Bering Strait
In 1867, Russia sold the territory of Alaska to the United States. Now a new law allows indigenous people on both sides to cross the Bering Strait to visit relatives. (Illustraition/map: Phys.org.)

U.S. and Russia introduce visa-free travel for indigenous people




The United States and Russia have introduced visa-free travel to the indigenous inhabitants of the Chukotka and Alaska.

This is reported by the official website of the Chukotka Autonomous Region.

The new law, that allows indigenous people to cross the Bering Strait to visit relatives, came into effect on July 17.

Inhabitants can now stay in the designated area of the neighboring country for 90 days in a row, according to Russia Behind The Headlines (RBTH).

The precedent apparently occurred after the Bering Strait Regional Commission (BCRC), on the U.S side, declared its readiness to issue an insert for the passport of an Alaska native who wanted to visit Chukotka visa-free under the Intergovernmental Agreement Concerning Mutual Visits by Inhabitants of the Bering Strait Region. This is a special accord that exists between Russia and the United States.

The BCRC’s American Chief Commissioner Vera Metcalf reported this to her Russian counterpart, Leonid Gorenstein.

A passport insert is proof that the citizen is a resident of the so-called designated area, which is indicated in the U.S.-Russian Agreement Concerning Mutual Visits by Inhabitants of the Bering Strait Region.

– For the American side, this area is Alaska; for Russia, it is Chukotka. When traveling to the designated area, in both cases, a person should have a national passport and this insert, said Matvei Mikhalendo, an advisor to the international relations department of the Chokotka Autonomous Region.

To travel visa-free, the indigenous people on both sides need an invitation from their relatives. It is, according to the rules, necessary to notify the senior commissioner of the opposite side no less than 10 days in advance.

The term “relative”, according to RBTH, is understood as blood relatives, members of a tribe, or as indigenous people who share a linguistic or cultural heritage with indigenous peoples of the neighboring territory.

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