U.S. Allows Russians 3-Year Visas
Published: September 12, 2012 (Issue # 1726)
@USEMBRU / TWITTER
TV presenter Tina Kandelaki in Moscow showing off her U.S. visa on Monday.
MOSCOW Ś Television star Tina Kandelaki became theáfirst Russian toápick up aáthree-year U.S. visa onáMonday, one day after theámuch-touted visa facilitation agreement between both countries went intoáforce.
Kandelaki said she was chosen because ofáher popularity onáthe Russian Internet. ôI want toátell you that this happened because ofáyou, dear friends,ö she wrote onáher blog. TheáU.S. Embassy also published aáphoto ofáher holding up her visa.
It remained unclear how Americans would fare ináRussian consulates because no practical results were available as ofáMonday night. However, theáRussian Embassy ináWashington published some far-reaching details about theáagreementĺs implementation.
Many U.S. citizens living ináRussia will foráthe first time be able toáinvite friends andáfamily members simply byáhaving anáinvitation notarized andásubmitted with theáapplicantĺs paperwork, according toáthe website ofáthe embassyĺs official visa agency, Invisa Logistics Services.
Theánew rules foráso-called private visas are aámassive improvement onáthe previous regime, whereby only U.S. citizens with residency permitsáŚ which are extremely hard toágetáŚ andáRussians can request official invitations fromáthe Federal Migration Service, aáprocess that usually lasts 30 days. That regime still applies toámost other Western foreigners.
Similarly, companies no longer have toábother obtaining business visa invitations through theáFederal Migration Service, but can simply write them using their own official letterhead. Theásame applies foránongovernmental organizations wishing toáinvite experts foráso-called humanitarian visas, typically conference speakers.
Analysts said this presents aámassive time-saver because migration service invitations may take aáwhole month toáget. ôThey usually took theáfull 30 days toáprocess visa invitations foráprivate visas. Processing ofávisa invitations forábusiness andáhumanitarian visas also take aálot ofátime,ö said Yekaterina Elekchyan, anáassociate with Baker & McKenzieĺs Moscow office.
Theávisa agreement stipulates that both private andábusiness travelers fromáboth countries ôas aáruleö get three-year visas allowing stays ofáup toáthree months. It does away with migration service invitations foráprivate, humanitarian andábusiness visas, while theárequirements forátourist visas remain unchanged: Applicants need toápresent hotel reservation confirmations or contracts with registered tour operators.
Issuing three-year visas is aásmall step foráthe United States, which already gives two-year visas toámost applicants, but it means aálarge change foráRussia, whose consulates have hitherto issued visas strictly according toáapplicantsĺ travel dates.
Foreign Ministry officials have promised that theáagreement would be fully implemented andáthat official recommendations foráconsulates say applications fromáU.S. citizens should be handled ôfavorablyö byágiving three-year visas even toátourists onáthe basis ofámuch shorter hotel reservations.
However, ináa somewhat puzzling move, theáministry has also said that U.S. applicants may choose toáapply forávisas under theáold rules foráat least another year.
Observers said consulatesĺ implementation would be theámain indicator. ôThe agreement says three-year visas will be granted Ĺas aárule,ĺ so we need toásee how it pans out ináreality,ö said Tatyana Bondareva ofáVisa Delight, aáMoscow-based agency handling visa issues foráforeigners.