Articles Posted in Consulates

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We have very exciting news for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Today, December 23rd, the Department of State announced that the agency has granted Consular officers the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain temporary employment nonimmigrant visa applicants, provided such applicants have a petition approved by USCIS.  This new discretionary power will apply to temporary workers applying for H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas who are applying for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.


Interview Waiver Policy for Certain Nonimmigrant Workers


Pursuant to this new policy, Consular officers now have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time individual petition-based H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), provided that they have no ineligibility issues and have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

Interview Waiver Policy for Certain F, M, and academic J visa applicants


At the same time, the Secretary of State has extended a previously approved policy designed to waive the in-person interview requirement for certain students, professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, or specialists (F, M, and academic J visa applicants) through the end of 2022.

To be eligible for the interview waiver as citizens or nationals of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, applicants must (1) have previously traveled to the United States using an authorization obtained via ESTA and (2) must apply for a visa in their country of nationality or residence.

Additionally, just like the policy applied to certain non-immigrant workers, Consular officers will also have the discretion to waive the visa interview requirement for:

  • F, M, and academic J visa applicants who were previously issued any type of visa, and that have not had any visa refusal or ineligibility issues in the past OR
  • first-time F, M, and academic J visa applicants that are (1) citizens or nationals of a country that participates in VWP and (2) that have previously traveled to the United States via an ESTA authorization, and that have not had any visa ineligibility issues in the past

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Breaking news! The Department of State has published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing a new temporary final rule that grants consular officers flexibility to waive the personal appearance of certain “replacement” immigrant visa applicants who were approved for an immigrant visa in the same classification and on the same basis as the current application on or after August 4, 2019.

Under this new policy, consular officers will have the discretion to allow this subset of immigrant visa applicants to affirm the accuracy of the contents of their DS-260 application without appearing for an in-person interview before a consular officer. The temporary final rule is effective immediately and will expire after 24 months on December 13, 2023.


Who does the new temporary rule apply to?


This temporary final rule for a discretionary waiver of personal appearance and interview applies to immigrant visa applicants who were issued a U.S. immigrant visa on or after August 4, 2019, and meet the following additional criteria:

  • the applicant must be seeking an immigrant visa in the same classification (or another classification as the result of automatic conversion due to the death or naturalization of the petitioner of the previously issued immigrant visa)
  • the applicant seeks and remains qualified for an immigrant visa pursuant to the same approved petition as their previously approved application, and
  • they must continue to qualify for the immigrant visa sought.

Interview Waivers


Under this temporary final rule, the personal appearance and interview of certain applicants for an immigrant visa may be waived in the discretion of the consular officer, provided that the applicant is willing to affirm under penalty of perjury to the information provided on their Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application, known as Form DS-260.

The consular officer may decide to either (1) communicate with the applicant by telephone or email, (2) request that the applicant provide additional information that the consular officer deems necessary, or (3) may request the applicant to appear in person.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We hope that you had a restful Thanksgiving holiday break with your friends and family members.

In this blog post, we share with you some unfortunate new developments relating to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that will restrict the entry of foreign nationals from certain countries to the United States.

Just as the United States was beginning to ease restrictions on international air travel for the fully vaccinated starting November 8th, the world has once again been thrown into turmoil as a new Coronavirus variant known as “omicron” has been revealed with new cases emerging throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Netherlands.


President Biden Signs New Travel Ban Proclamation Amid Omicron Variant impacting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi


President Biden and his Chief Medical Adviser were briefed on the unfolding situation, and on Friday, November 26, 2021, President Biden signed Presidential Proclamation, “A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019,” that restricts the entry of non- U.S. Citizens who were physically present within the Republic of South Africa, Republic of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Republic of Namibia, Kingdom of Lesotho, Kingdom of Eswatini, the Republic of Mozambique, and Republic of Malawi, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry to the United States.

The new travel ban becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on Monday, November 29, 2021, as part of a global effort to reduce the spread of the omicron variant to the United States. The Proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 am eastern standard time on November 29th.

While no confirmed cases of the variant have yet been announced in the United States, the Chief Medical Adviser has explained that its eventual spread will be inevitable. The new travel ban indicates that the Republic of South Africa informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the new Omicron variant on November 24, 2021, and two days thereafter the WHO announced the new “Omicron” variant as a cause for concern that has been increasing in almost all provinces in the Republic of South Africa. Based on this information, and the lack of genomic sequencing throughout Southern Arica, the government has imposed the new travel restrictions from the named regions.


