|September 4, 2012|
Previously published on August 31, 2012
Russian and American citizens will soon be eligible for multiple-entry business and tourist visas valid for up to three years and for multiple entries, pursuant to a reciprocal agreement that was recently concluded between the United States and Russia. Both countries have agreed to aim for visitor visa processing times of 15 days, with the understanding that individual cases may take longer in some circumstances.
The reciprocal agreement goes into force on September 9, 2012, but will not be implemented with respect to Russian visas until that country’s immigration authority issues instructions to consular posts.
U.S. and Russian travelers who currently hold a valid business or tourist visa remain subject to the validity period and terms under which that visa was issued. They will benefit from the reciprocal visa agreement when they apply for a new visa on or after September 9.
Impact on Russian Travelers to the United States
Beginning September 9, Russian citizens will be eligible to receive a U.S. B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visitor visa for business or pleasure that is valid for up to 36 months and for multiple entries during the validity period (under current rules, Russian citizens are eligible for B-1/B-2 visas valid for up to two years). B-1/B-2 visa holders may be admitted to the United States for up to one year, though admission periods of up to three to six months are more typical.
Russian nationals will pay a reduced reciprocity fee of $20 to obtain a U.S. B-1/B-2 visitor visa, down from $100. They are also subject to a $160 visa application processing fee, as are all B-1/B-2 applicants regardless of their nationality.
Impact on U.S. Travelers to Russia
Once the reciprocal agreement is implemented at Russian consular posts, U.S. citizens are likewise expected to be eligible for Russian business and tourist visas valid for up to 36 months and for multiple entries during the validity period. The application process is not yet known, but Russia’s Federal Migration Service (FMS) is to release details after September 9.
It is expected that U.S. applicants for business visas will no longer be required to present an FMS invitation letter from a sponsoring entity as part of their application. U.S. citizens who lose their passport while traveling in Russia will no longer be required to obtain an exit visa to depart the country.
The agreement is expected to allow U.S. travelers periods of stay in Russia of up to six months. Under the existing policy, U.S. travelers to Russia are limited to stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period, with a maximum 12-month validity period for the visa. Tourist visas to Russia currently limit the traveler to two entries within a 30-day validity period.