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No lines as US Consulate resumes visa work in Yekaterinburg

December 11, 2017, 18:07 UTC+3 YEKATERINBURG

On August 23, the US Embassy in Russia suspended all nonimmigrant visa operations throughout the country in response to Moscow’s instructions to cap the number of diplomatic staff working in Russia

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YEKATERINBURG, December 11. /TASS/. The US Consulate General in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals, is free of any lines whatsoever on Monday after it resumed interviews and visa issuing procedures, suspended on August 23, sources from the consulate’s Public Affairs Section told TASS on Monday.

Earlier reports said dozens of people flocked on Monday to the US Consulate General in the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, where interviews and visa issuance restarted early on Monday. A consular officer in Yekaterinburg told TASS on December 6 that due to the sizable cuts in personnel, the diplomatic mission won’t be able to fully meet the demand for visas.

"Today, the US Consulate General in Yekaterinburg has resumed visa interviews. We intend to do everything possible so that visa applicants from our consulate district that covers the Urals and Western Siberia, could have a visa interview," the source said. According to the consular officer, there are no lines at the premises since applicants must first apply for the interview online.

Professors and students from the Urals Federal University that cooperates with US colleagues have welcomed the resumption of visa issuance.

"Of course, this is a very positive factor that removes a number of barriers for exchanges, trips to conferences, and internships. Scientific conferences have a deadline, after which applications to participate in the conference are no longer accepted. And if a person has no visa, and he or she has to go to Moscow and line up to get one, it would take too long," Anatoly Zatsepin, a laboratory chief at the University’s department for physical methods and control devices told TASS.

Background on US visa restrictions in Russia

On August 23, the US Embassy in Russia suspended all nonimmigrant visa operations throughout the country in response to Moscow’s instructions to cap the number of diplomatic and technical staff working in the US Embassy in Moscow and the Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok to 455 following Washington’s decision to expel 35 Russian diplomats.

The procedure resumed in Moscow on September 1, while the Consulates General in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok did not issue visas. After the visa issuing procedure restarted in Moscow on September 1, it became practically impossible to register in an E-line for an interview at the US Embassy. Many Russian nationals had to apply for a US visa at American diplomatic missions in other countries.

With this in mind, the Russian Foreign Ministry called into question the activity of US consulates. Early in November, US Embassy Spokesperson Maria Olson told TASS that the US Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok had also resumed visa issuing but only to those nationals who don’t need to be interviewed. These are applicants younger than 14 and older than 79, and those who had already obtained the visa less than a year before.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Moscow sees "the Americans' promise to resume visa operations at its Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok as of December 11 as a step in the right direction." However, it pointed to a number of problems. "The decision to cut the visa operations staff was made in Washington. That was done deliberately, creating difficulties for Russians and hoping to provoke public discontent," it stressed.

The Foreign Ministry also hopes that the US will revise this stance and reiterates that back in 2011, Russia suggested the US waive visas for mutual short-term trips. According to the Department of State, more than 186,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to Russian nationals last year.

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