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Russia and US ease visa rules

Last month the Russian State Duma eased visa rules for US Citizens and, similarly, the US did the same for Russian citizens. The State Duma is a part of the Russian Parliament which proposes new laws, conducts hearings to discuss proposed national laws, votes on the federal budget, and administers international treaties.

Under the new rules, Russian and US businesspeople and tourists can obtain three-year multi-entry visas with which they can stay for up to six consecutive months. US applicants will no longer need to meet Russia's previous requirement of obtaining a letter of invitation to visit the country, however tourists will still need to show advance accommodation bookings.

The US Department of State said that the agreement would facilitate trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. The Duma committee said that the agreement "serves the interests of the Russian Federation and is an important step towards visa-free travel between the two countries".

"There is a chance to introduce visa-free travel for our citizens by the end of the current decade," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. "It is hard to specify the timeframe, but this process won't take whole decades."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed confidence that ratification of the agreement "will facilitate promotion of Russian-American economic, cultural, and humanitarian ties, and we presume that, eventually, such agreements will pave the way for visa-free travel for our citizens."

The details of the visa changes were discussed when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on 19 November 2011 in Bali. Following the meeting, Russian law required the State Duma to ratify the agreement before it could go into effect.

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