US-Russia visa easing to start Sept. 9

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MOSCOW (AP) -- A U.S.-Russian agreement on simplifying the countries' visa program will go into effect on Sept. 9.

The agreement was ratified in July by President Vladimir Putin, but additional formalities were necessary to put it in operation. The start date was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Embassy.

The agreement allows Russians and Americans to get three-year multi-entry visas under which they can stay for up to six consecutive months. It also eliminates Russia's requirement that visitors get a letter of invitation, although tourists will still need to show advance accommodation bookings.

Easing the laborious and limiting visa system is expected to boost business contacts between the countries and improve tourism, particularly of Americans coming to Russia.