Russia considers quicker tourist visa process

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NEW YORK -- Russia's Foreign Ministry is mulling over plans to offer 72-hour tourist visas at airports and border train crossings, according to the Russian National Tourist Office here.

Russian visas for U.S. travelers typically take at least three weeks to process; last-minute requests double the normal fee and can cost more than $100.

The 72-hour visa plan, initiated by St. Petersburg city officials, Russia's most touristic city, possibly will be tested in the next month, according to Michael Kolesnichenko, the tourist office director.

"The tourist visas would have little impact on Americans, since they generally stay in Russia for more than three days, but it could draw many Europeans who want to take spur-of-the-moment weekend trips to St. Petersburg," he said.

If the administering of tourist visas goes smoothly, Kolesnichenko said it could also be extended to seaports, which would be a boon for U.S. cruise passengers, who comprise the greatest number of American tourists to St. Petersburg.

Kolesnichenko was not optimistic that the tourist visa plan would be adopted permanently, he said, citing security concerns.

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