People, Travel

Russia’s Relaxed Visa Regime for Iranians Takes Effect

Russia’s Relaxed Visa Regime for Iranians Takes EffectRussia’s Relaxed Visa Regime for Iranians Takes Effect

An agreement between Russia and Iran to simplify visa issuance procedures went into effect on Saturday, in what the Russian media called “the first step toward a visa-free regime.”

The move to ease visa requirements is in line with an agreement signed last November in Tehran between President Hassan Rouhani and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the new visa rules apply to Russian and Iranian business people, people participating in scientific, cultural and artistic activities, for students and academics, tourists and other categories of travelers, Russian news agency TASS reported.

According to Rosstat (Russia’s state statistics service), nearly 34,000 Iranian tourists visited Russia in the first nine months of 2015, a rise of more than 110% compared to the same period a year ago. About 25,000 Russians visit Iran every year.

“This agreement will further strengthen Russian-Iranian relations in all areas of mutual cooperation,” the ministry stressed.

Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mehdi Sanaei suggested earlier this month that Tehran may unilaterally cancel visas for Russian citizens.

Morteza Rahmani Movahed, the tourism deputy at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization told Moscow-based news agency RIA Novosti the two countries could waive visa requirements altogether  “within a week” if Russia agreed on a mutual political decision.