Russia, U.S. to sign eased visa agreement by Christmas

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington that a new visa regime between the two countries would be signed by Christmas.

“In regard to the timeframe, [the signing of the agreement] will be this year for sure and much earlier than Christmas,” Lavrov said.

He said that the two countries still had to agree on some separate legal issues, adding that the signing of this agreement on easing the visa regime should open the path to eliminating visas altogether between Russia and the United States.

Lavrov said last week in a TV interview in Moscow that the agreement being negotiated would permit tourists and businessmen to obtain long-term multiple entry visas, and also envisages one-year multiple entry visas for people visiting the United States and Russia on official business.

In May, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to liberalize visa restrictions for businessmen and tourists traveling between the two countries. Under the new agreement, eligible business travelers and tourists would be issued visas valid for 36 months at a unified and reciprocal fee.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin proposed scrapping visa restrictions between the two countries altogether during a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Moscow in March.

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