#2 - JRL 7205
May 30, 2003
More Russians Visiting the U.S.
By Robin Munro
The number of Russians seeking nonimmigrant visas to the United States rose 8 percent in 2002 and is already up another 12 percent this year, U.S. Consul-General James Warlick said Thursday.
The number of U.S. citizens in Russia -- estimated to be 6,500 to 10,000 -- is also growing, said Warlick, who leaves next week to become director of the Office of UN Political Affairs in the Bureau of International Organizations in the State Department in Washington.
All the activity creates a heavier workload for U.S. consular staff so, to avoid delays, travelers should apply as soon as their travel plans are firm, he said.
"Apply early, especially at this time of the year when many people want to travel to the United States for summer," he said.
More than 88,000 Russians were issued nonimmigrant visas in the last financial year ending Oct. 1. From then through April, some 51,000 visas have been issued, with the peak summer months still to come.
Warlick, who in his two years in Moscow has made it a priority to correct misconceptions and demystify the visa process for Russians, said visitors should not be concerned about a series of security measures introduced after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The measures include interviewing almost all applicants, a practice that has long been in place in Russia.
"I don't think Russians will see a dramatic change," he said. "People who have not been to the United States before can expect to be interviewed; others who have visited previously and used their visas responsibly will generally not need to be.
"These measures are not targeted at Russia," he said.
"No one country is being singled out."
U.S. embassies around the world operate under a policy of secure borders and open doors, he said.
"We want to make sure that terrorists or anyone who wishes us harm is prevented from entering the United States, but the other half of that is the open doors."
That policy appears to be bearing fruit with a record 10,000 Russian university students expected to work and travel in the United States on summer programs this year, compared to some 8,000 last year.
Warlick said he has noticed a change in the type of applicants.
"We are seeing more middle-class Russians," he said.
"These are just the type of people we want to see."
He predicted the number of applicants who are turned down -- currently about 1 in 4 -- would drop as more Russians become middle class and see their future in Russia and not the United States.