20% Stay After U.S. Visa Expires

Approximately 20 percent of the Russians who apply for tourist and business visas to the United States do not return to Russia, a consular official at the U.S. Embassy said Thursday.

The visa violation rate was based on a telephone survey conducted last year by embassy officials who attempted to contact Russians who had received temporary visas to travel to the United States about eight months earlier.

"It's a very significant overstay rate," said the official, who declined to be named. "The U.S. has a major problem with illegal immigration, although the majority of illegal immigrants to the U.S. do not come from Russia."

The official was speaking one day after Artur Aristakisyan, a 32-year-old Russian filmmaker, said he was twice denied a visa to travel to the United States next week to receive a $10,000 award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Aristakisyan, who brought official letters of invitation from the festival when he applied for a visa, said he was told that his visa was denied because he is single, does not have children and does not have a job.

The official noted that it is embassy policy not to comment on individual visa cases, but said that applicants for non-immigrant visas must have evidence of social, economic or other ties that would ensure their return.

According to the official, about 80 percent of the Russians who apply for business and travel visas are granted them, but among person between the ages of 18 to 25, the rate drops to 65 percent.

"In general terms, younger people have a higher refusal rate as it's harder for them to show ties outside of the U.S.," the official said. "Men have a slightly higher issuance rate than women simply because in this society men still tend to demonstrate economic ties more easily."

The embassy, which issued more than 80,000 non-immigrant visas in the 1993 fiscal year, is deluged with faxes from individuals and groups supporting Russian applicants, the official said. But he said applicants should bring any supporting evidence with them when they apply for a visa rather than having letters from U.S. sponsors faxed to the embassy in Moscow.

"Sending faxes and telexes is not the way to do it," the official said. "They are glanced at and disposed of. There's no way we can link them up with the person coming off the street" because of the volume of applications.