Articles Posted in Consular Closures

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In its continued efforts to improve communications with the public regarding the status of visa operations worldwide, the Department of State recently provided new insights regarding Immigrant Visa Prioritization at Consular posts overseas.

To reduce the immigrant visa backlog, the Department has announced the adoption of a new four-tiered approach that is designed to triage the processing of immigrant visa applications according to prioritization standards set by U.S. Congress. Such standards will ensure prioritized visa processing for certain categories of immigrant visa applicants, while posts prepare to resume and expand visa processing as local conditions improve.

Prioritization of immigrant visas will begin with a first tier including prioritization of immigrant visas for immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), and certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government).

The second tier will include prioritization of immigrant visas for immediate relatives, fiancé(e) visas, and returning resident visas.

While the third tier will prioritize immigrant visas for family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad.

Finally, the fourth tier will prioritize immigrant visa processing for all other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas.

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Happy Monday! It is another exciting week filled with new immigration updates unfolding in our ever-changing immigration landscape. Our office is committed to bringing you the latest immigration news, and keeping you informed on the evolving status of immigration during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

As the rates of COVID-19 have continued to erupt in certain regions of the world, applicants residing overseas have been forced to adapt to their “new normal.”

At the height of the pandemic, Consular posts worldwide found themselves forced to limit operations due to safety concerns, lack of resources, country conditions, and mandatory quarantines.

Complicating matters further, the Trump administration began issuing regional travel bans suspending and restricting the entry into the United States, of immigrant and nonimmigrant travelers, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Those who have been physically residing within these regions have been unable to enter the United States.

When President Biden assumed the Presidency, his administration continued to enforce these regional travel bans and began “rolling out” new regional travel bans suspending the entry of travelers from other regions with high rates of COVID-19.


India Joins Countries Now Subject to Regional Travel Ban 


India is now the latest country to be added to a growing list of countries subject to a Regional travel ban. On April 30, 2021, President Biden issued a new Presidential Proclamation temporarily restricting and suspending the entry of nonimmigrants from the Republic of India into the United States. Just as the previous proclamations, the India travel ban will impact any nonimmigrant who has been physically present within the Republic of India during the 14-day period preceding his or her entry or attempted entry into the United States.

Certain exemptions have been made for green card holders, spouses of U.S. Citizens or green card holders, parents of U.S. citizens or green card holders, and others.

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In today’s blog post, we are happy to bring our readers some very exciting news.

On April 26, 2021, the Department of State formally announced a new National Interest Determination for certain categories of nonimmigrant visa applicants currently unable to enter the United States due to COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations issued earlier this year. This new determination will allow certain travelers to obtain their visas and enter the United States, despite the issuance of COVID-19 related Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, and 10143.

These Proclamations were issued early last year to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 to the United States, specifically from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, the Schengen countries, the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

Such Proclamations had the effect of restricting and suspending the entry into the United States, of both immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. Few categories of individuals were exempted from these Presidential Proclamations, including lawful permanent residents of the United States (green card holders), spouses of U.S. Citizens or lawful permanent residents, and others who were similarly exempted.

Individuals who have not been specifically exempted from the Regional Proclamations and have remained physically present in the impacted regions, have been unable to proceed with visa processing. Consulates worldwide have refused to grant visas to these individuals due to the enforcement of the Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand new and exciting week in the world of immigration. In this post, we bring you the latest immigration updates from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

In a recent post on their Facebook page, the Bureau published a Frequently Asked Questions guide addressing the Immigrant Visa Backlog, including information about what Consulates are doing to help reduce the backlogs, and helpful information for K-1 visa applicants, Diversity Visa lottery applicants, and interview scheduling for employment-based applicants.

Want to know more? Check out the Q & A below:

 


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Immigrant Visa Backlog


Q: Why are there still immigrant visa interview backlogs?

A: Our number one priority is the safety of our applicants and our staff. The IV (Immigrant Visa) interview backlog has developed because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of applicants as pre-pandemic. In addition, Presidential Proclamation 10014 and geographic COVID proclamations restricted visa processing for many immigrants for nearly a year; it will take time to process the cases that were impacted by these travel restrictions.

