US Embassy in Moscow – Part V: Stay Home in Russia, Babushka.

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This is the fifth entry of our blog on the negative policy changes taking place at the US Embassy in Moscow over the past year.

What babushka does not want to spend time with her grandchildren or help out her daughter in tending to a newly-born child?  Well, babushka needs to be careful because she is now under the microscope of the American Embassy in Moscow.

Many people are under the impression that as long as they abide by the term of the I-94 form (the form issued by the Customs and Border Patrol upon entry to the United States indicating how long the visitor is entitled to remain in the US), they will not have a problem receiving a new visa.  That is not the case. Exhibit A: Russian babushka going to visit her US permanent resident or citizen daughter and grandchildren in the US.

The Embassy in Moscow will deny a babushka for staying in the US for “too long”.  Like obscenity, the Embassy can’t define how long is “too long”, but suffice it to say that if she spends four months or more in the US in a year, that will be considered to be “too long”, no matter what the circumstances.  The Embassy has resorted to using “checklists” instead of analyzing an individual’s circumstances and why she spent a prolonged time in the US.  Helping to take care of a new-born child, tending to a sick child, or babysitting for a toddler while the mother goes back to school for a Master’s degree?  Doesn’t matter.

The ironic thing is that if babushka really wanted to immigrate to the US, she could if her daughter is already a US citizen.  Her daughter can file a petition with the USCIS, and within a year, babushka can obtain a green card. It has not been unusual that a Russian babushka has been compelled to apply for a green card just to visit her grandchildren.  Usually, babushka lives comfortably in Russia, is married, does not speak English, has other close relatives in Russia and has no desire to immigrate.

Even more ironic is that US law specifically allows for babushka to spend these prolonged periods of time in the US. It is not just the I-94 card and USCIS decisions authorizing extensions that specifically permit these prolonged visits; the Department of State’s own regulations, which govern the decisions of consular officers, do as well.  Visits on B visas can exceed six months as long as the visits are not for an indefinite period of time.  So if babushka wants to visit for six months to help care for a newly born child, the Department of State regulations allow for it.

But as is often the case, the real world decisions of consular officers at the Embassy in Moscow – such as these decisions, consciously separating small children in America from their Russian grandparents and their Russian heritage – diverge from the rules to which they are bound.  These kids will not be able to see babushka unless they travel to Russia or babushka immigrates to the United States.

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