The U.S. hit Russian tourists with visas: it is possible to go to America only through Moscow and for a short time
It will not stop the tourist flow to the U.S. but create problems to individual citizens of Russia, experts say
Now it will be more difficult to obtain a non-immigrant visa to America for Russians. The United States have announced that they close its consulates for residents of Russia indefinitely in the regions and leave only the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. What this step means for Russia, how to react to it and whether it will influence the tourist flow of Russians to America — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.
More sanctions — less visas?
The U.S. Embassy in Russia has recently announced the suspension of issuance of non-immigrant visas to America from 23 August and stopped the operation of its three consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok for indefinite period. The procedure of cancelling interviews began on 21 August. According to the official report on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Russia, such measures are associated with Russia's decision to reduce the number of employees of the diplomatic mission of America on the territory of the country.
''Russia's decision to reduce the United States'' diplomatic presence here calls into question Russia's seriousness about pursuing better relations. We will maintain sufficient staff to carry out essential elements of our mission,'' says the message.
In Moscow, the issuance of non-immigrant visas will resume on 1 September. The U.S. Embassy explained the suspension by the fact that they have started the preparation of departure and reduction of the staff. The previously scheduled appointments will be cancelled, and the schedule of registration of a number of immigrant visas due to the reduction in the number of employees will be changed.
The restrictions will impact on the citizens of Belarus, who had been previously interviewed for the visa in Moscow. Now they will have to go to the Embassy in Warsaw, Vilnius and Kiev. In St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, the U.S. Consulate will continue its work only with the citizens of America.
The measures announced by the Embassy of the United States were a reaction to the decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to the tightening of anti-Russian sanctions to reduce the number of employees of the US diplomatic mission in Russia to 755 people. It has affected not only American citizens but also Russian specialists working in the Embassy. In the history of relations between the two countries, this step has become the most large-scale by expulsion of diplomats.
After Washington's decision to limit the issuance of visas to Russians, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is not going to ''take it out on American citizens'' by complicating for them obtaining visas to Russia in response.
A political commentator at MIA Russia Today Dmitry Babich supported this statement by Sergey Lavrov. In his opinion, Russia is opposed not by nations and their national interests but the ideology that dominates in the US and the EU and that managed to extend to some former Soviet republics.
''This ideology conditionally can be called ultra-liberalism or globalism. It does not like to define itself because it pretends to be a kind of normality that should be accepted by everyone. But in principle, its features are visible. It is the requirement to all countries to switch to the standards and views that exist among these ultra-liberal circles in the European Union and the United States,'' said Babich.
As an example of such attitude he called British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that they would not provide food aid to those African countries that wouldn't recognize same-sex marriages.
The decision to limit the issuance of visas to Russians, according to the interlocutor of the edition, will hit first not the elite but ordinary citizens who treat America well and want to travel around the country, to study or to do business projects here.
''The tourist flow will not be affected much''
In 2016, according to the U.S. Department of State, the percentage of refusals of the American visa for Russians amounted to 9%, in 2015 — 10,2%, and in 2014 — 7%. At the same time, the number of tourist visas grew, and but immigration one fell. The tourist flow of Russians to America in recent years was growing slightly but steadily. In 2016, the United States were visited by 109,700 tourists from Russia, it is by 5,2% more than in 2015.
The president of the Association of travel agencies of Tatarstan and director general of the travel agency Persona Grata Ramil Miftakhov says that the response measures of the U.S. will not influence the tourist market significantly since the percentage of Russians interested in travels to America is small in general. According to him, few Tatarsatn citizens go to the U.S.
''It's not very popular destination. In this case, we all assumed that such situation may happen that is why someone prepared in advance,'' says Miftakhov. ''The tourist flow to America is quite seasonal, and in this case, the destination is more summer than winter. Since the season ends soon, I think that the suspension will not affect significantly.''
The Russians who interact with the U.S. business are issued visa by other algorithm. Under the U.S. law, when re-applying for a visa of the same category, the effect of which has not expired more than a year ago, a visit and interview at the Consulate are not required.
''That is why I think that those who have American visa, given this situation, just remember that they need to extend the visa just in case, and they will extend it,'' suggests the president of the Association of travel agencies of the Republic of Tatarstan.
However, here also may be difficulties with which the Russians have already faced before the official statements of the U.S. authorities. In recent times, the visas were issued to Russians but with an eye on difficult relations between the two countries. For example, Radmila Khakova obtained a U.S. visa before all these events. Now she continues to write the book 147 Dates, about which she reported in the interview at the Consulate in St. Petersburg. In the end, she was issued a visa, but instead of 3 years only for 3 months.
''They asked me what my book is about (I'm a writer). Then they asked if I would go on dates in New York (I said I would). Then asked if I would write about it (I told them that I would). What are you going to do in the United States is called work,'' said the employee of the Embassy. ''We will give you a work visa, but, unfortunately, our countries work on the principle of reciprocity, and since Russia allows American journalists for 3 months with single entry, no matter how much we wanted to give you a tourist visa for 3 years, we can't do it,'' told about the details of the interview Radmila Khakova.