Q: What are you doing to decrease the backlog?

A: We are committed to decreasing this backlog by prioritizing certain visas, creating efficiencies in the visa process, and utilizing all available resources until our task is accomplished. Applicants should check the website of their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for updates on what visa services are currently available.

Q: Are virtual/Zoom interviews available for Immigrant Visa applicants?

A: No. Current regulations require all immigrant visa applicants to appear in person before a consular officer.

Q: I live near a U.S. Consulate, but they do not process Immigrant Visas at that particular location and therefore I am forced to travel a long distance to appear for my interview. Why don’t you process IV interviews at every U.S. Embassy/Consulate?

A: As the best use of limited U.S. government resources, immigrant visa processing is consolidated in certain embassies and consulates. The Department of State continuously reviews the services we provide to best balance our service standards with efficient use of resources.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! Happy end of the week to all of our readers.

In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the upcoming month of May 2021 and beyond.

The Department of State’s Consular Affairs Unit has launched an exciting new monthly series on its YouTube channel, discussing current visa trends and future projections for immigrant visa preference categories with Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State.

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We are excited to report some happy news for immigrant visa applicants and fiancé(e)’s of U.S. Citizens, who were previously subject to the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations, known as Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041.

Together, these Proclamations restricted and suspended the entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States. The COVID-19 Regional Proclamations were issued by the Trump administration beginning in January of 2020 to combat the rise of Coronavirus cases throughout the world.

Today, April 8, 2021, the Department of State published an announcement informing the public that the Secretary of State has now determined that travel to the United States, on an immigrant visa or fiancé(e) visa, is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations known as P.P. 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041.

Pursuant to this new announcement, immigrant visa processing posts may now grant immigrant visas and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations. This means that the travel restrictions previously in force under Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041, will no longer apply to immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants physically residing in the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran. As a result, such immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain their visas without the added hurdle of overcoming the COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We are excited to bring you a newly released update from the Department of State regarding the operational status of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world forcing the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to scale down operations due to reduced staff, limited resources, and constraints having to do with local conditions and restrictions, including local and national lockdowns, travel restrictions, and other measures that have been taken by U.S. Embassies and Consulates to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Due to these restrictions, the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have dramatically reduced their appointment capacity. This has in turn created substantial backlogs of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applications awaiting a visa interview. Many have already been documentarily qualified by the NVC and have not been able to proceed with visa processing due to the Embassy’s inability to open new appointments for applicants.

As a result, Consular posts and Embassies have been following a “phased resumption” of visa services framework, meaning that each post will carefully assess its country conditions and its resources, to gradually determine when it can resume visa service operations to normal levels. However, this process will take time and will depend on each Embassy’s ability to open more appointments for visa applicants.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

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The Department of State has released the visa bulletin for April 2021 outlining the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the upcoming month.

NOTE: Adjustment of Status Filing Charts April 2021

USCIS has not yet advised the appropriate cut off date chart for acceptance of adjustment of status applications filed with USCIS in the month of April. Please keep checking back to the USCIS website for more information, since we do not yet know if adjustment applications will be based on the Final Action dates chart, or on the Dates for Filing Chart.  

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s fiancé visa to help him reunite with his U.S. Citizen fiancé, despite the suspension of routine visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

As you may recall, during March of last year, in an unprecedented move, the Department of State made the decision to suspend all routine visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide, in response to significant worldwide challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thereafter in July of 2020, U.S. Embassies and Consulates began a phased resumption of routine visa services, but only on a post-by-post basis as resources and local conditions would allow.

In reality routine visa services at the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have remained suspended with posts granting appointments only for emergency and mission-critical services.

Due to these visa suspensions, K visa applicants have been unable to proceed with visa issuance, with many applications sitting idle at the National Visa Center (NVC) waiting to be forwarded to the local Consulate for interview scheduling.

Most recently K visa applicants expressed their frustrations by filing a class action lawsuit known as Milligan v. Pompeo in an effort to force visa interview scheduling.

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