Russia and the U.S. launch a simplified visa agreement

An historic visa agreement has been agreed between the United States and Russia, which is now in force.

On the 7th September 2012 The U.S. Department of State announced : “the agreement facilitates travel between our countries and enables us to strengthen ties between our people by benefitting the largest segments of travellers in both our countries – business travellers and tourists.”

According to statistics provided with the announcement, around 159,000 business and tourism visas were issued in 2011 to Russian citizens, and more than 75,000 U.S. citizens travel to Russia each year, most of whom need a Russian visa.

The landmark agreement was first announced by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Russian Foreign Minister in July 2011 and was ratified by the Russian President Putin in July of this year.

Although full terms of the agreement are not yet available, key provisions are as follows:

• Three-year, multiple-entry visas will be issued as the standard “default” visa for U.S. citizens visiting Russia and Russian citizens visiting the United States;
•  Diplomatic and official visa holders on temporary assignments will receive one-year, multiple-entry visas;
• The agreement streamlines the visa issuance process by reducing the documentation required.  E.g., the Russian government will no longer require U.S. citizens to provide formal, “registered” invitation letters when applying for Russian business visas or visas for private visits, although applicants seeking Russian tourist visas must continue to hold advance lodging reservations and arrangements with a tour operator;
• Both sides have committed to keeping standard visa processing times under 15 days, although the circumstances of individual cases may require additional processing; and
• The $100 issuance – or reciprocity – fee for Russians issued U.S. visas for business or tourism (visa types B1/B2) will decrease to $20.
Once we have further information on the new processes, we will provide an update.

The changes may well take some time to be fully implemented, and therefore visa applicants from either country should ensure they thoroughly check immigration requirements before submitting an applications.

Contact Newland Chase