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US Visas for Russian Citizens

US visa & entry requirements for Russian citizens

If you are a Russian citizen looking to travel to the United States, you will need to know whether this is currently possible and, if so, what type of visa you will need. Below we look at the rules on Russian citizens travelling to the US, providing up-to-date advice in response to the frequently asked question: “Can Russian citizens travel to USA now?”

Although the following article provides an explanation of the rules on Russian citizens travelling to the United States, given the existing difficulties around visa issuance, you are advised to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist prior to applying for a visa.

 

Can Russian citizens travel to the USA now?

There are currently no direct flights available from Russia to the USA, where you would need to plan any travel arrangements accordingly, although it is still possible for Russian citizens to travel to US destinations. However, you will first need to apply for a suitable visa, even if you are only planning a short stay in the United States. This is because Russian citizens are not eligible to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), permitting citizens of 41 countries to travel to the United States for the purposes of business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.

As the USA does not offer visa-free travel to Russian nationals, this means that if your passport shows that you are Russian, you will need a US visa for Russian citizens, where you must apply for entry clearance in advance of travel. This is regardless of the purpose or length of your proposed US visit, or if you travel to the United States via another country.

 

US entry requirements for Russian citizens visiting the USA

Russian citizens who wish to travel to the United States for the purposes of business or tourism must apply for either a B-1 (business) visa or a B-2 (tourism) visa, where the relevant US entry requirements for Russian citizens will depend on the purpose of any visit.

 

B-1 (business) visa

If you apply for a B-1 (business) visa, you must demonstrate that you qualify for a temporary nonimmigrant visa. As US law presumes that every B-1 applicant is an intending immigrant, you must overcome this legal presumption by proving to a consular officer that:

  • the purpose of your US trip is for a temporary visit to do unpaid business activities
  • you plan to remain in the USA for only a specific and limited period of time
  • you have enough funds to cover your expenses while in the USA
  • you have a residence outside the USA, together with other binding social and/or economic ties, that will ensure your departure from the country at the end of your visit.

The types of business activities that you can undertake on a B-1 visa can include consulting with business associates; attending scientific, educational, professional or business conventions and conferences; settling an estate; or negotiating commercial contracts. However, as a business visitor on a B-1 visa, you must not usually engage in any paid or productive employment, otherwise risk being in violation of your nonimmigrant visa status.

The B-1 (business) visa will typically be granted for up to 6 months.

 

B-2 (tourism) visa

The relevant US entry requirements for Russian citizens applying for a B-2 (tourism) visa also require you to show that you qualify for nonimmigrant status in accordance with US law, overcoming the legal presumption that you are intending immigrant by showing that:

  • the purpose of your US trip is for a temporary visit for recreational purposes
  • you plan to remain in the USA for only a specific and limited period of time
  • you have enough funds to cover your expenses while in the USA
  • you have a residence outside the USA, together with other binding social and/or economic ties, that will ensure your departure from the country at the end of your visit.

The B-2 visa is typically for travel that is recreational in nature, including tourism, or visits with friends and family, although it could also be used to undergo private medical treatment in the United States, as well as activities of a fraternal, social or service nature. The B-1 and B-2 visas can also be combined, issued as one single visa: the B-1/B-2 visa.

As with a B-1 visa, a B-2 (tourism) visa will again usually be granted for up to 6 months.

 

US visa application requirements for Russian citizens

To apply for either a B-1 or B-2 visa, or both, you must complete Form DS-160 (Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and pay the application fee of $185. As part of the application process, you will also be required to schedule a consular interview.

Consular Sections of the US Embassy and US Consulates General are responsible for providing visa services, not only to those wishing to take up lawful permanent residence in the United States, but for those seeking to enter the United States for a temporary period only. However, the US Embassy in Moscow is no longer offering non-diplomatic visa services due to the Russian government prohibiting the Embassy from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. All consular services at the US Consulates in Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok also remain in suspended status. Instead, you can apply for a nonimmigrant visa at any US Embassy or Consulate where you can obtain an appointment.

A US visa can take several weeks, months or longer to be issued, depending on the wait time for the consular interview and any administrative processing. The suspension of non-diplomatic visa services at the US Embassy in Moscow means that you can expect longer processing times than usual due to the increased workload at other processing locations.

 

US visa interview requirements for Russian citizens

You must attend your consular interview with a number of documents in support of your application for a US visa for Russian citizens, including:

  • The confirmation page of Form DS-160, the application fee payment receipt, the appointment confirmation page, a valid passport and a passport sized photo
  • Current proof of income, tax payments, property or business ownership, in order to show sufficient funds to cover all expenses while in the United States
  • Evidence of your intention to depart the United States upon completion of your travel, such as a return or onward ticket
  • A letter from your employer setting out your position, salary, length of employment, any authorised vacation and the business purpose, if any, of your US trip
  • Evidence that you have significant ties to Russia or any other country to which you intend to return at the end of your stay in the US, such as proof of family, professional, property, employment or any other ties and commitments to the country in question
  • Criminal and/or court records pertaining to any arrest or conviction, even if you completed your sentence or were later pardoned.

