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US and Russia move closer to new visa agreement

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The United States and Russia moved one step closer to easing visa regimes between the two countries this past weekend when diplomats met to discuss a new visa agreement.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov exchanged diplomatic notes during their 19 November meeting in Bali on the new visa agreement, according to a US Department of State press release.

Under the new rules, businessmen and tourists from both countries will receive three year multi-entry visas, while government officials will receive one year multi-entry visas.

Following this meeting, Russian law requires the State Duma to ratify the agreement. The State Duma is a part of the Russian Parliament and proposes laws, conducts hearings to discuss proposed national laws, votes on the federal budget, and administers international treaties.

After ratification from the State Duma, the parties will exchange a second set of notes confirming that their internal procedures regarding implementation have been completed. The agreement will come into force 30 days after that exchange.

"We look forward to speedy ratification of the agreement by the State Duma," said US Ambassador John Beyrle.

Beyrle had originally announced the agreement in June at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, stating it would be finalized by Lavrov and Clinton in July. The agreement was delayed at that point because Russian ministries had failed to agree on the text.

According to the Department of State press release, the agreement also streamlines the visa issuance process by reducing the documentation required.

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