Articles Posted in Expedite Requests

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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post we share with you the latest immigration news from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


New USCIS Policies to Improve the Immigration System


We bring you some exciting news regarding new policies adopted by USCIS that have been designed to remove the barriers to immigration and help improve the current immigration system. The following are among the new changes being implemented by USCIS:

Expedited Processing

Under a newly updated expedite criteria policy, USCIS has now expanded the types of expedite criteria or circumstances under which the adjudication of a benefit request can be expedited, including where a request is made by a nonprofit organization whose request is in the furtherance of cultural and social interests of the United States.

According to the new change:

USCIS may consider an expedite request if it meets one or more of the following criteria or circumstance:

  • Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure to:
    1. Timely file the benefit request , or
    2. Timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
  • Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
  • Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
  • U.S. government interests (such as urgent cases for federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
  • Clear USCIS error.

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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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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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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 Visalaywerblog! We kick off the start of a brand new week with the release of a very interesting Question and Answer session recently published by the Department of State.

This Question and Answer session took place on December 11, 2020, by and between the Department of State and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)’s Department Liaison Committee.

The Question and Answer session addressed a broad range of visa-related questions including burning questions regarding the phased reopening of Consulates and Embassies worldwide, national interest exception procedures, expansion of visa interview waivers, information regarding visa cancellations, MRV validity, the treatment of IV applications with approved I-601A Provisional Waivers, expired immigrant visas, pandemic related delays in obtaining documents for Consular related requests, and much more.

We have rounded up the most interesting questions and responses in this post. To read the government’s complete responses to questions asked, please click here.


Phased Reopening of Routine Visa Services


Q: It is AILA’s understanding that consular posts will reopen in phases based on the following Diplomacy Strong Framework included in Appendix A.

Please confirm:

  • Are the phases and priorities listed in Appendix A still accurate, or have there been any modifications to the Diplomacy Strong framework?
  • Are the phases in Diplomacy Strong standard across posts or are they merely guidelines within which posts have some flexibility in terms of setting priorities?
  • Please confirm whether a post will always be at the same phase for both IV and NIV processing, or whether it may be at a certain phase for IV processing and a different phase for NIV processing (e.g., If Sydney is at phase 3 for IV services, must it also be at phase 3 for NIV services?).
  • While we see references to Diplomacy Strong on a variety of post websites, it is not clear what phase the post is operating under. Would DOS advise posts to share their current operating phase on their websites in order to better inform the public of what they are prioritizing?

A: Although phased reopening of routine visa services originally corresponded with phases of Diplomacy Strong, posts were instructed on November 12 that they are no longer obligated to be in a specific Diplomacy Strong phase before providing additional categories of visa services.

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The Coronavirus pandemic has created new obstacles and challenges for immigrants applying for visas at U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide. Since the Department of State first announced the phased resumption of routine visa services on July 14, 2020, applicants were thrown into a state of chaos and confusion.

Global conditions have only moderately improved in some regions, while in others they have worsened. This has caused the majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates to remain shuttered to the general public. As it stands, very few Consular posts and Embassies have resumed scheduling of visa interviews. In the vast majority of cases, posts are only scheduling interviews and issuing visas for those with emergencies and those who qualify for expedited visa issuance.

Unfortunately, there is no specific date for when each mission will resume routine visa services, nor when there will be a sense of normalcy in the operations of U.S. Consulates and Embassies.

Our office has determined that one of the few ways to break through this state of limbo is to submit an expedite request with the National Visa Center. However not everyone will qualify to submit an expedited visa request.

Why aren’t spousal visas cases moving forward?

In normal circumstances once the spouse of a U.S. Citizen is documentarily qualified by the National Visa Center, the file is forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate near the foreign spouse and prepared for interview scheduling. The NVC is an important agency because it acts as an intermediary to prepare a case for the eventual interview stage.

Since March of this year, files have not been able to move past the NVC stage and have remained with the agency in a sort of “limbo,” given that the majority of U.S. Consulates and Embassies are not opening visa interview slots for applicants until further notice.

As a result, NVC has accumulated a large number of spousal visa cases that are unable to proceed until more Consular posts begin to open their calendars.

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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 (CR-1) to help him reunite with his U.S Citizen 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.

Our Client’s Situation

Amid this backdrop, our client came to us in a state of desperation. Our client had petitioned to immigrate her husband to the United States under the CR-1 category. The good? Her husband was already documentarily qualified by the NVC. The problem? Unfortunately the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan refused to grant him an interview due to the general suspension of routine visa services.

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In this post, we summarize all of the major and recent developments taken by USCIS, the Department of State, and the Department of Justice in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These developments directly impact immigration in significant ways that will be discussed in further detail below.

As this situation evolves, we will continue to update this post for your benefit. You may also read all of our COVID-19 related posts here.


USCIS Field Offices, ASCs, and Asylum Offices Temporary Closed to the Public

To combat the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, on March 18th USCIS announced the temporary closure of field offices, application support centers, and asylum offices, to the public until at least May 3rd.

We suspect that this closure will be further extended given the current public health crisis we are experiencing nationwide.

Applicants who were scheduled to appear for an interview, biometrics, or asylum interview from March 18 to May 3rd will receive a notice in the mail regarding impacted services, as well as a notice rescheduling the appointment.

ASC appointments will be rescheduled once offices are re-opened to the public.

At this time, please continue to be patient and monitor your mail closely.


USCIS Field Office and Service Center Operations Continue

Although USCIS is closing field offices to the public, the agency has stated that office employees will continue to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public.

Furthermore, USCIS service centers and facilities continue to operate and will continue to adjudicate petitions filed nationwide.


USCIS Expands RFE/NOID/NOIR/NOIT/I-290B Deadlines

On March 30, 2020, USCIS announced that it will consider any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before any action is taken by USCIS.

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In the midst of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic, USCIS reminds applicants and petitioners impacted by the pandemic that they can seek certain types of discretionary relief on a case-by-case basis.

Relief for Individuals Seeking Extensions/Change of Status

Special relief is available to individuals who were unable to file an extension or change of status petition before the end of their authorized stay expired, if a special situation prevented the individual’s departure and/or filing.

According to USCIS, “when applying for an extension or change of status due to a special situation that prevented your planned and timely departure,” the agency “may take into consideration how the special situation prevented your departure.”

In addition, if an applicant was not able to apply for an extension or change of status before their authorized period of admission expired, USCIS in their discretion may excuse the delay if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. An applicant in such a situation should be prepared to provide documentary evidence of those extraordinary circumstances. Depending on the applicant’s situation, the types of evidence that can be provided will vary.

Relief for F-1 Students Based on Severe Economic Hardship Caused by Unforeseen Circumstances

F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship because of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control (such as those impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic) may request employment authorization to work off-campus (if they meet certain regulatory requirements) by filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization along with Form I-20, and supporting materials. See 8 CFR 214.2(f)(9).

The student’s Form I-20 must include the employment page completed by your Designated School Official, certifying your eligibility for off-campus employment due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond your control.

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