From the Moscow Times:
Those who believe in the U.S.-Russian “reset” despite disheartening rhetoric in both countries recently may want to celebrate on Sunday when a landmark visa agreement comes into force.
But before you put the Champagne bottle on ice, read the fine print carefully.
The agreement makes three-year multiple-entry visas allowing stays of up to six months the standard for both tourists and business travelers from each country. Written invitation requirements, fees and minimum waiting times will be slashed, and visa applications will be handled by any consulate in the world — by and large regardless of an applicant’s place of residence.
That’s how things should work in theory. What will happen in practice won’t be known before Monday, when both countries’ consulates start implementing the new rules.
The implementation is more demanding for Moscow because Russian consulates hitherto gave single-entry visas only for the exact travel dates, while U.S. consulates already give two-year multiple-entry visas to most applicants.
Somewhat surprisingly, Russia is opting for a dual system, giving travelers a choice of applying for a visa “old style” or “new style,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official.
“The old style will stay in force for one year,” said Vadim Sovelev, head of the consular section in the ministry’s North America department.
One reason why applicants might opt for the old rules is that they offer little uncertainty. The Foreign Ministry has not yet published its implementation recommendations to consulates.
Observers said this made some of the agreement’s effects hard to gauge. “As long as we do not have those recommendations, we have no idea how consulates will handle this,” said Yekaterina Elekchyan, an associate with Baker & McKenzie’s Moscow office.