US suspends procedure of issuing nonimmigrant visas throughout Russia
The United States will suspend the procedure of issuing nonimmigrant visas in Russia as of August 23, in Moscow this procedure will be resumed on September 1, the US embassy has announced.
"As a result of the Russian government’s personnel cap imposed on the US Mission, all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning August 23, 2017. Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted only at the US Embassy in Moscow,. NIV interviews at the US Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice," the statement said.
"As of 0900 Moscow time Monday, August 21, the US Mission will begin canceling current nonimmigrant visa appointments countrywide. The NIV applicants who have their interviews canceled should call the number below to reschedule their interview at the US Embassy in Moscow for a later date," the embassy says.
Restrictions for issuing US nonimmigrant visas will remain as long as diplomatic mission personnel cuts are in effect, the embassy stressed:
On July 28, the Russian Foreign Ministry proposed to cut the number of diplomatic and technical staff working in the US Embassy to Moscow and the Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to the exact number of Russian diplomats and technical staff members working in the US before September 1 - 455 people.
A senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Olenchenko, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, said that the United States in fact, declared the blockade to themselves. "Only those who intend to live or work in the country enter the US on immigrant visas, which means that now it is impossible, and starting from September 1 it will be difficult to obtain a visa for tourist purposes, for visiting relatives or for business contacts. The opportunities for entry into the US are sharply limited. An average of about 20,000 Russian citizens travel to the US per month - it is very small number in comparison to the number of our citizens visiting other countries," he explained.
"The introduction of restrictions on the issuance of visas to Russians can be viewed as a reflection of Russophobic sentiments in the United States and an expression of their own uncertainty. The United States, in my view, is demonstrating that they are not very confident that they are ready for dialogue, Of course, it cannot but cause concern, because such self-isolation does not benefit the Americans," Vladimir Olenchenko stressed.
"Contacts between countries are necessary, every state is interested in them. It is a normal and correct situation when the parties can exchange opinions on any international issue, listen to each other's points of view. But when one of the parties says that it will not contact, it has only its own point of view. The states are being self-isolated, which gives them a distorted picture of the world around them," the senior research fellow at the European Research Centre of the International Relations Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences warned.
A Professor of the Department of Russian Foreign Policy in the National Security Faculty at RANEPA, Alexander Mikhailenko, pointed to a clear change in the US foreign policy paradigm, which made such a restriction of visa issuance to Russians possible. "It will affect various spheres, including tourism. I think it is a big mistake, because the Americans have always adhered to the foreign policy of openness. The current decision goes completely in contradiction with the traditional US policy, it will affect the broad contacts with the Russian civil society," he said, adding that a decline in the tourist flow from the Russian Federation will affect the US income.
As for businessmen who were also limited in their ability to visit the US, Alexander Mikhailenko believes that they will find other options for the development of their business. "Business will find ways to bypass these restrictions. Large foreign companies, such as Exxon, have previously opposed US sanctions against the Russian Federation, and the business constantly looks for innovations related to competition, so I do not exclude the possibility that there will be ways to bypass the new visa policy of the US," the Professor of the Department of Russian Foreign Policy in the National Security Faculty at RANEPA concluded.