks or months building a relationship and credibility. Once they have gained their victim’s trust, they create a false situation and ask for money. Once money has been sent, there is next to no chance it will be recovered.
In particular, dating/marriage scams are frequent. In many cases, U.S. citizens have sent money to a person or agency in Ukraine with the understanding that either a young woman will visit the United States, or the U.S. citizen will visit her in Ukraine. Often, these scams lead to requests for increasing amounts of money for various purposes, including requests to assist with faked emergency situations (such as unexpected ticket or visa fees, serious illness, or family members in trouble). Once the U.S. citizen becomes suspicious, the individual or agency will cut off contact. Many of these scams have existed for many years using a variety of different identities, agency names, and addresses. In addition, some U.S. citizens visiting their “friend” or “fiancé” in Ukraine have been extorted out of thousands of dollars, and in some cases have been seriously assaulted. Numerous U.S. citizens have also lost money to agencies and individuals who claimed to be able to arrange a student or fiancé visas to the United States. We urge you to read the document entitled “ Marriage Brokers ” on our website for additional information.
Credit card and ATM fraud are wide-spread. Ukraine generally operates as a cash economy, and money scams are common. Although credit card and ATM use among Ukrainians is increasing, the Embassy strongly recommends that you exercise caution and use credit cards only at reputable businesses. You should avoid using ATMs on the street or in public places whenever possible. Machines located inside bank branches are generally safer.
Burglaries of apartments and vehicles represent a common threat to long-term residents. Although few cars are actually stolen, primarily because of increased use of alarm systems and security wheel locks, vehicular break-ins and vehicular vandalism are frequent.
Ukraine lacks reliable services for foreign victims of crime. Transferring funds from the United States, replacing stolen traveler’s checks or airline tickets, and canceling credit cards can be difficult and time consuming. There are few safe low-cost lodgings, such as youth hostels. Public facilities in Ukraine generally are not equipped to accommodate persons with physical disabilities.
The Embassy has received reports of harassment and intimidation directed against foreign businesspersons and interests. Reported incidents include:
Do not wire money to Ukraine unless the recipient is well-known to you and the purpose of business is clear. United States citizens have reported transferring money to Ukraine to pay for goods purchased from residents of Ukraine via online auction sites, but never receiving the goods in return.
Don’t buy counterfeit or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: Despite concerns with Ukrainian police effectiveness and professionalism, if you are the victim of a crime in Ukraine, you should contact the local police and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. We can:
In case of emergency in Ukraine, call the following emergency numbers:
Operators generally do not speak English. As noted previously, Ukrainian police and emergency services are still generally below Western European and U.S. standards in terms of training, responsiveness, and effectiveness. United States citizens have reported waiting up to several hours for Ukrainian police and ambulance services to respond to calls for emergency assistance especially in rural areas. Ukrainian law enforcement provides no adequate level of deterrence to street crime, and is not able to investigate criminal incidents to any minimal level expected in Western countries. Visitors to Ukraine should note that Ukrainian law enforcement and emergency response officials generally do not speak English, and translators are generally not readily available.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in Ukraine, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. If you violate Ukrainian law, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. U.S. citizens who have been arrested in Ukraine have faced extended periods, even years, in pre-trail detention before their case comes to trial. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ukraine are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Ukrainian prison conditions, while improved in recent years, are generally far below the norm in the United States. or Western Europe. Cells are crowded and contact with the outside world is limited (no phones, Internet, or television). Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Ukraine, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
While some countries will automatically notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested in a foreign country, that might not always be the case. To ensure that the United States is aware of your circumstances, request that the police and prison officials notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as you are arrested or detained overseas.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Ukraine does not recognize dual nationality. If you are a U.S. – Ukrainian citizen and arrive in Ukraine with a Ukrainian passport, you will be treated as a Ukrainian citizen by the local authorities. This may include being required to perform mandatory military service. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs website for information on dual nationality.
If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page on Travel.State.gov.
LBGT Rights: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread in Ukraine, as harassment, threats, and acts of violence have been targeted at homosexuals. Government officials have been known to make derogatory comments about LGBT persons, and lawmakers have proposed draft legislation to criminalize the import, manufacture, and distribution of products that “promote” homosexuality and to restrict other forms of expressions based on sexual orientation. However, it is unclear if and when this legislation would pass.
