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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU, Russia Agree on Visa Rules

LUXEMBOURG -- The European Union and Russia said Wednesday that they would sign an agreement on passport visas and the return of illegals that should make travel to Russia easier and cheaper by the end of next year and help curb illegal immigration into the EU.

The deal took five years of negotiations often centering on travel between the exclave of Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia. The two sides need only to settle some translation and procedural issues before the agreement goes into force, officials said.

"This agreement will make traveling to and from Russia simpler, easier and cheaper for many EU citizens and will help us to work together more effectively to tackle illegal migration," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Under the deal, Russia will readmit people who migrated illegally to the EU, which in turn promises to make visa applications to 11 of its 25 nations easier for Russian diplomats, students and businesspeople.

EU Vice President Franco Frattini said the agreement should go into force once fully ratified by both sides, "if possible before the end of next year."

The agreement calls for a transition period of three years.

The deal will simplify visa procedures, and decisions on whether to grant one will have to made within 10 days. Visa fees will be substantially reduced to 35 euros ($42).