How long will the travel ban last?


At this time, we do not know how long the bans will remain in place, however it is very likely that they will remain until the Biden administration believes it is safe to rescind the travel bans. As has occurred with the previous COVID-19 geographic travel bans, it is highly likely that the new travel ban will remain in place until it is determined that current vaccinations approved by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are effective against the emerging Omicron variant. The Proclamation indicates that it will remain in effect until terminated by the President. Within 30 days, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must recommend whether the President should continue, modify, or terminate the Proclamation.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the December Visa Bulletin 2021 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of December 2021.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.


Adjustment of Status Filing Chart December 2021


Please note that USCIS has not yet released information on its webpage regarding the appropriate filing chart to be used for family-sponsored adjustment of status filings and employment-based adjustment of status preference filings for December 2021. We recommend that applicants monitor the USCIS webpage below on a regular basis for those updates.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you an overview of the State Department’s November 2021 Q&A answer session with Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, also known as “Chats with Charlie,” broadcasted every month on the State Department’s YouTube channel.

This new series features a monthly Question-and-Answer session with Mr. Charles Oppenheim and a Consular officer, where they answer many of the public’s frequently asked questions and provide a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin. This discussion will provide details regarding what to expect in terms of the movement or retrogression of both family and employment-based preference categories on each month’s Visa Bulletin. It is with sad news that we announce that Mr. Charlie Oppenheim will soon be retiring from his position after 43 years as Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control division at the State Department. You will be greatly missed Charlie!

Be sure to subscribe to the State Department’s YouTube Channel and turn on your notifications so you do not miss any of these important updates.

Below are the highlights of the visa projections for November 2021.


DOS Q&A Session with Charlie Oppenheim: November 2021 Visa Bulletin Projections & Beyond


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Exciting news for fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico and Canada! The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the United States will be lifting travel restrictions on nonessential travel for Canadian and Mexican nationals who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 (as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) so that they may enter the United States at land ports of entry along the United States/Canada and United States/Mexico border.

Further, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has said that the new measures have been made to align “with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November.” According to Mayorkas the United States, “will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings.” This will be a significant step in reopening the economy as “cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in [U.S.] border communities and benefits our broader economy.”

These new measures will occur in two phases over the next few months.  First, in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry ports of entry for non-essential reasons. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry ports of entry.

Second, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry ports of entry – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.


When will travel restrictions be lifted for vaccinated nonessential travelers?


The travel restrictions on nonessential travel for fully vaccinated Canadian and Mexican nationals will be lifted on November 8, 2021 – the same date that the relaxation will apply to fully vaccinated air travelers. Travelers crossing U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico for non-essential reasons will be required to present proof of vaccination to a Customs and Border Protection officer upon request. More details will be released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the coming weeks.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We have very exciting news regarding the Biden administration’s plans to rescind the Covid-19 related travel bans that have suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, India, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran since 2020.

On October 15, 2021, the White House announced that the United States will allow international travelers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the United States by land or air starting November 8, 2021.

This decision will lift the ban for vaccinated visitors from the affected regions.

On Friday October 15, 2021, a White House Official stated that the “CDC has already informed airlines that all FDA approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines that have an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted for air travel. We anticipate the same will be true at the land border. These travelers are required to be prepared to attest to vaccination status and to present proof of vaccination to a CBP officer upon request. By January, foreign nationals traveling across the land border for both essential and non-essential reasons will be required to be fully vaccinated.”

While the White House is still ironing out the complete details of the new policy including what exemptions the Biden administrations will grant to the vaccine requirements, we know that only generally applicants who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to enter.

The CDC considers an individual to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, while COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use by the World Health Organization include AstraZeneca/Oxford, Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we will cover the release of the November Visa Bulletin 2021 and what you can expect for employment based and family preference categories during the month of November 2021.

The Department of State releases the visa bulletin on a monthly basis, which summarizes the availability of immigrant visa numbers for that particular month. The “Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications,” charts indicate when immigrant visa applicants should be notified to assemble and submit the required documentation to the National Visa Center.

If you would like to follow along on each month’s progress for the Visa Bulletin please be on the lookout for the “Chats with Charlie” series on the DOS YouTube Channel. 

Chats with Charlie is a monthly series recently launched by the State Department where Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Immigrant Visa Control & Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State, answers your frequently asked questions regarding each month’s Visa Bulletin. Questions can be emailed to VisaBulletin@state.gov ahead of the event with “Chat with Charlie Question” in the subject line.


