Washington will halt the issuance of all non-immigrant visas in Russia for nine days from Wednesday and will thereafter reduce visa operations, the United States (US) embassy in Moscow said on Monday, citing the "Russian government-imposed cap" on its staff levels. "All non-immigrant visa operations across Russia will be suspended on August 23.
Operations will resume in Moscow on September 1; visa operations at the US consulates will remain suspended indefinitely," an embassy statement said. It said all scheduled appointments for visa applicants would be cancelled. Russia last month slashed the US diplomatic staff in the country by 755 employees to 455 — the same number Moscow has in the US — in a retaliatory move against new sanctions passed by the US congress. "Russia's decision to reduce the US' diplomatic presence here calls into question Russia's seriousness about pursuing better relations," the embassy statement said. The US has three consulates in Russia, in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg in the Urals and Vladivostok in the far east. Now those wanting to visit the US face travelling to Moscow for the application process. The US embassy in Moscow will also cease issuing visas to citizens of Belarus — which does not have a US embassy — and they will now be redirected to Kiev, Warsaw and Vilnius. "Capacity for interviews in the future will be greatly reduced because we have had to greatly reduce our staffing levels to comply with the Russian government's requirement," it said. "We will operate at reduced capacity for as long as our staffing levels are reduced," it said.