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The US Visa “Suspension” for Russians is an inconvenient administrative rerouting

The US isn’t prohibiting Russians from traveling to the US as tourists, but it did make it more administratively difficult for them to get their visa.

It was just announced earlier today that the US is suspending the processing of non-immigrant visas to Russians in all of its consulates in the country on 23 August, which caused a knee-jerk social media reaction that America was essentially banning Russians from visiting. That’s not the case, at all, and anyone who read beyond the headlines would know this. According to the US’ official statement:

“…all nonimmigrant visa (NIV) operations across Russia will be suspended beginning August 23, 2017.  Visa operations will resume on a greatly reduced scale.  Beginning September 1, nonimmigrant visa interviews will be conducted only at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.  NIV interviews at the U.S. Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok are suspended until further notice.”

Basically, the US is just inconveniencing Russians by having them go to Moscow to receive their visa as opposed to the much closer consulates in whichever part of the country they live in. This might be problematic for some because of the attendant transportation and time costs inherent in, such as the case of Vladivostok, going halfway across Eurasia just to get a tourist visa, and that’s all before undergoing the planned trip to the other side of the world in the opposite direction afterwards.

There are also more technical details to the US’ announcement concerning visa fees that were already payed and a prohibition on transferring people’s applications to a closer US Embassy outside of the country instead, but these aspects are only relevant if an individual doesn’t want to travel to Moscow to complete the final stage of their visa process. While it’s understandably troublesome for some people to do this, it’s a far cry away from the exaggerated hype that the US banned Russians from visiting the country.

It’s always unfortunate when regular folks are caught in the middle of a diplomatic crisis between two countries, and the only losers are the Russian people themselves who simply wanted the convenience of processing their visa applications in a US consulate near the region that they live, but the fact is that the US might no longer have the personnel capacity to handle these tasks after complying with Russia’s request that they downscale their staff.

One should remember that Russia only issued this order months after former President Obama unilaterally seized the country’s diplomatic property and expelled its diplomats on the false pretext that they “hacked” the 2016 election, so Moscow’s response was proportionate and fair, to say nothing of being somewhat overdue. That said, however, Russia isn’t responsible for how the US decides the sovereign management of its consular and embassy activities.

Whether the US is scaling back its nonimmigrant visa operations as a snide move to punish the Russian people or if this is a genuine response to their newfound lack of staff to process such requests, the fact remains that this nevertheless isn’t anything more than a 9-day “suspension” of operations and their administrative rerouting to the Moscow Embassy from the three consulates across the country.

In no way whatsoever does this amount to the US “banning” Russians from visiting, even if it does make it more inconvenient for them to do so.

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.

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