Articles Posted in Medical Professionals

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In today’s blog post, we share some interesting Question and Answer responses recently provided by the Department of State’s Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Consular Affairs (L/CA), in a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

The responses below provide some important insight into current immigration policies and procedures taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we summarize the most interesting questions covered during the January 20 meeting:


Department of State/AILA Liaison Committee Meeting


January 20, 2022 Q & A Highlights


Q: What role do Consular sections assume when determining whether an individual is exempt from the CDC COVID-19 vaccine requirement to gain entry to the U.S.?

A: Consular sections’ role in the process is to ensure that an individual’s request for a [vaccine] exception is filled out in full, and to transmit those requests to the CDC.


Q: If consular posts are involved in transmitting information in support of a humanitarian exception to CDC, what is the process, if any, for making such a request of a consular post outside the context of a visa interview?

A: Travelers should contact the consular section of the nearest embassy or consulate using the information provided on that embassies or consulate’s website


Q: What is the Department of State doing to alleviate the substantial backlogs created by the slowdown of operations at Consular posts and Embassies worldwide?

A: The Department is planning to hire foreign service officers above attrition in FY 2022. The majority will be assigned to a consular position after initial training. Additionally, the Department continues to recruit Limited Non-career Appointment (LNA) Consular Professionals. With very limited LNA hiring in FY 2020 and a pause on LNA hiring in FY 2021 due to CA’s budgetary constraints, Consular Affairs plans to hire more than 60 LNAs in FY 2022

Consular Affairs is working with State’s office of Global Talent Management to ramp up hiring in FY 2022, but many posts will not see these new officers until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023, particularly for officers assigned to positions requiring language training. Increased hiring will not have an immediate effect on reducing current visa wait times. Because local pandemic restrictions continue to impact a significant number of our overseas posts, extra staff alone is not sufficient to combat wait times for interviews.


Q: Can Consular Affairs please advise regarding efforts to resume routine consular services?

A: Consular sections abroad must exercise prudence given COVID’s continuing unpredictability. The emergence of the Omicron variant has prompted countries to reevaluate plans to relax travel bans, thereby leading consular sections abroad to recalibrate plans to resume services. Some posts have already fully resumed routine services. Others, in an abundance of caution and out of concern for the health of both consular staff and clientele, are slowly reintroducing some routine services.

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Happy Monday! Welcome back to Visalawyerblog!

In this blog post we share some great news for Russian nationals seeking F, M, and J nonimmigrant visa interviews. On January 21, 2022, the Department of State announced that the agency has now designated several posts overseas to process these nonimmigrant visa applications for persons who are residents of Russia. This change was made to provide relief to such applicants that have not been able to obtain visa interviews due to the severely limited operations currently available at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Under this designation, Russia-based student visa applicants (F and M categories) as well as academic exchange visitors (student, professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, and specialist J visa categories) and participants in U.S. government-funded exchange visitor programs may now apply for their visas and be interviewed at the following posts:


Where do I find more information about the application process?


The Department of State has said that applicants should review the Embassy’s webpage for the latest information on services and appointment availability at that specific post.


What if I am physically present in another country? Can I apply for my F, M, J visa at the Embassy where I reside?


The Department of State has made clear that this designation does not prevent Russia-based F, M, and J applicants from applying at another post where they are physically present.  It also  does not exempt travelers from the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) requirement that all air travelers to the United States be vaccinated against COVID-19 with a WHO emergency use listed vaccine.

Information about accepted COVID-19 vaccines and the CDC’s requirements, is available here.

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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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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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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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In this blog post we share with our readers several new developments in immigration relating to COVID-19.

At a Glance: What’s in This Blog?

  • DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations
  • Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services
  • DOS Releases SEVP Online Course Guidance for F and M Students for Fall 2020
  • When will the Presidential Proclamation Suspending Entry for the Schengen Countries be Lifted?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions for Certain Travelers from the Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland?
  • Are there any National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052) Suspending the Entry of Immigrants and Nonimmigrants Presenting a Risk to the United States Labor Market?

