Let us start with the big picture.
The refusal rate by the US Embassy in Moscow doubled from 2009 to 2010: from 4.9% to 10.3%. The official statistics can be found at these links:
Only five countries had a higher increase in refusal rates, and each of those countries is small.
In 2011, the refusal rate for Russians remained at 10.3%. Most notably, the refusal rate in Brazil, a country to which Russia is often compared to in terms of its rapid economic development, is now 3.8%, nearly three times lower than Russia!
This doubling of the refusal rate has made the news. It was the subject of an article in the Moscow Times in August, in which yours truly was quoted. The Russian government has been pressing the Americans to abolish the visa regime, but under US law one of the requirements for abolition of the visa requirement for visitors is that the refusal rate must be below 3%. Instead of continuing to lower its Russian refusal rate, the US government has been moving in the opposite direction – doubling the refusal rate.
Doubling the refusal rate does not happen by chance, especially when the consular officers process more than 150,000 applications annually. This is not the result of innocent mistakes or inexperienced consular officers; while one may expect a small uptick in refusals during a time of economic crisis, that does not explain a huge upsurge in refusals. Rather, this dramatic increase in refusals was the result of a conscious decision made by American consular management in Russia to refuse more Russian visa applicants. Future blogs will delve into more detail on these policy changes.
If you feel that you have been subject to an unsubstantiated refusal, please contact us to discuss your situation.