State Department Suspends Visa Operations In Russia

Sameh Shoukry
Sameh Shoukry

22 August, 2017

The United States began to scale back its visa services in Russian Federation on Monday, drawing an angry reaction from Moscow three weeks after President Vladimir Putin ordered Washington to more than halve its embassy and consular staff.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Non-immigrant visas are issued to travelers who want to visit the USA temporarily, as opposed to applying for permanent residency in the country.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian Federation would not "take out its anger on American citizens".

"Visa operations at the US consulates will remain suspended indefinitely", the USA mission stated, adding that they will resume at the embassy in Moscow on September 1. Visas will not be issued by the consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

"The American authors of these decisions have come up with another attempt to stir up discontent among Russian citizens about the actions of the Russian authorities".

The embassy said it would reschedule non-immigrant visa appointments for those Belarusians who have paid the application fee, and encouraged those who have not to reschedule appointments at USA embassies in Warsaw, Kiev or Vilnius. "I can only say that we will not take it out on United States citizens, that is, if someone hoped that in that case one fool makes many, they were mistaken".

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The decision would come as a blow to Russian tourists, almost 250,000 of whom visited the USA last year, according to The Associated Press. It means Russian citizens wanting to visit the United States for tourism will no longer be able to apply via U.S. consulates outside Moscow and will have to travel to the Russian capital instead. In written comments to the Moscow Times, the International Visa Center said the announcement meant the outcomes of 19 applications were now up in the air.

Even before the US announcement, consular work at the USA mission in Russian Federation had slowed significantly, according to daily data published by the State Department and tracked by Reuters.

The move comes just weeks after the Kremlin ordered the US diplomatic mission in Russian Federation to reduce its staff to a maximum of 455 by September 1.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last month directed the United States to cut 755 out of about 1,200 employees at the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, after the U.S. Congress passed a tough new law cementing sanctions against Moscow over its aggression in Ukraine and for allegedly meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Last month, Congress imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Russian Federation for its meddling in elections and its aggressive behavior toward neighboring countries.

"Operations will resume in Moscow on September 1; visa operations at the USA consulates will remain suspended indefinitely..."

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