For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
Under Ukrainian law, police are permitted to stop you for any reason and check your identification documents. You are required to carry your passport at all times, which police may check to verify your legal presence in Ukraine. Police are permitted to detain you for up to 72 hours without formal charges. U.S. citizens traveling to Ukraine are strongly advised to have the numbers for the U.S. Embassy handy. If stopped by the police for an unclear reason, call the U.S. Embassy at 38 044 521 5566 within working hours or 38 044 521 5000 after hours.
Exchanging U.S. dollars into Ukrainian hryvnya is simple; licensed exchange booths are widespread, and exchange rates are normally clearly advertised. Currency exchange is only legal at such licensed exchange booths, banks, and currency exchange desks at hotels; anyone caught dealing on the black market can expect to be detained by the local police and may face criminal prosecution. You will need to show your passport when exchanging money. Be aware that you will be unable to exchange Ukrainian hryvnya back to U.S. dollars or other foreign currency if you are unable to show where you got this amount of hryvnya from. Keep receipts that you get from exchange booths to be able to show them later if you need to exchange the local currency back to U.S. dollars when leaving the country.
There are many banks and licensed currency exchange booths located in major cities. ATMs (known locally as “bankomats”) are common throughout the country, even in the smaller cities and towns. All ATMs dispense cash only in hryvnya. You should think about bringing enough hard currency with you if you need dollars or euros during your trip. Credit card and ATM card fraud is a major concern, so you should use credit cards only at reputable businesses and ATMs located inside bank branches.
Customs regulations prohibit sending cash, traveler’s checks, personal checks, credit cards, passports, or other forms of identification through the international mail system, as well as via courier mail (FedEx, DHL, etc.). Customs authorities regularly confiscate these items as contraband. Ukrainian customs authorities may also enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Ukraine of items such as firearms, antiquities, prescription medications (in particular narcotic pain relievers), and currency.
Travelers arriving in Ukraine should pay close attention to posted customs declaration requirements. Failure to declare cash, valuables, and certain goods in accordance with Ukrainian requirements can result in fines and the seizure of the goods. You may also have to attend a court hearing, usually scheduled several weeks after the offence, before you can depart Ukraine.
You may take up to EUR 10,000 or its equivalent into or out of Ukraine under oral declaration to Ukrainian customs authorities, if asked. To transport a greater amount, you must declare the total amount, in writing, by filling out the Customs Declaration Form before checking in at airports and presenting proof of the source of the money (a bank reference) to customs officials, or you may face forfeiture of the money to Ukrainian customs as well as a court appearance.
Ukraine has strict limitations on the export of antiques and other goods and artifacts deemed to be of particularly important historical or cultural value. These include, but are not limited to, any items produced before 1950 regardless of the country of production. United States citizens must adhere to these restrictions as a matter of law. Please contact the Kyiv Department of Culture, Expertise Section, at (38-044) 279-6109 or (38-044) 279-5647, if you have any questions regarding items you own, wish to purchase, and/or plan to export.
You should contact the Embassy of Ukraine in Washington, or one of Ukraine's consulates in the United States for more specific information regarding customs requirements. The State Customs Service of Ukraine can also be contacted for advice at (38 044) 247 2719. Operators speak only Ukrainian or Russian.
Accessibility: Accessibility is an issue in Ukraine. Public transport systems are not fully accessible to individuals with disabilities. Some newer buildings feature ramps and elevators, but older buildings do not. You should check ahead with your hotel/destination to learn more about options to accommodate disabled traveler needs before visiting Ukraine.
Radiation and Nuclear Safety: In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear accident resulted in the largest short-term, unintentional release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere ever recorded. The highest areas of radioactive ground contamination occurred within 30 kilometers of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The city of Kyiv was not badly affected because of the wind direction, but it was not completely spared. The last operating reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant site closed in 2000. All identified stabilization measures on the existing sarcophagus covering the reactor damaged in 1986 are complete, and preparatory work to start construction of the new shelter is nearing completion. The contract for the new Chernobyl shelter was awarded in 2007, and its construction is projected to be completed in 2014.
