US embassy in Moscow
Applications by Russian citizens for a visa to travel to the United States have skyrocketed during increased tensions between the two countries. The development is especially problematic for the U.S. State Department due to significantly reduced staffing levels incurred after hundreds of employees were expelled from the Russian Federation.
At least 46,100 of 136,100 U.S. visitor visas were granted to Russians outside the country between September 2017 and August 2018, according to the RBC news website’s tally of U.S. State Department data. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow and Consulates in Yekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St. Petersburg handed out 89,800 visas of that type in fiscal-year 2018. Wait times swelled to 300 days in Moscow and Yekaterinburg, and to 60 days in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok. The U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg was forced to close in April.
At the same time, visitor visas were handed out in higher numbers in neighboring Latvia, Estonia and Georgia, RBC reported, citing Russia’s Tour Operators Association (ATOR) data. Wait times there range from three days to a little more than a month. “We often recommend those in urgent need of visas to go abroad and process them there,” American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Russia CEO Alexis Rodzyanko told RBC, reported The Moscow Times.
With the prospect of currency devaluation and increased tensions in the political climate in Russia, many Russian citizens have chosen to just emigrate.