Briefing by the U.S. Consul General, U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia


On Wednesday, June 27, 2018, Laurence E. Tobey, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Russia, gave an informal 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 talked about the recent closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg and how that has caused further delays, specifically in the Nonimmigrant Visa Unit. It was discouraging to hear that in Moscow the interview appointment waiting time for first-time B1/B2 visa applicants is officially 300 days. Mr. Tobey admitted that this is a horrifying number and something that he is not proud of, but it is the reality. On a more positive note, the Immigrant Visa Unit has done a good job of keeping the production stream going smoothing without any significant delays.

In today’s presentation, Mr. Tobey again candidly remarked that the simplest and best solution for nonimmigrant 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 year, there is no such thing as applying to early. He urges applicants to get started as soon as possible.

The Consul General briefly talked about the Consular Section’s move to a new building on the main Embassy compound, which reportedly cost about $283 million. Mr. Tobey says this represents a significant investment in U.S.-Russian relations. The idea was that the new building would be a revolutionary step forward that would enable heightened productivity. Mr. Tobey stated that the infrastructure is now there, but unfortunately with 60% reduced staff, there is plenty of space.

On a sad note, Mr. Tobey announced he will be leaving his post on July 28. He will be missed as he was known for his hard-work and commitment to US-Russia relations. Mr. Tobey’s successor will be Michael Yoder.

The Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs concluded by offering his compliments to the Russian government in its handling of the World Cup.

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Matthew Morley Matthew Morley is an American immigration lawyer based in Moscow. He can reached at

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