The Ukrainian Government has an effective program of monitoring fresh foods and meats sold in local markets. You should not buy produce on the street. Wild berries, mushrooms, and wild fowl and game have exhibited higher than average levels of radiation. Background levels of radiation are monitored regularly by the Embassy and, to date, have not exceeded the level found on the Eastern seaboard of the United States. If external radiation levels are high enough to require evacuation, the U.S. Embassy will notify the U.S. community electronically. To receive these messages, you only need to sign up with the Embassy.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: If you are ill or infirm, we strongly recommend that you do not travel to Ukraine. Ukraine is not a disabled-friendly environment, with little or no accommodations to ease access. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. State ambulance service is inadequate and it can take hours to get a response even in an emergency. Ambulance crews have asked for bribes before agreeing to transport critically ill patients to the hospital. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of hospitals and clinics with some English-speaking staff. A few facilities have only limited English speakers, and most have none at all. No hospitals in Ukraine accept U.S. health insurance plans for payment, and the level of medical care is not equal to that found in U.S. hospitals. (Some facilities are adequate for basic services.) If you are hospitalized, you or someone acting on your behalf must supply bandages, medication, and food. The U.S. Embassy also recommends that you obtain private medical evacuation insurance prior to traveling to Ukraine. If you do not have Ukrainian medical insurance, you may be asked to pay in cash for medical services and hospitalization before you are treated. Many private insurance companies in Ukraine offer short-term medical coverage for visitors.
Medical evacuation often remains the best way to secure Western medical care. This option, however, is very expensive and can take several hours or longer to arrange. You should buy medical evacuation insurance prior to travel or have access to substantial lines of credit to cover the cost of medical evacuation. The U.S. Embassy has information on various air ambulance companies that provide medical evacuations to Europe or to the United States. More information can be found on the U.S. Embassy's website in the document “ Medical Services in Kyiv.”
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Ukraine. For further information, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) information on TB.
There have been several outbreaks of measles in Ukraine in recent years. The Ukrainian Ministry of Health currently reports suspected cases of the illness are increasing, particularly in Western Ukraine. The CDC provides regularly updated measles information. Travelers to Ukraine should make sure they have been vaccinated against measles (and that their other vaccinations are up-to-date) in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
HIV levels in Ukraine are well above regional and worldwide averages. The CDC website publishes the latest news on HIV in Ukraine, along with information on HIV prevention.
Ukraine has experienced several outbreaks of H1N1 influenza, most recently in November 2009. These instances were among birds and poultry only and no known human cases have occurred. More detailed information about 2009-H1N1 and H5N1 influenza is available from the Department of State.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the WHO website, which also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy cannot be used outside the United States, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in Ukraine, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Generally, roads in Ukraine outside major urban areas are in poor condition and are poorly lighted. U.S. visitors to Ukraine can drive using their U.S. driving licenses for up to 60 days after entering the country; those planning to stay longer need to obtain a Ukrainian driving license.You should drive defensively at all times, since local drivers often disregard traffic rules. Drivers are often poorly trained; many drive without a valid driver's license. Drivers can also be dangerously aggressive and normally do not respect the rights of pedestrians, even at clearly marked pedestrian crossings, and regularly drive on the sidewalks. Pedestrians should also be aware of cars driving or attempting to park on sidewalks. Many cars, including some taxis, do not meet the safety standards common in the United States. There is no tolerance for driving under the influence, and penalties can be steep. Fines are associated with driving while talking on a cell phone.
Due to heavy traffic and congested roads, vehicle accidents happen often in larger Ukrainian cities, especially in Kyiv.If you are involved in an accident in Ukraine, do not move the vehicle from the site of the accident unless it presents a clear safety concern (causing a traffic jam is not considered a safety concern). In practice, this means that even moving a vehicle to the side of the road after an accident may be considered a criminal offense. Local police must be notified and will report to the scene to conduct an investigation. You must wait until the police arrive and complete their report, no matter how long it takes; often this can take several hours. When police arrive, they will decide responsibility, take the drivers’ personal information, and file an accident report. In the vast majority of cases, the police reporting to the scene of an accident will not speak English.
Cross-country travel at night and in winter can be particularly dangerous. The Embassy strongly recommends that visitors and permanent residents of Ukraine refrain from driving after dark outside of major cities. Roadside services such as gas stations and repair facilities are becoming more common, but are far from U.S. standards; travelers should plan accordingly. Western-made or foreign-registered cars have been carjacked.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ukraine’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ukraine’s air carrier operations. You can find further information on the FAA website at the FAA safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information sheet dated January 31, 2013.