Original documents are always preferred over photocopies, where any attempt to present false documents or falsely misrepresent your circumstances can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is of concern, you should bring the documents to your consular appointment in a sealed envelope. The US Embassy or Consulate will not make this information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of the data.

Supporting documents are only one of several factors that a consular officer will consider in your visa interview, where the interviewing officer will look at each application individually and consider the professional, social, cultural and other factors during their adjudication. In particular, consular officers will typically look at your specific intentions, family situation, plus your long-term plans and prospects within Russia or any other country of residence.

Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under US law. However, you should be prepared to answer various questions about the purpose of your trip and your intentions on expiry of your visa, where your answers must satisfy the consular officer that you intend to depart the USA at the end of your authorized stay.

It is also worth bearing in mind that due to the strained political relationship between the United States and Russia, you can expect increased scrutiny of any visa application, with stricter vetting procedures and potential denials based on perceived security concerns.

A decision as to whether a US visitor visa has been authorised or denied may be made on the day of interview, although further administrative processing may be required. You may also be required to apply for a waiver of ineligibility if you have a history of criminality or immigration violations, although certain conduct may result in an outright denial. Even if approved for a visa, you will usually need to wait for this to be sent out in your passport.

 

Alternative US visa options for Russian citizens

Russian citizens must obtain a visa before entry into the United States, where the purpose of your intended travel and length of stay will determine what type of visa is required under US immigration law. If you are coming to the United States for a purpose not permitted as a visitor, you will need to establish that you meet all of the requirements for the category of visa for which you are applying. In addition to the B-1 or B-2 visas, there are various other visa options available to Russian citizens, including work and study visas.

 

Work visas

Temporary work visas are for those wanting to enter the United States for employment that is not considered indefinite or permanent. Each of these nonimmigrant visas will require the prospective US-based employer or agent to first file a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where an approved petition is typically needed to be able to apply for a work visa. These visas can include the H-1B (specialty occupation), L-1 (intra-company transferee) and the O-1 (extraordinary ability) visas, amongst others.

 

Student visas

You must have a student visa to be able to study in the United States. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend will determine whether you need an F-1 (academic) or M-1 (vocational) visa. In this context, you can file Form DS-160, as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student on a course at an approved school in the USA.

 

Do you need a US visa for your Russian girlfriend or wife?

If you are living in the US and looking for a visa for your Russian girlfriend or wife, there may be various options available, depending on the reason for your loved one coming to the USA, as well as your own nationality and immigration status. A US visa for Russian girlfriends or wives could come in the form of a B-2 (tourism) visa if your loved one is only looking to visit you. They may also be eligible for a derivative or family visa if you have longer terms to stay in the USA.

 

Derivative visa

A derivative nonimmigrant visa is a visa that will allow the dependent spouse of a primary applicant or principal visa-holder on either a work or student visa route to apply for entry clearance to come to the United States, provided they meet the relevant requirements for the category of visa. This means that if you are a Russian citizen looking to come to the US for the purpose of work or study, or you are already in the US on a valid work or student visa, a derivative visa will allow your loved one to accompany or join you in the US.

However, US visa law does not recognise common-law relationships, where an unmarried partner is not eligible for derivative visa status. In such cases, a girlfriend would be required to qualify for nonimmigrant status in her own right, such as a visitor, work or student visa.

 

Family visa

A family immigrant visa is a possible long-term option for the Russian wife of either a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident in the United States, and is again intended for only a spouse of the US sponsor. As an immigrant visa, commonly known as a green card, this will first require you to file a petition on behalf of your Russian spouse with USCIS.

Again, as US visa law does not recognise common-law relationships, a girlfriend must qualify for immigrant status in her own right, such as an employment-based green card, although it is possible to be admitted to the USA as a fiancée of a US citizen.

 

US visas for Russian nationals FAQs

What countries can Russian citizens travel to now?

Russian citizens can still travel to various countries around the world, although they may first need to apply for a visa to do so. However, Russian passport-holders are not currently allowed to enter Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

 

Can I go to America from Russia?

It is still possible to get a visa to go to America from Russia, although there are no direct flights, so you should make your travel arrangements accordingly and ensure that you meet all requirements for the visa category sought.

 

Can my Russian girlfriend come to the US?

It is possible for your Russian girlfriend to come to the US, although the type of visa needed will depend on the purpose and proposed length of stay. This could include, for example, a tourism or other nonimmigrant visa.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Author

Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Nita Nicole Upadhye is the Founder & Principal Attorney at NNU Immigration. A recognized leader in the field of US immigration law, Nita successfully acts for individuals and companies from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications.

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