The Department of State announced that a “historic” U.S.-Russia visa agreement entered into force on September 9, 2012. The agreement facilitates travel between the two countries and “enables us to strengthen ties between our people by benefiting the largest segments of travelers in both our countries – business travelers and tourists,” the Department said in a statement. Among other benefits, the agreement provides for longer visa validity.
Nearly 159,000 business and tourism visas were issued in fiscal year 2011 to Russian citizens. Over 75,000 U.S. citizens travel to Russia annually, the majority of whom require Russian visas. The agreement includes these key provisions:
- 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 documentation required will be reduced. For example, 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 (reciprocity) fee for Russians issued U.S. visas for business or tourism (B-1/B-2) will decrease to $20.