Briefing on Recent Developments from the Consul General, U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia


On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, Laurence E. Tobey, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Russia, gave an informative presentation on the status of the U.S. Mission to Russia. The talk was sponsored by the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

Mr. Tobey’s address focused on the good news that on Monday, December 11, 2017, the U.S. consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok began to offer limited interview appointments for nonimmigrant-visa applicants. Nonimmigrant-visa interviews had been suspended indefinitely at the three U.S. consulates in Russia on September 1, 2017. Up until early this week, all nonimmigrant-visa interviews only took place at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

On September 1, 2017, the U.S. Mission was put in the awkward position of having to cancel 17,000 already scheduled visa appointments. Operating with only 40% of its former personnel, it simply could not handle the volume of cases. Visa applicants were inconvenienced by having to reschedule interview appointments. Mr. Tobey explained that the Mission is now interviewing applicants that had to reschedule first, and the backlog of 17,000 is now down to approximately 9,000. He hopes that by March the Mission will be able to resume handling new nonimmigrant-visa applications as they come in.

Some more good news is that the Consular Section will move to a new building on the main Embassy compound very soon. The facility has been under construction for three years and was initially slated for completion at the beginning of October, but that target has been pushed back because of the 60% staff reduction, which has also affected the Office of Buildings and Operations. According to Mr. Tobey, the new building represents a revolutionary step forward that will enable heightened productivity. Even with a reduced staff, the Embassy hopes to realize efficiency gains, faster and better service, and a much safer and more pleasant environment.

In today’s presentation, Mr. Tobey again candidly remarked that the simplest and best solution for visa applicants requiring an interview is NOT to apply within Russia. Russian citizens are permitted to apply for U.S. visas outside Russia. There is no obligation to apply from inside the country, Mr. Tobey reiterated, and Russian citizens will not be disadvantaged if they apply from elsewhere. He again went so far as to strongly encourage Russians to apply outside of Russia.

Mr. Tobey also was also very clear that anyone who for whatever reason cannot apply from outside Russia and plans travel to the U.S. in the next few months—or even farther in the future—need not wait to apply. He urges applicants to get started as soon as possible.

The Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs concluded by thanking his audience for their patience, adding that “the best we can do is make the best accomodations that we can do under the circumstances, and that is what we are trying to do.”

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Matthew MorleyMatthew Morley is an American attorney based in Moscow practicing in the area of US immigration and nationality law.

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