Russian Hockey Players Still Getting Their US/Canadian Work Visas

Ukraine continues to struggle against the Russian invasion, but the hockey business just goes on.

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine unleashed a torrent of condemnation and punishment against the Russian state and its key citizens.

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But aside from a few bans here and there, mostly in sports – like the Canadian Hockey League banning Russians and Belarusians from the import draft or Wimbledon banning tennis players from Russia and Belarus – Russian athletes can still travel and work internationally.

Both Canada and the United States require Russians to apply for a visa to enter their respective countries. Professional athletes, like Vasily Podkolzin of the Vancouver Canucks, need specific visas and work permits.

Whatever diplomatic tensions may exist between Canada, the United States and Russia, that doesn’t seem to be stopping Russian professional hockey players from getting their paperwork in order ahead of the 2022-23 NHL season. .

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Player agent Todd Diamond represented Russian hockey players for yearslike former Canuck Nikita Tryamkin, who now plays in the KHL.

Diamond said no player permits or visa applications have been denied by either Canada or the United States.

“In the United States, you apply for pre-approval, so once you get to the consulate, you already have an employment contract and your pre-approval documents. As long as they don’t find you in any criminal database, it’s fine,” Diamond said.

Dan Milstein, another agent who has represented numerous players from Russia – including current free agent Andrei Kuzmenko – from Belarus and Ukraine over the years, also said his clients have all had their visas renewed.

The process is, however, slower than in the past due to the reality of diplomatic tensions. For example, to obtain a US visa, Russian players must travel to Europe, Diamond pointed out.

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“The United States is a bit more difficult because not all American consulates in Russia issue visas, so they have to apply and travel to the EU,” Diamond said. “No direct flights (between Russia and Europe), so you have to go through Istanbul or Dubai.”

In a statement, the US State Department explained that the inability to process visas for Russians in Russia itself is due to the Russian government’s decision to deport large numbers American diplomats at the end of March.

“We were unable to process most visas in Moscow for several months due to the Russian government’s forced reduction of our consular staff. Nonimmigrant visa applications can be processed wherever an applicant is physically located and can schedule an appointment,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email.“We cannot speculate whether or not a person may be eligible for a visa. Each time an individual applies for a US visa, a consular officer reviews the facts of the case and determines if the applicant is eligible for that visa based on US law. We have no changes to announce for visa eligibility at this time.

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The Canadian Embassy in Moscow remains open and processing visas, but Diamond said he found their response time slow.

“As a general rule, a foreign athlete competing on behalf of a Canadian employer requires a work permit. Foreign athletes competing in Canada for a foreign organization does not require a work permitbut they may need a temporary resident visa to enter Canada,” said Jeffrey MacDonald, communications officer for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in an email.

“Applications from all over the world are evaluated in the same way and according to the same criteria, regardless of the country of origin, on a case-by-case basis. Visa officers review each application to assess whether the foreign national meets the requirements for the type of application they have submitted and whether they admissible in Canada. This process has not changed.

NO NEWS –Milstein declined to comment on where things stand with Kuzmenko’s pursuit of an NHL team. The Russian forward is a free agent and has spoken with several NHL teams over the past few weeks, including the Vancouver Canucks.

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Joan J. Holland