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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New British Visa Rule for First-Time Travelers

The consular section of the British Embassy is asking travel agents and courier services not to submit visa applications for Russians who have never traveled abroad but to tell applicants they must submit their papers in person, the embassy said Monday.

The embassy made the statement after contradictory reports about British visas rules appeared in the local media, sparking fears that Britain was clamping down on Russians.

Richard Turner, spokesman for the British Embassy, said the request was made to allow the consulate to process visa applications more quickly during the peak summer months. He said there was no point in a travel agent delivering an application when any would-be vacationer with no travel record needs to be interviewed anyway.

"We want to be as efficient as possible," he said.

Interviews can take up to 40 minutes, he said. About 7 percent of all applicants get in-depth interviews. Visas are mostly issued within 24 hours, and only about 3 percent of applications are rejected, he added.

The requirement applies only to Moscow and not to Britain's other consulates in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg because the Moscow consulate has to cope with more than 500 applications a day.

Turner said children going to summer English-language classes in Britain were exempt from having to appear in person.

Meanwhile, the State Duma international relations committee will meet with the heads of the U.S. and European consulates on Tuesday to discuss visa regulations, Interfax reported. The meeting aims to discuss measures to improve visa policies between Russia and those nations, the committee said.