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#9 - JRL 7260
Moscow expecting explanations from U.S. over new visa procedures

MOSCOW. July 22 (Interfax) - Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko has expressed regret that the U.S. authorities have complicated the issuance of non-immigrant entry visas and said Russia expects appropriate explanations from the U.S.

"The United States' wish to further complicate its visa procedures is regretful," Yakovenko told the press on Tuesday.

"We would like to know how the U.S. authorities plan to implement their new consular pocedures in keeping with the policy of strengthening contacts between our societies and citizens, declared by the presidents of the two countries," he said.

The U.S. Department of State earlier announced that starting July 22, most of the U.S. embassies around the world, including that in Moscow, will make changes in processing visas for visitors.

A press release issued by the U.S. Embassy to Russia notes that all Russians wishing to be granted an American entry visa will have to submit two application forms. One form may be photocopied after the form has been filled in; however, there must be an original signature on both copies of the application.

"All fields on the application form must be completed and should be completed in block letters," reads the press release. All other documentation requirements remain the same, it says.

In addition, starting July 22, 2003, the standards for photos attached to applications have been changed. Each visa applicant's photograph must be an unmounted full-face photo taken within the past six months. "A 'full face' photo is one in which the applicant is facing the camera directly, not looking down or to either side," the press release says.

The face should cover approximately 50 percent of the area of the photograph, "the head of the applicant, including both face and hair, should be shown from the crown of the head to the tip of the chin on top and bottom, and from hairline side-to-side. It is also preferable that the ears be exposed," it reads.

"These changes in procedures reflect our concern for ensuring the safety of U.S. residents and visitors alike, not a desire to make it more difficult for legitimate travelers to enter the U.S.," the press release says.

Moreover, according to the new amended procedure, virtually all non-immigrant visa applicants worldwide will be required to appear in person before a consular officer for an interview.

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