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Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In this blog post, we bring you a new update from the U.S. Department of State regarding the status of immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas. Today, the Department of State released an update reminding immigrant visa applicants that consular interview appointments are being scheduled using a four-tiered system that generally triages immigrant visa applications based on a system of priority.

The update adds that where possible, Consular posts and Embassies will attempt to schedule some appointments within all four priority tiers every month. These attempts will be made to help reduce the massive backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and operational constraints. The new update also carves out priority exceptions for certain healthcare workers seeking immigrant visas.

Applicants should keep in mind that public health and safety remain a paramount concern amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Consular posts and Embassies are continuing to do the best they can depending on local conditions to schedule interview appointments according to the priority schedule, taking into account restrictions on movement and gathering imposed by host country government.

It is also important to consider that posts overseas must abide by U.S. government guidance on safety in the workplace and are following social distancing protocols and safety measures which have reduced the number of applicants consular sections are able to see in a single day.  Consular sections will only resume routine visa services when it is safe to do so based on the particular geographic location.


The Department of State’s Four-Tiered Prioritization Schedule


The Department of State has said that while all immigrant visa categories are important, during the pandemic, it has been forced to make difficult decisions regarding how it will prioritize immigrant visa applications as they operate at limited capacity and work through the substantial backlogs of immigrant visa cases.

Having considered the difficult circumstances all applicants face, the Department of State has followed a guiding principle for immigrant visa prioritization, with family reunification being a top priority for the U.S. Government. The State Department’s prioritization schedule highlights Congressional objectives calling upon the agency to adopt policies that prioritize immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 fiancées of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.

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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 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! 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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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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