USA to halt issuance of non-immigrant visas in Russian Federation

Michele Moreno
August 22, 2017

U.S. visa services in Russia will be suspended on Wednesday, the U.S. Mission Russia said on Monday, after Russia ordered U.S. consulates and embassy to cut staff.

It showed that wait times for visitor visa appointments at the Moscow embassy had risen from 50 days to 70 days between August 2 and August 19, and from 17 days to 44 days at the consulate in St. Petersburg in the same time period.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would respond after a closer examination of the USA announcement.

"The first impression is the United States authors of these decisions have plotted another attempt at stirring up resentment among Russian citizens regarding decisions by the Russian authorities", TASS news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as saying. The Kremlin says it is merely telling the United States to have the same staff level as Russia's in the US.

The US has consulates in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. The wait time for visa appointments at the embassy in Moscow rose from 50 days to 70 days between August 2 and August 19.

Russians received more than 190,000 non-immigrant visas to enter the United States in the 2016 fiscal year, according to State Department data, an 18 percent increase over the prior year. The cuts will leave the U.S. diplomatic staff at 455 in Russian Federation - the same figure that Moscow has in the US.

The vast majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various USA diplomatic missions in Russian Federation, including the embassy in Moscow and the three consulates are local employees.

The move follows President Vladimir Putin's order late last month for Washington to cut 755 diplomats and other personnel in Russian Federation by September 1.

Trump, who took office pledging better ties with Moscow, had promised to weigh a response. They will resume issuing visas on September 1 but only from the embassy in Moscow.

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. Moscow has denied meddling in the election and Trump denies any campaign collusion.

Other reports by Insurance News

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