Adjustment of Status Filings for those lawfully residing in the United States


In general, if USCIS determines there are more immigrant visas available for a fiscal year than there are known applicants for such visas, the agency will provide instructions on the www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo webpage that applicants may use the Dates for Filing chart. Otherwise, USCIS will indicate that applicants must use the Final Action Dates chart to determine when they may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS. If a particular immigrant visa category is “current” on the Final Action Dates chart or the cutoff date on the Final Action Dates chart is later than the date on the Dates for Filing chart, applicants in that immigrant visa category may file using the Final Action Dates chart during that month.

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We have very interesting and exciting news to report to our readers. We are happy to report that on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, a federal judge from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, declared that the State Department cannot use the various geographic COVID-19 related Presidential Proclamations to cease the processing of visas at Embassies and Consulates worldwide.

As our readers will know, beginning in January of 2020, to protect against the rise of COVID-19 infections in the United States, the President issued a series of Presidential Proclamations that suspended and restricted entry into the United States, of immigrants and nonimmigrants, who were physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iran, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

These Presidential Proclamations did not have a termination date and have continued to be in force to the present day. The most widely discussed ban (the Schengen visa ban “Proclamation 9993,”) applied to immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. However separate visa bans have also impacted the entry of Brazilian nationals, Chinese nationals, Iranian nationals, and Indian nationals (see the list of COVID-19 travel bans listed below.)

Since the issuance of these travel bans, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide have refused to issue any visas to those who do not otherwise qualify for an exemption and have been physically present in any of the affected regions during the 14-day period preceding their entry into the United States. The only way applicants have succeeded in pushing their cases forward has been by requesting a National Interest Exception from their respective Embassy.


The COVID-19 related travel bans are as follows:

  • China Visa Ban – Proclamation 9984 issued January 21, 2020 – No termination date
  • Iran Visa Ban –Proclamation 9992 issued February 29, 2020 –No termination date
  • European Schengen Area Visa Ban—Proclamation 9993 issued March 11, 2020—No termination date
  • Ireland and UK Visa Ban –Proclamation 9996 issued March 14, 2020 –No termination date
  • India Visa Ban –Proclamation 10199 issued April 30, 2021—No termination date
  • Brazil Visa Ban—Proclamation 10041 issued May 25, 2020 –No termination date

For a complete list of COVID-19 country-specific proclamations click here.


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We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important new updates regarding the new COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all immigrant visa applicants, fiancé(e) visa applicants, and nonimmigrant visa applicants. We also share with you some new information regarding Croatia’s designation as a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program. When can Croatians start to apply for ESTA? Find out here!


COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements for Immigrant Visa Applicants Overseas


The Department of State has issued a brand-new press release informing the public that effective October 1, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Technical Instructions for panel physicians, will now require all immigrant visa applicants, all K fiancé(e) visa applicants, and nonimmigrant visa applicants who are referred to the panel physicians to receive a full COVID-19 vaccine series (1 or 2 doses depending on formulation) as part of their medical exam prior to being issued a visa.  The CDC is requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to be approved through either the World Health Organization (WHO) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Blanket waivers for the COVID vaccination will be applied in countries where the vaccine is not routinely available or when the vaccine is not age appropriate.  The Department of State is encouraging all immigrant visa applicants and others subject to a medical exam to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible to avoid delays in their visa processing. If any of the below mentioned circumstances apply a blanket waiver may be available to you.


Circumstances in which Blanket Waivers are available for COVID-19 vaccinations:


  • Where it is not age-appropriate to receive the vaccination
    For COVID-19 vaccines, the age for which a particular vaccine can be administered differs by formulation. If the applicant is younger than the lowest age limit for the formulations in use (less than 12 years of age at the time of posting), this blanket waiver should be documented.
  • In cases where a contraindication exists – a condition that serves as a reason not to take a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient.

If an applicant has a contraindication or precaution to the COVID-19 vaccine formulation available, the “Contraindicated” reason should be documented, and the vaccine should not be administered. If the applicant has had a severe reaction to the first dose that is considered a contraindication to receiving a second dose, the first dose should be documented in addition to the blanket waiver.  Please refer to Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States for COVID-19 specific information about contraindications and precautions.

  • Where a vaccine is not routinely available
    If no COVID-19 vaccine is routinely available in the state where the Civil Surgeon practices, the “Not routinely available” reason should be documented.  If vaccine is available to the applicant but due to limited supply, it would cause significant delay for the applicant to receive their vaccination, then this situation would also be considered “Not routinely available.”

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