The US Embassy in Moscow is suspending non-immigrant visa processing throughout Russia starting Wednesday because of Moscow’s requirement to reduce its diplomatic staff to 455 people by September 1, the embassy said Monday.
“Due to the Russian government-imposed cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia will be suspended on August 23,” the US mission said in a statement.
It said operations would resume in Moscow on September 1, while visa operations at US consulates in other Russian cities “will remain suspended indefinitely.”
All scheduled appointments would be canceled and instructions would be provided to applicants on how to reschedule, the US embassy said.
“Planning for departures and staff reductions has already begun in order to meet the Russian government’s September 1 deadline for the reduction of personnel,” the embassy said in response to a query on why it canceled visa interviews scheduled before September 1.
The US embassy added that it will operate at reduced capacity for “as long as our staffing levels are reduced.”
“The staffing changes will also affect the scheduling of a limited number of immigrant visa applications. Affected applicants will be contacted if there is a change to the time and date of their interview,” the diplomatic mission said.
The embassy added it was suspending accepting visa applications from the citizens of Belarus and recommended them to turn to US embassies in Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on July 28 suspended the use of all US Embassy warehouses and its compound in Moscow and also offered the US to cut down the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people by September 1. The move came amid a new US anti-Russia sanctions bill and follows a series of restriction measures imposed by Washington since 2014. It is similar to Washington’s decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats and suspend the use of diplomatic assets by Moscow in late 2016.
On July 30 President Vladimir Putin said the US would have to cut its diplomatic presence by 755 people.