23 November 2011

US visa deal with Russia moves closer to completion

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Dramatic changes in the US visa application process for Russians are hoped to be ratified in an agreement between the two countries before the end of the year, it has emerged.

US visa application

It is hoped that the US visa deal with Russia will be ratified in an agreement before the end of the year.

The agreement would ensure that a standard US visa could be granted to Russians who wish to enter the United States, with a receiprocal visa available for eligible US citizens wishing to visit Russia. This would result in written invitations from citizens of the host country no longer being a necessity, with each visa allowing for multiple entries over three years.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to Russian media, a senior consular official is reported to have indicated that the ratification could happen by mid-December, after election of Russia’s lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia (the ‘State Duma’), also set for December.

Once elected, the Duma would need to approve the agreement along with both houses of parliament and the Federation Council. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had previously promised that the agreement would be in force prior to ‘Catholic Christmas’, on December 25th.

Following ratification, the two countries will exchange notes that confirm their internal procedures have been completed, and the agreement will come into force once 30 days have passed following that exchange, according to the US State Department.

Meanwhile, talks between Russia and the European Union, also centred on a facilitation agreement making it easier for eligible visa applicants to obtain short-term visas, have been ongoing since mid-2010. Plans are expected to be made to abolish the need for visas completely at the EU-Russia summit on December 15th. Moscow’s EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov recently indicated that a series of 40 ‘Common Steps’ towards visa-free short term travel between Russian and EU citizens, agreed upon in July this year, could be completed in “one or one and a half years.”

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people with their ESTA visa application.

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