YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Citizens of the United States will no longer need visas to visit Armenia starting next month, the Armenian government said on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian announced the lifting of visa requirements for them, effective from Jan. 1, during a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.
Nalbandian said that the U.S. government will reciprocate by easing some of its own, much stricter visa procedures for Armenian nationals. In particular, “many categories” of Armenians will now be eligible for multiple-entry American visas valid for 10 years, he said.
Yerevan’s plans to unilaterally abolish the visa regime with the U.S. were first revealed by one of Nalbandian’s deputies, Sergey Manasarian, in May. “This shows that the level of our relations with the U.S. is really rising,” Manasarian told Armenian members of parliament.
Armenia’s visa procedures for much of the outside world have been quite simple since the late 1990s. U.S. citizens, many of them ethnic Armenians, have been able to easily get visas not only at Armenian consulates abroad but also the country’s border crossings and airports.
Citizens of European Union member states already can enter Armenia and stay there visa-free for up to 90 days. The Armenian government scrapped visas for them in 2012 shortly before signing a visa facilitation agreement with the EU. The agreement, which took effect in January 2014, eased the EU’s stringent requirements for some categories of Armenians travelling to Europe.
The authorities in Yerevan have maintained the visa-free arrangement for Europeans even after controversially deciding last year to seek membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Armenia is expected to complete its accession to the EEU by the end of January.