Comments and statements by Foreign Ministry Spokesman
Comment by the Information and Press Department regarding US visas
We consider the US promise that the issuance of visas be resumed at US consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok on December 11 as a step in the right direction. Since August, residents of Russian regions have been required to go to Moscow to file visa applications at the US Embassy and wait for up to 85 days for a decision. However, it has become difficult to file an online application three months in advance. The US visa procedure, which has always been complicated and expensive, considering the need for personal contact at various stages, has almost become impossible.
This threw into question the very existence of US consulates general in Russia, by the way, because one of their main functions is the issuance of visas. What else are they needed for?
We would welcome the reopening of consulates where US visas are issued. However, it turns out, as we have learned from the US Embassy, that the issuance of visas will remain restricted. This means that many trips to the US will be prevented, including travel for business, research, family and friendly purposes.
The US Embassy complains about the shortage of personnel, the number of who has been cut at Russia’s request. First, we did this in response to the mass deportation of Russian diplomats and other openly hostile actions. Second, the decision to reduce the number of personnel in the visa department was taken in Washington deliberately to create problems for people in the hope of provoking a public outcry.
They are even procrastinating with the issuance of visas for Aeroflot crews who make regular flights to the United States, which can result in cancelled flights in violation of the bilateral air transport agreement. Russian athletes have missed international competitions, which looks like deliberate discrimination against our athletes and runs contrary to US obligations regarding the competitions they host. Moreover, the travel plans of thousands of ordinary people have been disrupted.
Of course, it is for the US authorities to decide on the visa procedure and whom to permit entry to the United States. We will not force ourselves on anyone. However, Washington’s actions in the visa sphere show clearly what they think about contact between people. Instead of promoting contact, as Russia is doing in order to strengthen mutual understanding and trust, Washington is raising obstacles for Russians, as if they fear that these Russians will provide truthful information about Russia from which they want to protect their citizens. This looks as if they want to isolate themselves from us.
We hope this position will be revised in Washington. It should be noted that back in 2011 we proposed a visa-free short-term travel procedure. The response to this proposal is still pending.