Russians now have to travel to Warsaw to obtain U.S. immigrant visas

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Russians hoping to apply for an immigrant visa to the United States must now travel to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw, the State Department confirmed on Sunday, while blaming the restrictions imposed by Moscow.

This development came amid unresolved tensions between the United States and Russia and the expulsions that previously led Moscow to limit the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia.

The measure of the American visa provoked a heated retort from the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova.

U.S. diplomats, he wrote on the Telegram platform, have long been “destroying” the consular services system in Russia, turning what should be a routine technical procedure “into a real hell.”

The State Department, meanwhile, blamed Moscow directly.

“The Russian government’s decision to ban the United States from detaining, hiring or hiring Russian or third-country personnel severely affects our ability to provide consular services,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement received by AFP .

“The extremely limited number of consular staff in Russia at this time does not allow us to offer routine visas or services to American citizens.”

He added: “We realize this is a major change for visa applicants,” and warned them not to travel to Warsaw before booking an appointment with the embassy there.

The statement acknowledged that the change in Warsaw, which came into force this month, was not an “ideal solution”.

He added: “We considered a number of factors, such as proximity, flight availability, convenience for applicants …, the prevalence of Russian speakers among our locally hired staff and the availability of staff.” .

Warsaw is about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Moscow.

On the State Department website, Russia has been added to a brief list of countries where “the United States has no consular representation or where the political or security situation is tenuous or uncertain enough” to prevent personnel consular process immigrant visa applications.

Most countries on this list have poor or no direct relations with the United States, including Cuba, Iran, Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela.

Amid an ongoing dispute over how many diplomats each side can send to the other country, Russia has placed the U.S. on a list of “non-friendly” countries that require approval to hire Russian nationals.

Russian nonimmigrant visa applicants can still apply for them at any U.S. embassy or consulate abroad as long as they are physically present in that country, according to the U.S. statement.

Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Moscow will only be able to process “diplomatic or official visas.”

Successive rounds of diplomatic expulsions by the two countries have left embassies and consulates with little staffing, wreaking havoc on 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.

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