The U.S. State Department has ordered the Russian government to close its consulate in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. The move comes in retaliation for the Russian government directing the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by two-thirds earlier this month.

Key points:

  • The U.S. set a deadline of Sept. 2 for Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and the two buildings in Washington and New York. The consulate announced that it will terminate interviews after Sept. 1 and stop issuance of passports at 1 p.m. Sept. 1. The San Francisco office provided services to applicants in seven U.S. states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah).
  • Individuals applying for Russian visas could expect significant disruptions or delays in the short term, but since at this time no Russians have been expelled and they can be reassigned to other missions, the primary impact will be that applicants who used the San Francisco consulate will have to use other missions.
  • Those with interviews scheduled for after Sept. 1 in San Francisco should anticipate having to reschedule and travel to another facility – the Russian Embassy will have remaining missions in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Houston and New York.

Background: Diplomatic relations have soured after a series of retaliatory moves in recent months. In July, in response to U.S. imposing economic sanctions on Russia, President Vladimir Putin ordered the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic mission by cutting 755 staff members. On Aug. 21, the U.S. Embassy suspended nonimmigrant visa processing for eight days and stopped visa operations at its three consulates indefinitely.

On Thursday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement that the U.S. has fully implemented the reduction of its diplomatic mission and that the action was “unwarranted and detrimental to the overall relationship between our countries.”

“In the spirit of parity invoked by the Russians, we are requiring the Russian government to close its Consulate General in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, DC, and a consular annex in New York City,” she added.

BAL Analysis: Visa applicants may have to plan for significant initial delays in processing and await further details on how to reschedule their interviews and which consulates will assume jurisdiction over applications that had previously been submitted in San Francisco.