The US Scales Back Visa Operations in Russia

US visa services in Russia have begun to be scaled back, three weeks after Washington was ordered to remove more than 50 percent of its consular and embassy staff by President Vladimir Putin. The move has drawn a furious reaction from Moscow.

The decision, the most recent in an array of bilateral moves that have further cooled relations between the US and Russia, will hit business travelers, students, and tourists from Russia. All non–immigrant US visa operations in Russia were suspended from Wednesday and will only be offered, on a massively reduced scale, when they resume on 1 September. The US Embassy says that it will cancel and reschedule some appointments from Monday.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, says the decision is an attempt to make Russian citizens angry with their own government by laying the blame for the cutbacks on their shoulders. Lavrov told reporters that the US visa decision was made with political overtones and to create discontent among ordinary Russians and that Moscow is considering how to respond. The decision means that Russians who want to travel to the US for business, study, or tourism reasons can no longer make US visa applications in US consulates anywhere except Moscow.

American immigration attorney, Matthew Morley, who works in Moscow, says the result will be the work of an entire nation now being performed by just one office, which itself will have fewer staff members than before. Over 190,000 non-immigrant US visas were given to Russians in the 2016 fiscal year.