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U.S. Visa Applications in Russia to be Accepted only at U.S. Embassy In Moscow

21 Aug

On Monday, August 21st, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Russia announced that beginning Wednesday, August 23, 2017, U.S. nonimmigrant visa applications (e.g., B, F, H, L, O, P) will only be accepted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok have suspended nonimmigrant visa interviews until further notice.  Applicants who have scheduled appointments at these posts will receive cancellation notices and will have to reschedule their appointments.  The cancellation notice should contain information regarding how to reschedule the visa interview at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Additionally, applicants from Belarus may no longer apply for nonimmigrant visas in Russia.  They may apply instead at the U.S. Embassies in Warsaw, Kyiv, or Vilnius.

Applicants who live in the United States and plan to travel to Russia should expect delays when applying for new visas at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.  Due to the reduction in staff and the additional volume of applicants at the U.S. Embassy following the suspension of applications at other posts, both visa appointment wait times and visa issuance time frames could lengthen significantly in the coming days and weeks.

Some applicants may be exempt from an interview if they are applying for a new visa of the same type as their previous visa so long as the previous visa expired less than one year before the new visa application.  Exemption is subject to discretion, so even applicants who qualify to seek exemption should plan for the possibility of a visa interview and the corresponding potential for delays in visa issuance.

Applicants should plan ahead and are encouraged to:

  1. Schedule visa appointments at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow at the earliest opportunity in advance of travel.
  2. Be prepared for longer visa issuance time frames following the visa interview as a reduced staff works to handle the same volume of applications from applicants countrywide.
  3. Be aware of the potential for an increase in the number of applications that must undergo “additional administrative processing” background checks, and the time it takes to complete those background checks could lengthen.
  4. Inform employers prior to traveling for a visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Russia so that employers are able to make appropriate contingency plans in the event of delays returning to work.

The U.S. Department of State has confirmed that the reason for the suspension of visa interviews at the consular posts outside Moscow, and for the reduction in visa appointment availability overall, is due to the forced reduction of staff at U.S. posts in Russia following a personnel cap imposed by Russia on the U.S.  Because it is unclear when this imposed cap will end, it is not possible at this time to estimate when the U.S. Mission in Russia will return to normal visa interview scheduling.

As always, Foster LLP will continue to monitor changes in visa appointment availability and application procedures and will provide additional information via future Immigration Updates© and on our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com