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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Nearly Triples Visa Prices for Russians

Russians who show up at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Tuesday to apply for a visa will encounter not only the familiar long line, but steep reciprocal price hikes of close to 300 percent for their visa when it is granted.

As of May 1, Russian citizens will pay $150 for a one-year, multiple-entry visa and $450 for a three-year, multiple-entry visa, up from $60 and $120 respectively, along with a $20 non-refundable processing fee, the U.S. Embassy announced Monday.

The embassy explained in a press release that U.S. law requires the foreign service to maintain reciprocity of visa fees with other countries. "Therefore the issuance fees charged for U.S. visas will be adjusted on May 1, 1996, to reflect the costs of Russian visas for U.S. citizens.

"The U.S. government would welcome a decision by the Russian government to lower the visa fees it charges of U.S. citizens, and would, at that time, reciprocate accordingly," the press release said. U.S. citizens pay $200 to obtain a single-entry Russian visa on the day of application.

Three-year visas will in future be available to Russian citizens in nearly all visa categories, whereas formerly only those traveling on business or pleasure could obtain them. One-year, single-entry visas, which used to cost only $20, will no longer be issued.

Visa applicants said Monday that the price increase, while unpleasant, was much less onerous a burden than the U.S. government's stiff requirements and the complexity of the process.

Alexei Zelenkov, 31, an engineer in Moscow, said outside the U.S. Embassy that he hoped to visit friends in New York. "The real deterrent for me in applying for a visa is not the money, but that I won't ever get one," he said.

Zelenkov's complaint was echoed by Marina Osipova, a travel agent at Intentrans, which sells airline tickets to America. "Increasing visa fees does not affect our business to America nearly so much as the complexity of the process of receiving visas, because in fact people usually end up paying middlemen in the lines anyway," she said.

Osipova said that a simplified visa regime would increase her firm's turnover to the United States even with the new higher issuance fees for visas. More people, for example, were flying to the Czech Republic these days than ever before, despite higher ticket prices, because the Czech government simplified visa processing "to a minimum," she said.

The U.S. government said in its statement that it "continues to promote the elimination of visa issuance fees and a general liberalization of visa issuance policy."

Richard Hoagland, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, added: "We have also offered a number of services to soften the blow, especially to keep people from standing in long lines, and quite a few have taken advantage of them."

These special services include "express service" for applicants over 60 years of age, those with adult immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens and others. Express service is also offered for U.S. companies in Russia seeking visas for their employees or clients.

A dozen or so Moscow travel agencies also have special access to the embassy consular department, and tourists booking their trips through such agencies need not turn up personally at the embassy. "This usually helps, but not always," Osipova said.