John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, praised the Armenian government on Friday for lifting the visa requirement for visitors from the United States, saying that the move will boost relations between the countries.
Heffern also confirmed that the “really exciting announcement” made by the government on Thursday is part of a broader U.S.-Armenian agreement that will also lead to the easing of U.S. visa requirements for Armenian citizens.
“It’s the culmination of a one-year process that we launched a year or so ago in Washington,” he told a news conference. “Our goal has always been and will be to continue to deepen our ties with Armenia in any way we can and in any way that Armenia is interested.”
A separate statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia likewise referred to a
“new reciprocal arrangement” worked out by the two sides. “The implementation of a liberalized visa regime promoting people to people contacts was one of the goals identified in last year’s bilateral meeting of the U.S.-Armenia Task Force (USATF) in Washington D.C.,” it said.
Under that deal, Armenians will be able to apply for multiple-entry U.S. visas valid for up to 10 years, while U.S. citizens will be allowed to enter Armenia and stay there visa-free for up to 180 days per year. Both arrangements will be effective from January 1.
Heffern was asked by a reporter whether he thinks that by scrapping visas for Americans ahead of Armenia’s accession to a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states Yerevan sought to demonstrate its enduring commitment to closer ties with Washington. “The effective date was chosen by the [Armenian] cabinet yesterday,” he replied. “In our communication to them we did not suggest what the date should be. We left it up to them to decide the date. So you have to ask them why they picked January 1.”
“We’re happy with that date,” added the diplomat. “We don’t see any other significance except that qualified travelers in both directions will be entitled to this liberalized validity as soon as possible. So we are happy to have it as soon as possible.”