U.S. Mission in Russia Announces Suspensions and Delays for NIV Processing in Russia (effective Aug. 23, 2017)

 

Introduction

On August 21, 2017, the U.S. Department of State's Mission to Russia announced that effective August 23, 2017, it would suspend all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia. Beginning on September 1, 2017, operations will resume in Moscow but will remain suspended at U.S. Consulates. The move comes in response to the recent decision of the Russian government to impose a cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia. In this article, we will examine what the news means through the DOS fact sheet on the issue. First, please see the following DOS documents uploaded for your convenience (in both English and Russian languages):

  1. U.S. Mission to Russia Statement [see in English or Russian]
  2. Fact Sheet [see in English or Russian]

Nonimmigrant Visa Operations

Examining the Fact Sheet

The DOS released a fact sheet providing a detailed overview of the new developments regarding nonimmigrant visa processes in Russia. In the following sections, we will examine the fact sheet in detail.

Overview of the Changes

As we noted in the introduction, the suspension in nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia comes is in response to the Russian government's imposion of a personnel cap on the U.S. mission.

Beginning on August 23, 2017, all nonimmigrant visa operations, including at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, will be suspended.

Beginning on September 1, 2017, visa operations will resume on what the DOS describes as a “greatly reduced scale.” Beginning on that date, nonimmigrant visa interviews will resume at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. However, nonimmigrant visa interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok will remain suspended until the DOS provides further notice. To be clear, this means that even after September 1, 2017, no nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok until the DOS states otherwise.

Effective 0900 Moscow time on August 21, 2017, the U.S. Mission will begin cancelling current nonimmigrant visa appointments throughout Russia. The DOS explains that nonimmigrant visa applicants whose interviews are cancelled as a result should call to reschedule their interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for a later date. Applicants who had interviews scheduled at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, or Vladivostok may also call to reschedule the interviews to be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Although immigrant visa processes are not suspended, the DOS cautioned that the staffing changes caused by the personnel cap on the U.S. mission will also affect the scheduling of some immigrant visa applicants. The DOS will contact immigrant visa applicants if there are changes in the dates of their interviews.

The DOS provided the following phone numbers for those who wish to reschedule their nonimmigrant visa interviews or who have other questions regarding the current situation: +7 (495) 745 3388 or 8 800 100 2554 (ITFN).

Effect on Belarussian Applicants

The DOS explained that neither the U.S. Embassy in Moscow nor the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg will accept new visa applications for residents of Belarus. The DOS will instead reschedule visa appointments for Belarussian applicants who have already paid their application fees. The DOS encouraged Belarussian applicants to schedule nonimmigrant visa appointments at one of the three following U.S. embassies:

  • U.S. Embassy in Warsaw;
  • U.S. Embassy in Kyiv; or
  • U.S. Embassy in Vilnius.

Reduced Capacity Going Forward

As we noted, the DOS will contact nonimmigrant visa applicants whose interviews are cancelled with information on how to reschedule their interviews at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The DOS cautioned that its capacity for such interviews in the future will be greatly reduced because of its reduced staffing in Russia.

Prioritizing Visa Appointment Requests

The DOS explained that first priority will be given to the travel by officials to the United Nations, international organizations with offices in the United States, and bilateral missions.

Beyond the diplomatic categories, the DOS stated that it will give priority to certain other categories of nonimmigrant visa applications depending on its staffing. It suggested that priority may be given for travel for medical or family emergencies (e.g., funerals, hospitalizations, or legal proceedings).

All other nonimmigrant processing will be completed as staffing permits.

Students

The DOS stated that it has plans to offer a block of visa appointments to student applicants in early September. It provided no further details at this time.

Qualifying for a Visa Without an Interview

The DOS stated that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will continue to process nonimmigrant visas without interviews for those who are eligible.

Information on Fees

The DOS stated that it cannot refund fees that have already been paid. However, it noted that the fee paid is valid for one year from the date of payment.

The DOS also stated that a visa fee paid in Russia cannot be transferred to apply outside of Russia. An applicant who is able and who wishes to apply outside of Russia would have to begin an entirely new visa application and pay a fee in accord with the new location's instructions.

Full Range of Services Remain Available for U.S. Citizens

The DOS stated that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the three consulates will continue to provide emergency and routine services to American citizens. These services include passports, reports of birth abroad, assistance to victims of crime, emergency loans, and prison visits. Although the full range of services will remain available, the DOS stated that there may be changes in hours of operation.

Conclusion

The diplomatic situation between the United States and Russia will now have an immediate effect on those seeking nonimmigrant visas in Russia to enter the United States. Furthermore, it may result in indirect delays for immigrant visa processing. Visa applicants from Russia are well advised to refer case-specific questions to an experienced immigration attorney and to stay abreast of new developments in the situation. It is important to note that U.S. citizens in Russia will have the full slate of services available to them at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the three consulates.

We will update the site with further information as it becomes available.