The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Smith) to the Secretary of State

No. 178

The Ambassador has the honor to enclose as of possible interest to the Department three copies of a mimeographed statement prepared in the Consular Section of the Embassy with regard to the issuance of Soviet exit visas.1

The Embassy believes that this statement may be useful in replying to the many inquiries received from individuals in the United States concerning the prospective immigration or repatriation to the United States of persons residing in the Soviet Union. It is felt that the statistics quoted therein serve as impressive evidence of the difficulty which individuals who are regarded by the Soviet Government as Soviet citizens may be expected to encounter in their efforts to obtain permission to depart from the U.S.S.R.

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The numbers quoted in the enclosed form represent a reasonably accurate estimate, based on a thorough check of available records, of the number of cases contained in the Embassy’s files.2


Information Concerning Soviet Exit Visas

In order to depart from the Soviet Union, it is necessary to be in possession of an exit visa issued by the appropriate authorities of the Soviet Government. This is true regardless of the citizenship status of the person concerned. The regulations concerning the issuance of exit visas are made by the Soviet Government and the Embassy is not in a position to make representations concerning the application or interpretation of such regulations except in the cases of persons who have a clear and uncontested claim to American citizenship and who are not regarded as Soviet citizens under Soviet law. In this connection, it is pertinent to point out that, with rare exceptions, all persons residing in territories which have been incorporated into the Soviet Union are regarded as Soviet citizens by the Soviet authorities. Although this fact does not in most cases affect the American citizenship status of individuals having a valid claim to American citizenship, such persons, as residents of the Soviet Union, the country of their second nationality, properly come under Soviet jurisdiction and must comply with the regulations for Soviet citizens in order to leave the country.

On the basis of the Embassy’s experience, it appears to be the policy of the Soviet Government at the present time to refuse in almost all cases to issue exit visas to persons considered to be private Soviet citizens under Soviet law, regardless of the compelling reasons for their desire to proceed abroad. This policy apparently is in effect with regard to persons who have Soviet citizenship only as well as to persons who possess dual nationality, that is, persons who have a claim to both Soviet and American citizenship.

The stringency of the present Soviet policy with regard to the issuance of exit visas is illustrated by the fact that there are now on record with the Embassy approximately 5481 cases of persons who have expressed a desire to travel to the United States from the Soviet Union since 1940. Of this number, 3481 are applicants for immigration visas into the United States with no claim to American citizenship. [Page 808] Only 11 persons in this category have been successful in obtaining exit visas since July 1946, Of the 350 Soviet wives of American citizens who have applied for permission to depart from the U.S.S.R. not one has received an exit visa since August 1946.97 of this group are wives of veterans.

In connection with the problem of obtaining exit visas for the Soviet financées of American citizens, it should be noted that a decree of the Soviet Government published on February 15, 1947 prohibits Soviet citizens from marrying foreigners.3

The Embassy has on record 500 cases of persons residing in the U.S.S.R. whose claims to American citizenship have been verified but who are dual nationals, i.e., they are regarded as Soviet citizens under Soviet law despite their status as American citizens. In addition to this number, there are approximately 1500 claimants to American citizenship in the Soviet Union who are probably dual nationals but whose claims to American citizenship have not been verified. Of the total of approximately 2000 cases of persons claiming American citizenship but who are believed to have dual nationality status, only 12 persons have received exit visas from the Soviet authorities since 1940.

Although the Embassy has always done everything within its power to facilitate the issuance of exit visas to persons wishing to proceed to the United States from the Soviet Union, its efforts in this regard, as demonstrated by the figures quoted in the preceding paragraph, have usually been unavailing. In view of these circumstances, therefore, the Embassy is unable to offer any assurances that Soviet exit visas will be issued to persons residing in the Soviet Union who are regarded by the Soviet authorities as having any claim whatsoever to Soviet citizenship.

  1. For previous documentation about the persisting difficulties in obtaining exit visas for Soviet spouses of American citizens and detained American citizens in the Soviet Union, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, pp. 718 ff., and footnote 1.
  2. The numbers of the various cases were revised from time to time throughout the year on the basis of further investigations.
  3. See Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. iv, footnote 1, p. 722.