Articles Posted in COVID 19 Proclamations

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We are excited to share with you some new updates regarding the immigrant visa backlog.

On May 25, 2021, the U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs, hosted a live YouTube Question and Answer session with Neal Vermillion, Division Chief at the U.S. Visa Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs, where he discussed how Consular sections have been prioritizing cases during the phased resumption of visa services, and information about the status of the current immigrant visa backlog worldwide.

Neal Vermillion works directly with the Office of Field Operations, which is a government agency that provides guidance to Consular sections including Embassies and Consulates around the world. He has worked with the Department of State since the early 2000’s in various roles and has invaluable expertise on visa operations at Consular sections around the globe.

In this post, we will share with you the highlights of this session which you may find useful to determine the progress of your visa and what you can expect with regard to visa processing in the coming months.


DOS Q&A Session with Neal Vermillion: Immigrant Visa Backlog Q&A



Neal’s Introductory Remarks

I would first like to say a few remarks before we get to that question and the other specific ones. In terms of the history, here we are almost June 2021. Those of you that follow our immigrant visa processing overseas know, we actually shut down due to the pandemic. Visa processing shut down for several months last year at this time, and we really didn’t start the reopening process until July of last year. This is one significant factor that is leading to this backlog discussion that we are having today.

Another point I want to highlight that is another prong of why we are where we are is, you may recall, last spring as well, then President Trump signed Presidential Proclamation 10014, which President Biden rescinded in late February of this year, but that Proclamation prevented the issuance, even when we were open and our Consular sections were processing some visas, that prevented the issuance and travel of many many different types of immigrant visas.

A third prong as we’re talking about Presidential Proclamations, is … some of you may be aware, there are actually still in effect geographic Proclamations, as we call them, which basically are again Presidential Proclamations that have been issued to help protect the homeland, protect health and security.

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In this blog post, we share with our readers some exciting new updates and information on travel to the United States for Americans who have found themselves stranded abroad with expired U.S. passports.

On May 24, 2021, the Department of State issued a press release informing members of the public that U.S. Citizens currently overseas whose passports expired on or after January 1, 2020, may be able to use their expired U.S. passports to make direct return travel to the United States, provided they meet a certain set of criteria. This policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.


What criteria do I need to meet to use my expired passport for direct travel to the United States from overseas?


If you are overseas and your passport expired on or after January 1, 2020, you may be able to use your expired passport to return directly to the United States until December 31, 2021.

You qualify for this exception if all the following are true:

  • You are a U.S. citizen.
  • You are currently abroad seeking direct return to the United States.
  • You are flying directly to the United States, a United States territory, or have only short-term transit (“connecting flights”) through a foreign country on your direct return to the United States or to a United States Territory.
  • Your expired passport was originally valid for 10 years. Or, if you were 15 years of age or younger when the passport was issued, your expired passport was valid for 5 years.
  • Your expired passport is undamaged.
  • Your expired passport is unaltered.
  • Your expired passport is in your possession.

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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! In this blog post, we celebrate a client’s recent success story and share with you how our office was able to expedite our client’s immigrant visa interview (CR-1) to help reunite the applicant with her spouse in the United States.

We recognize that these are truly challenging times in the world of immigration and would like our readers to know that they are not alone. For many, there are alternatives and solutions that can be explored by our knowledgeable immigration attorneys to help them reunite with their family members. From our staff members to our attorneys, we are with you every step of the way on your immigration journey.

For a comprehensive consultation to discuss solutions to your immigration issues, you may contact us at 619-819-9204. 


Suspension of Routine Visa Services Continues at Most Consulates Worldwide


As our readers will know, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made it extremely difficult for immigrants residing abroad to secure appointments for visa interviews at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide.

While some Consulates and U.S. Embassies have resumed routine visa services, these are very few and far in between. At the moment, routine visa services are only available on a “post-by-post” basis as individual country conditions permit operations to return to normalcy. For the most part, Consulates and Embassies have not been able to provide specific dates regarding when each post will completely resume routine visa services. This has left many immigrants in a state of uncertainty during what is already a very difficult time in our history. Many family members remain apart for extended periods of time with no end in sight.

Despite these limitations however, Consulates and Embassies are continuing to accommodate emergency and expedite requests for applicants with urgent matters who need to travel immediately. Where an applicant has been documentarily qualified by the National Visa Center, a U.S. Citizen petitioner may submit a request with the NVC to expedite the consular interview based on extreme hardship to the U.S. Citizen. Extreme hardship to a U.S. Citizen spouse can be demonstrated in several ways including where the USC is suffering from a disability or severe medical and/or psychological condition.

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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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