MOSCOW -- The American Embassy here doesn't necessarily want to make it easier for Russians to visit the United States, but it does want to make them feel better about the hoops they have to jump through to get a visa.
It's a daunting task, because the visa section here, besieged by as many as 500 applicants a day, has become the object of increasing anger and scorn among Russians who have tried to deal with it and some who know it only by reputation.
Consular officials are accused of being rude in their quickie interviews and of being illogical in their decisions over who gets a visa and who doesn't.
For instance, why does Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultranationalist, get one, when members of a touring Russian folk orchestra do not?
Embassy officials have tried explaining that their only motive is to weed out potential illegal immigrants, but the argument has made little headway.
Yesterday, Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering promised that there would be some minor changes.
"I'm not interested in having the United States displayed as an ugly, Soviet-style bureaucracy," he said.
The most important change will allow some categories of applicant to skip the interview, which will free more time for others.
Beyond that, Mr. Pickering said, the embassy is hoping to gain the authority to issue more multiple-entry visas (and thus reduce congestion), to gain more space and to add more staff.
But even with this small bit of good news, there is more bad news as well. As of today the embassy must impose a $20 application fee on top of the regular $20 visa fee, in order to pay for new computer-readable visas (which are designed to help immigration officers, not visitors).
And Mr. Pickering said that there could be no major change in a system that has stirred so much resentment among Russians.
"This is the best system as of now that we feel we can devise," he said. "I don't think I've thought of a better way."
The consular section, he said, is one of the only bulwarks against illegal immigration.
"It's a human right to visit the United States, but it's not a human right to immigrate to the United States," he said. "Obviously, if we have made mistakes we have affected people's rights. But we invite people to come back" and apply again if they have been rejected.
The embassy says it granted about 90,000 visas in the year that ended Sept. 30, which amounts to about 80 percent of those who applied.
About 15 percent of those who get visas in Moscow remain illegally in the United States past the visas' expiration dates.