US Embassy Moscow announced that a historic US-Russia visa agreement to promote business and tourism between the two countries will enter into effect September 9, 2012.
This agreement will facilitate travel and establish stronger ties between Russia and the US, as it will benefit the largest segment of travelers in both countries: business travelers and tourists. Starting September 9, 2012, Russian and American travelers for business or tourism will be eligible to receive a B-1 visa or B-2 visa valid for multiple entries during a period of 36 months. The agreement also outlines other simplifications in the bilateral visa regime and eases visa processing time for travelers from both countries. At the same time, the US will reduce the fee charged to Russians issued US visas for business or tourism from $100 to $20.
This US-Russia visa agreement will make 3 year, multiple entry visas the standard for US citizens visiting Russia and Russian citizens visiting the US. No formal invitation is required to apply for a B-1 visa or B-2 visa for business or tourism, although applicants seeking Russian tourist visas must continue to hold advance lodging reservations and arrangements with a tour operator. Both sides have also committed to keep standard visa processing times under 15 days, although the circumstances of individual cases may require additional processing.
Also on September 9, 2012, the $100 visa issuance fee–or “reciprocity fee”–for Russians issued US visas for business or tourism (B-1 visa or B-2 visa) will fall to $20. As a rule, successful visa applicants will receive the full-validity three year visa. The $160 US visa application fee will still apply, and validity and fees for other visa types (i.e., student visas, work visas, journalism visas) will not change.
For Americans in Russia, the agreement lifts the previous restriction limiting stays in Russia to 90 days within any given 180-day period. Just as Russian travelers to the US, US travelers to Russia will now be permitted stays of up to 6 months. In addition, “exit visas” will no longer be necessary for US citizens who have lost their passports while in Russia. (Russian citizens may already exit the US within an exit visa.) US citizens with current Russian visas are reminded that they are still subject to the terms and dates of the visas they already have.
US citizens with Russian travel plans should monitor the US Embassy Moscow website for additional details concerning this agreement. Russian citizens may visit US Travel Docs for instructions on how to apply for a US visa.