U.S. Embassy in Moscow temporarily resumes consular services
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The embassy said last month that the ban forced it to reduce its consular workforce by 75% and starting May 12, it would only provide emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of immigrant visas in case of life-or-death emergencies.
It said non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel would cease and it would stop offering routine notarial services, consular reports of births abroad or passport renewal services for the foreseeable future.
On Friday, however, the embassy announced that it will resume “routine U.S. citizen services,” including passport services, consular reports of birth abroad, and limited notarial services, as well as immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases, through July 16 after the Russian government informed it of the “intent to postpone” the hiring ban, AP News cited.
"The Russian government has informed the U.S. Embassy Moscow of its intent to postpone the prohibition of U.S. Mission Russia’s employment of foreign nationals. Consequently, through July 16, U.S. Embassy Moscow will temporarily resume routine U.S. citizen services, including passport services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, and limited notarial services," U.S Embassy in Moscow website wrote.
The statement does not say that it will resume issuing nonimmigrant visas, an issue that was widely discussed by those in Russia who planned to travel to the United States in the coming months. The statement also reminded U.S. citizens in Russia to take into account a June 15 deadline set by the Russian government in April when a temporary extension to visas, residence permits, and immigration documents expires.
Later Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. has until Aug. 1 to comply with the ban. “This matter is fully and irreversibly closed,” she said.
Halting consular services leaves Russian businessmen, exchange students, and romantic partners adrift because they won’t be able to obtain visas in Russia.
Moscow has moved to ban the U.S. Embassy and consular offices from hiring Russian and third-country nationals as part of its retaliation to a set of new U.S. sanctions imposed over Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. presidential election and involvement in the SolarWind hack of U.S. federal agencies — activities that Russia has denied.
The U.S. ordered 10 Russian diplomats out, targeted dozens of companies and people, and imposed new curbs on Russia’s ability to borrow money. Russia quickly retaliated by ordering 10 U.S. diplomats to leave, blacklisting eight current and former U.S. officials, and tightening requirements for U.S. Embassy operations, according to USA News.
Last month, President Vladimir Putin signed a law limiting the number of local staff working at foreign diplomatic missions and other agencies and ordered the Russian government to draw up a list of "unfriendly" states that will be subject to the restrictions. Washington and Moscow have entered a new phase of heightened tensions, with the White House announcing punishing sanctions over cyberattacks, election interference, and threats against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Further souring the mood has been the issue of the health and jailing of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny, Russia's dealings with eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and allegations of Russian involvement in a deadly explosion at a munitions depot in the Czech Republic in 2014.
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