The US qualified Russians as “homeless nationals,” a category usually reserved for countries where the US has no diplomatic representation. The Moscow embassy will only process diplomatic and official visas.
The US State Department on Sunday said that Russians hoping to get an immigrant visa to the US must travel to the embassy in Warsaw, Poland.
The move comes soon after Russia limited the number US diplomatic staff in their land.
Washington’s decision qualifies Russians as “homeless nationals” who can apply for visas in third countries.
This classification is usually reserved for countries where the US does not have consular representation, or where consular staff cannot use their visas.
Other countries in the category include Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.
Russians applying for non-immigrant visas will be allowed to apply from third countries too, as long as they are physically present. The Moscow embassy will only process diplomatic or official visas.
Warsaw is about 1,200 kilometers (around 746 miles) away from the Russian capital Moscow.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the social platform Telegram that US diplomats “have for many years been destroying the system of consular services in Russia.”
The tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions from both Washington and Moscow have left embassies and consulates understaffed, and disrupted normal services.
The US State Department said in a statement: “The Russian government’s decision to prohibit the United States from retaining, hiring or contracting Russian or third-country staff severely impacts our ability to provide consular services,” admitting that the decision would make the process complicated for Russians.
It warned applicants not to travel to Warsaw without booking an appointment.
“We considered a number of factors including proximity, availability of flights, convenience for applicants… the prevalence of Russian speakers among our locally engaged personnel, and the availability of staff,” added the US statement.