10 September 2012

Russia US visa agreement comes into effect

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An agreement between the two countries to cut down on costs and paperwork for both Russian and US visas came in to effect over the weekend.

US visa

Russians can now access a US visa for just $20.

The arrangement was first mooted in July 2011 by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov but was only finally agreed upon recently and put into effect to coincide with Ms Clinton's attendance at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok.

As part of the agreement, Russians will have to pay just $20 (£12.50) instead of the $100 (£63) previously for a US visa while American citizens will no longer have to provide as much information justifying their trips; both countries will issue three-year, multi-entry visas.

The agreement is seen as a major milestone in Russian-American relations and could eventually lead to Russia being added to the Visa Waiver Program.

Relations between the two countries have frosted recently over the ongoing situation in Syria; Russia is Syria's main military and diplomatic supporter while the US has led international calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stand aside.

However, the visa agreement is proof that the two former superpowers can separate issues and cooperate together.

A US State Department statement said the agreement "allows for expanded contacts and promotes greater mutual understanding between our societies".

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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