Visa Rules Ground Mormons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that it will no longer be sending North American missionaries to Russia, citing difficulties in complying with new visa laws.

A new visa regime signed into law by then-Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov in October states that holders of humanitarian visas are allowed to remain in the country for no longer than 180 days in one calendar year, and for stretches of no longer than 90 days at a time.

While missionaries could previously renew their visas in neighboring countries, they must now return to their country of origin, greatly increasing costs.

"The church is working to find an alternative solution to the 90-day renewal requirement," Mark Tuttle, a church spokesman, said by telephone from Salt Lake City on Tuesday. "Until an appropriate alternative is identified, new missionary assignments to Russia will be limited to those nationalities not needing visas.

Commonly called the Mormon Church, it says it has over 19,000 members and eight permanent missions in Russia. Missionaries already serving in the country will not be recalled, Tuttle said, but those preparing to leave for Russia have been reassigned to other countries.