SCIENTISTSReports: Russian Physicists Being Denied Entry to U.S.

By Daniil Sotnikov

Published 10 June 2024

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the US government attempted to make it easier for Russian scientists to enter the United States. But there are reports that it has actually become more difficult.

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, about 9,000 Russian scientists signed an open letter against the war of aggression. Since then, Russian authorities have stepped up their repression of scientists in the country. Physicists in particular have been targeted, and many have been imprisoned on charges of treason after taking part in international conferences or publishing articles in foreign journals.

For many who signed the open letter — who then became the target for the secret services — the best solution was to leave Russia if they had not done so already.

White House Campaign to Attract Russian Scientists
Within weeks of Moscow’s invasion, the White House launched a campaign to make it easier for Russian scientists to enter the US. It proposed to Congress that visa requirements should be relaxed, and work permits issued more quickly. The idea was to attract scientists and undermine the Kremlin’s “potential for innovation” in warfare.

However, the initiative may have failed because of opposition from Republicans in Congress. A Russian scientist told DW on condition of anonymity that he had been informed of this by colleagues at leading US universities.

Though there are no official statistics to back this up, numerous reports indicate it has become almost impossible for Russian physicists to enter the US over the past two years.

New Hurdles for Obtaining a Visa
Mikhail Feigelman, a physicist at the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, located in the town of Chernogolovka near Moscow, is a case in point. He traveled to Poland in spring 2022, applied for a visa at the US consulate in Warsaw, presenting an invitation from his daughter who was already living in the US. Like almost all scientists in similar situations, he was asked to send in some of his publications, a procedure he was familiar with, as he had done followed it for years. He had always received a visa within a few weeks. Not this time.

I was informed after seven months that my visa had been refused. I was told that I had not proven that I would leave the US in time,” he said. In the past, he said, he had only ever been questioned about his scientific work. “I had never been asked for proof of return to Russia,” he told DW.