Beginning August 23, 2017, the U.S. Department of State suspended all nonimmigrant visa operations across Russia. All appointments in Moscow were canceled until September 1, when the department said that visa operations would resume on a greatly reduced scale.
The U.S. Mission to Russia said the action was necessary because of reduced staffing levels. In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered that U.S. diplomatic staff be cut by hundreds of personnel by September 1. That move was a response to new U.S. sanctions against Russia.
The Department of State said that nonimmigrant visa interviews would resume at a reduced capacity on September 1, and only in Moscow. Interviews are suspended until further notice in Vladivostok, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. As for individuals who qualify for a nonimmigrant visas without an interview, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will continue to process these applications.
The department said that it would prioritize travel by officials to the UN, U.S. offices of international organizations, and bilateral missions, which are required by international agreements, customary international law or diplomatic practice. In addition, priority will be given to people traveling for family or medical emergencies, which may include legal proceedings, hospitalizations or funerals.
The decision is expected to affect Russian tourism to the United States. According to the Associated Press, nearly 250,000 tourists traveled from Russia to the United States in 2016.