The State Department confirmed on Sunday that Russians hoping to apply for a U.S. immigrant visa must now travel to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, blaming restrictions imposed by Moscow.
This development took place against the backdrop of unresolved tensions between the US and Russia, as well as against the backdrop of the tit-for-tat expulsion that had previously led Moscow to limit the number of US diplomatic personnel in Russia.
Russia condemned the change in the US visa, which prompted a harsh response from Foreign Ministry press secretary Maria Zakharova.
American diplomats, as she wrote on the Telegram platform, have long been “destroying” the system of consular services in Russia, turning a routine technical procedure “into real hell.”
The State Department, for its part, placed the blame entirely on Moscow.
“The Russian government’s decision to prohibit the United States from retaining, hiring or hiring personnel from Russia or third countries seriously affects our ability to provide consular services,” the State Department spokesman said in a statement received by AFP. “The extremely limited number of consulate staff in Russia currently prevents us from providing regular visa or services to US citizens.”
He added, “We understand that this is a significant change for visa applicants,” and cautioned them against traveling to Warsaw before making an appointment at the embassy there.
The statement acknowledges that the shift to Warsaw, which took effect this month, was not a “perfect solution.”
It added: “We took into account a number of factors, including proximity, flight availability, convenience for applicants … the predominance of Russian speakers among our local staff, as well as the availability of staff.”
Warsaw is located about 1200 km from Moscow.
The State Department website added Russia to the short list of countries where “the United States does not have consular missions or where political or political
The security situation is precarious or vague enough “to prevent consular officials from processing immigrant visa applications.
Most of the countries on this list have little or no direct relationship with the United States, including Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
Amid an ongoing dispute over how many diplomats each side can house the other, Russia has included the United States on its list of “unfriendly” countries that require permission to employ Russian citizens.
Applicants applying for a nonimmigrant visa can apply at any US embassy or consulate abroad, provided they are physically located in that country, the US statement said.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Moscow will only be able to issue “diplomatic or official visas.”
Successive rounds of diplomatic expulsions by the two countries left embassies and consulates extremely understaffed, undermining normal services.
This was a central topic of talks two weeks ago during a visit to Russia by Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, but little progress was announced.