Russians now must travel to Warsaw for US immigrant visas
WASHINGTON, Oct 25, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Russians hoping to apply for an
immigrant visa to the United States are now required to travel to the US
Embassy in Warsaw, the State Department confirmed Sunday, while blaming
restrictions imposed by Moscow.
That development came amid unresolved US-Russian tensions, and tit-for-tat
expulsions that earlier led Moscow to limit the number of US diplomatic staff
The US visa move, in effect since October 12, prompted a heated rejoinder
from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
American diplomats, she wrote on the Telegram platform, had long been
"destroying" the consular services system in Russia, turning what should be a
routine, technical procedure "into a real hell."
The State Department, for its part, pinned the blame squarely back on
"The Russian government's decision to prohibit the United States from
retaining, hiring or contracting Russian or third-country staff severely
impacts our ability to provide consular services," a State Department
spokesman said in a statement received by AFP.
"The extremely limited number of consular staff in Russia at this time
does not allow us to provide routine visa or US citizen services."
It added: "We realize this is a significant change for visa applicants,"
and it cautioned them not to travel to Warsaw before booking an appointment
with the embassy there.
The statement recognized that the shift to Warsaw, which took effect this
month, was not an "ideal solution."
It added: "We considered a number of factors including proximity,
availability of flights, convenience for applicants... the prevalence of
Russian speakers among our locally engaged personnel, and the availability of
Warsaw is around 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Moscow.
On the State Department website, Russia has been added to a short list of
countries where "the United States has no consular representation or in which
the political or security situation is tenuous or uncertain enough" to
prevent consular staff from processing immigrant visa applications.
Most countries on that list have poor or no direct relations with the US,
including Cuba, Iran, Syria, Yemen and Venezuela.
Amid a continuing dispute over how many diplomats each side can post in
the other's country, Russia has placed the US on a list of "unfriendly"
countries requiring approval to employ Russian nationals.
Russian applicants for nonimmigrant visas can still apply at any overseas
US embassy or consulate so long as they are physically present in that
country, the US statement said.
Meantime, the US Embassy in Moscow will be able to process only
"diplomatic or official visas."
Successive rounds of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions by the two
countries have left embassies and consulates badly understaffed, playing
havoc with normal services.
This was a central subject of talks two weeks ago during a Russia visit by
Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, but
little progress was announced.