DOS Announces One-Month Extension for Immigrant Visa Medical Examinations


We are pleased to report that on July 24, 2020, the Department of State issued an important announcement confirming that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved a one-month extension for medical examinations conducted between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2020. As many of you know, medical examinations for immigrant visa applicants are valid for a maximum of six months.

The Department of State has advised applicants (1) who were unable to travel on an issued visa, or (2) who obtained a medical examination but did not receive a visa, to contact the Immigrant Visa Unit of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issued or is adjudicating your visa application to determine whether you may be issued or reissued a visa for one additional month. Applicants who are unable to travel within one additional month, should consider waiting until they are able to travel to obtain a new, full validity medical examination and visa.


Phased Resumption of Routine Visa Services

In March 2020 the Department of State suspended routine visa services worldwide in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. On July 14, 2020 the Department of State released information on its webpage notifying the public that resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by post basis, in coordination with the Department’s Diplomacy Strong framework to safely return personnel to Department facilities. With that being said, the Department of State cannot provide a specific date for when each Consular post will return to processing at pre-Covid workload levels. Applicants are advised to monitor each individual U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website for information regarding operating status, and updates on which services they are currently offering.

As always, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will continue to provide emergency and critical visa services.

The DOS has also stated that MRV fees are valid and may be used to schedule a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment.

  • For more information about this announcement and FAQs please click here.
  • For a list of Embassies and Consular webpages click here.

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Interviews at the San Diego Field Office

We have great news for our local readers. The USCIS San Diego Field Office is scheduled to resume interviews on July 6, 2020, with priority given to adjustment of status applications filed by doctors and front-line workers fighting to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. Under certain circumstances, USCIS will exercise its discretion to waive adjustment of status interviews on a case-by-case basis.


What will be the approach for rescheduling?

The USCIS San Diego Field Office will begin rescheduling all other interviews on a “first-in, first-out,” basis based on receipt date of filing. This will occur as soon as possible.


When will biometrics offices reopen to the public?

Application Support Centers in San Marcos in Chula Vista are scheduled to reopen to the public on July 27, we ask our readers to please be patient while they wait to be rescheduled. Those with cancelled biometrics will be automatically rescheduled and will receive a notice in the mail with a new biometrics appointment.


What about Parole in Place cases?

Parole in place applications continue to be adjudicated, however applicants should expect delays.


What about citizenship applications?

USCIS will continue to prioritize the scheduling of oath ceremonies for naturalization applicants. Those who did not appear at a scheduled oath ceremony will receive a letter by mail. As we previously reported, oath ceremonies in San Diego are being held at the Cabrillo National Monument and the City of El Cajon parking lot adjacent to the police department.

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UPDATE: Today, Monday June 22, 2020, President Trump signed a new executive order entitled, “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak,” extending the April 22nd Presidential Proclamation and adding new restrictions for nonimmigrant workers who “pose a risk of displacing and disadvantaging United States workers during the coronavirus recovery,” including H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant workers.

According to the executive order, the entry of these nonimmigrants “presents a significant threat to employment opportunities for Americans affected by the extraordinary economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.”


When does the order apply?


The order is effective at 12:01 am eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020 and will last through December 31, 2020, suspending the entry of certain immigrant and nonimmigrant aliens as outlined here. Within 30 days of June 24, 2020 (on July 24th), and every 60 days thereafter while the proclamation is in effect, the Secretary of Homeland Security will, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor, recommend any modifications to the order.


When does the order terminate?


The proclamation terminates on December 31, 2020 and can be continued by the government as necessary.


Will the April 22nd Proclamation Be Extended?


Yes, the second paragraph of the new executive order states, “In Proclamation 10014 of April 22, 2020, …I determined that …the United States faces a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand.  Consequently, I suspended, for a period of 60 days, the entry of aliens as immigrants, subject to certain exceptions… Given that 60 days is an insufficient time period for the United States labor market …to rebalance… considerations present in Proclamation 10014 remain.” This means the April 22nd proclamation will continue until at least December 31st and all conditions subject to that proclamation will continue to remain in place.

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