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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Slashes Prices for Student Visas

APGuards checking a woman's papers at the U.S. Embassy on Monday. The price of student visas has been cut from $495 to $65.
In a further step toward warming U.S.-Russia ties, the U.S. Embassy said Monday that it has slashed prices for Russian student visas from $495 to $65.

U.S. Consul General James Warlick said the move -- which cuts the cost of visas for students and participants of exchange programs to a fee covering processing costs -- was agreed upon during last month's summit meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush.

"Presidents Bush and Putin underscored the importance of personal contacts between people," Warlick said at a news conference. "This will help foster mutual agreement between our two countries."

The new price took effect Saturday. The U.S. Embassy issued about 12,000 student visas last year.

Warlick said the price cut is part of an ongoing process of streamlining the visa process for other travelers as well. He said it was too early to give details.

Meanwhile, the processing fee for a Russian tourist visa has risen from $45 to $65 -- although the price change only reflects the inclusion of a $20 visa fee that was formerly charged separately.

Warlick said about 120,000 Russians applied for nonimmigrant visas last year and that three of every four applicants, or about 90,000, were granted the visas. A further 12,000 Russians received immigrant visas.

Warlick said he expected the number of Russians admitted to the United States to grow this year.

Russians have long complained about the application process for U.S. visas, a trial that has included braving long lines and what was perceived as a cold bureaucratic attitude at the embassy in Moscow.

Students, academics and exchange-program administrators have especially lashed out at the student visa application procedure as unnecessarily complex and harmful to academic and cultural exchanges.

After Sept. 11, the U.S. Embassy earlier this year began requiring applicants to send in their materials by courier rather than show up in person. But the process was eased somewhat after some travel agencies were recently allowed to help procure visas.

The latest news follows a period in which visa requirements on both sides grew stricter.

Last month, Russia introduced tougher requirements for American men applying for Russian visas, obligating them to fill out a form detailing which countries they have visited in the past 10 years, whether they have ever served in armed conflicts and the names and addresses of their previous two employers.

The tougher measure appeared to be a tit-for-tat response to a post-Sept. 11 U.S. decision requiring men to fill out similar visa forms, an obligation the U.S. Embassy says is the same for applicants from other countries.

The Foreign Ministry said Monday it had no immediate plans to ease any visa rules in response to the U.S. price cuts for student visas, The Associated Press reported.