The New US-Russia Visa Agreement: No Visa Waiver Program Eligibility for Russians

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On September 9, the new US-Russia Visa Agreement took effect. The Department of State has pronounced the Agreement to be “historic”. If “historic” means “repeating history”, this is certainly true: Russians will be eligible for three-year US visas – just as they were back in the late 1990s. If the Department means “making history” by putting Russia on a fast track towards waiving visas for Russian citizens, as it has recently done for Brazil, it could not be more mistaken. The subject of visa-free travel between the US and Russia has been raised periodically. In 2011, then-Prime Minister Putin seemingly caught Vice President Biden off guard by broaching the topic of waiving visas for Russians and Americans. Mr. Biden demurred, saying that he was only the Vice President and only the President can make such a decision. Notwithstanding this demurral, the legal spadework had been in place as far back…

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