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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Embassy Changes Rules for U.S. Visas

The U.S. Embassy has changed the way it issues visas and is now giving most Russians who travel to the United States multi-entry visas valid for one year, U.S. Consul General James Warlick announced Monday.

Previously, most tourists and many people traveling on business were given six-month, single-entry visas. The cost for these was $65. The cost is now higher -- $100, whether the visa is multi-entry or single-entry -- but this is lower than a multi-entry visa cost before the change -- $195. Those who travel frequently to the United States will save both time and money.

"Nearly all the visas that we issue from now on will be multi-entry visas, whether people ask for them or not," Warlick said at a news conference. "This means that people will not need to come to the embassy each time they want to travel to the U.S."

Three-year student visas, which previously cost $495, now also cost $100, he said.

Three-year business and tourist visas, however, have been scrapped. Warlick said this is because few people wanted these visas, which also cost $495.

People who hold them have a good chance of getting two-year visas and being issued a series of such visas, he added. "If you want a two-year visa, it will cost the same as two one-year visas," Warlick said. "In other words, if you qualify for one year, you automatically qualify for two years."

Some of the changes came in response to a decision by the U.S. State Department to raise the visa fee worldwide to $100 as of Nov. 1, which it explained partly as a response to falling applications after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. On June 1, the fee had been increased to $65 from $45.

"Visa demand has dropped by approximately 20 percent, and the trend continues downward," the State Department's web site says. "There has been no corresponding decline in the costs of running nonimmigrant visa operations, because the processing of each application is more time consuming and labor intensive as a result of enhanced security screening requirements."

Warlick said the changes in Moscow were specific to Russia. "This totally modernizes our relationship with Russia," he said. "We are very hopeful that this is going to increase contact between the U.S. and Russia."

The new fee schedule applies to holders of Russian passports throughout the world, he added.

Applications submitted before Nov. 1 will be processed under the old rules, and visas already issued will be valid until their expiration date, Warlick said.

The U.S. consul general said many people in the Russian government and State Duma support introducing a similar regime for U.S. citizens visiting or working in Russia.

"The Russians offer one-year, multiple-entry visas now," Warlick said. "That is fully reciprocal. There is legislation in the Duma now for two-year, multi-entry visas, and we would, of course, welcome that."

Warlick said about 120,000 applications for U.S. visas are received in Russia each year and that three out of four Russian applicants receive a visa.

Previously, the vast majority had received single-entry visas for six months. "The reason for that is that there was a significant price difference between single-entry and multi-entry visas. As of Nov. 1 there is no price difference," he said.

Some people will continue to be issued single-entry visas, Warlick said. He gave as an example a worker who is being sent by his company to the United States for training and who does not have the income to pay for his own trip. But "for businessmen, for students, for almost everyone else ... for grandmothers, we will begin issuing multi-entry visas routinely," he said.

"Anyone is welcome to apply for a visa and if you have been refused or turned down you are welcome to reapply," Warlick said. "If anyone feels that they have been treated unfairly, we would like to hear from that person. We are interested in issuing visas to every Russian citizen who is eligible."

There was to be no relaxation of security measures, however, he said.

The changes also will not affect the people applying for immigrant visas to the United States, particularly fiances, who have been delayed for months as security checks are completed. Applicants for business and student visas have complained about slow processing of their applications since security measures were tightened worldwide on June 22.

Jynks Burton, Moscow director for academic programs at the International Research and Exchanges Board, or IREX, a U.S. nonprofit organization specializing in higher education and civil society development in Eurasia, said Russian citizens are the 16th- or 17th-largest group of foreign students in the United States.

Asked if the new visa fee scale would likely lead to an increase, Burton said money was just one factor. "There are still a lot of other hurdles students have to get over, including getting approved for the visa and finding finance in the United States," she said in a telephone interview.

Dmitry Loschinin, head of LUXOFT, a Russian company that develops software for Fortune 2000 international companies, expressed similar concerns.

"I would not say that the new rules will have a great impact on our business -- the major changes concern mainly the cost side," he said. "The greatest trouble with U.S. visas is not the cost, but non-motivated refusals and the delays with documents processing. We have examples when our employees waited for a visa for over 80 days, which is critical when you are to join a U.S. client for an on-site project."

Irina Tyurina, spokeswoman of the Russian Union of the Tourist Industry, said the visa changes would promote tourism and she praised the role played by Warlick, who she said had consulted with her organization on how to boost the number of Russian tourists to the United States.

"In Russia, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Warlick, cooperation with the tourist industry is continuing to work and there are chances for growth," she said.

Tyurina said she did not have any figures for how many Russians visited the United States last year, because she only had figures for the top 20 destinations and the United States was not one of them.

Visas, however, are only one of the obstacles, she said. Another is expensive flights, and the introduction of charter flights was under consideration, she said. United States Embassy Moscow, Russia Consular Section Notice of Increase in Nonimmigrant Visa Application Fee