Issuing guest visas for Russian citizens has become a profitable business for the United States.
A US tourist visa is more correctly called a visitor visa. Unlike many other states, the United States does not require you to provide air travel and hotel reservations, invitations from friends or family along with your visa application. In most cases, it is enough to fill out a questionnaire and pay the consular fee for the equivalent of $160 (about 11,000 rubles at the current exchange rate).
ANYWHERE BUT NOT IN RUSSIA
Difficulties in obtaining US visitor visas for Russian citizens began long before the COVID-19 pandemic, when nearly all embassies and consulates stopped accepting visitors. The Americans, who were the first to initiate mass expulsions of Russian diplomats and closed several consulates general of our country in the United States, stopped issuing visas in Russia completely. And they explained this step by the fact that the staff of their embassy in Moscow was reduced so much that there were not enough diplomats, and the Russian government prohibited them from hiring Russians to work in the visa department.
Now Russians are forced to travel outside the Russian Federation to obtain US visas: to Poland, Germany, Finland, Belgium and other countries.
All those who had interviews in Moscow (and consequently paid consular fees) received notifications that the validity of their receipts had been extended until the end of this year. But you can’t use them at another US embassy. The return procedure is not provided for at all; this is indicated directly on the embassy website.
So, according to the most modest estimates, the US Department of State, which is responsible in the US for processing and issuing visitor visas to foreigners, thus intimidated some 15,000 Russians who paid the consular fee, thus enriching himself by $2.5 million. The situation is similar in Minsk, where the Americans seized and generally closed their diplomatic mission.
TAKE YOUR MONEY
Having acquired a taste for free money, the State Department, having opened its embassies and consulates in most countries of the world after the pandemic, introduced a new procedure for applying for visitor visas – citizens and residents of the states in those who a particular diplomatic mission is at an advantage, and for foreigners there is a separate queue. In some places, for example in Tajikistan, foreigners are not accepted at all.
It is now impossible to apply for a new visa without a visit to the American embassy. Previously, those who had previously been in the States could use such a convenient procedure for all parties. It remains accessible to many foreigners, and Russians who meet its requirements cannot now obtain a visitor’s visa in this way, neither in Moscow nor in any other city.
You can find out the next day for which an interview can be scheduled just by entering the details of the consular fee payment receipt. And most of the time, Russians expect the standard answer “there are no places”. And $160 has already been paid and cannot be credited elsewhere. The lucky ones, at best, are waiting for non-guaranteed options to meet with a visa officer in 2023. And the US Embassy in Yerevan is ready to receive Russians starting in February 2024. Those shown completely unbearable share on the Internet their experience (and not always successful) of trying to get American visas in African countries. There are many complaints on the web about crooks promising to set up an interview date at almost any US embassy outside of Russia for a hefty fee.
The State Department itself is also attracting the suckers, whose website has a counter showing the average number of days an applicant at a particular embassy will have to wait until the next interview date. Seeing that the waiting period in some places is only a week or a month, people who trust the seriousness of the promises begin to fill out questionnaires, pay money (someone immediately for the whole family) and in the end find out . that all this is for others, and Russian passport holders should try their luck in another queue – for non-residents.
People have different goals and opportunities: a vacation at a certain time, a wedding, or the anniversary of a close relative – that’s why people pay $160 to the box of several American embassies at once, which increases the probability to “grab” a suitable date for an interview. Caught in Warsaw, but also paid in Dubai? Americans will not return the second consular fee and will not allow it to be deducted for another person.
Who made a technical error, for example, registering in the queue for residents of the country of circulation, and not as a foreigner, will also have to fork out again. There is a limit to the number of interview dates that can be postponed. Moved a couple of times, out! Pay again!
By the way, the interview and the payment of the consular fee do not guarantee the issuance of a visa, this is a worldwide practice. But not a single country in the world operates according to the principle: money first, then “we take no responsibility.” So far in court, none of those who planned to apply for a visitor visa and paid a hefty consular fee have demanded their hard-earned money back. So the Americans, hiding behind diplomatic immunity, continue to replenish their budget.
– Unfortunately, there are no chances to accept such claims in court proceedings. – Gadzhi Gadzhiev, the main lawyer of the Madrok law firm, confirmed KP’s fears. – Embassies are subject to jurisdictional (diplomatic) immunity, which protects them, among other things, from litigation in the host country. This immunity covers everything related to the direct work of the diplomatic mission, for example, the issuance of visas. Only civil law and other transactions that are not directly related to the main activities of a foreign embassy or consulate do not fall under jurisdictional immunity.
HOW ARE WE?
One of the key principles of world diplomacy is reciprocity. It is on the principle of reciprocity that countries calculate the maximum period of visas, the amount of the consular fee, the staff of diplomatic missions. The number of employees of the Russian embassy in Washington and the consulates general of our country in New York and Houston has decreased several times. But our diplomats have issued and continue to issue guest and other visas to Americans.
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