Articles Posted in Visa Renewals

passport-3127935_1280

The past year saw big victories for worldwide visa operations.

The Department of State recently provided statistics summarizing its visa processing capacity in the year 2023. The recent data shows tremendous advancement in visa processing capacity at Consular posts globally and provides a strong outlook for visa processing in the year 2024.

In the year 2023, the Department of State issued more nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide than at any other time since 2015.

This included issuing a record of 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas globally, with more than 1 million nonimmigrant visas issued in a single month during March of 2023.

Some of the State Department’s accomplishments include:

  • The reunification of families, with the issuance of 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of its missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever.  Consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
  • Prioritizing student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. Consular sections issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016.  More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. Of these numbers, nearly 40,000 visas were issued to African students which set an all-time record.
  • Record numbers of visas were issued for seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor. A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent of visas issued to workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
  • A record number of 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D) which are essential to maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.

Continue reading

interview-6956089_1280

In the nick of time, on December 21, 2023, the Department of State announced that it will continue its interview waiver policy for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants. The agency’s interview waiver policy was previously set to expire on December 31, 2023. However, its implementation will continue starting on January 1, 2024, and remain in place until further notice.

Following consultations with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Secretary of State has determined that the following categories of interview waivers are in the national interest.  Based on this directive, Consular Officers now have the authority and discretion to waive the in-person interview for:

  • First time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and non-agricultural workers); and
  • Other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who:
      • Were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa; and
      • Are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

The Department of State reminds applicants who are renewing a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date, that they will continue to be eligible for an interview waiver until further notice.

Continue reading

together-gc428d3cbf_1920

Our readers will be happy to know that the Department of State has released a new update in the month of October on the status of worldwide consular visa operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a period of uncertainty and created tremendous backlogs at the Consular level. As most of you will remember, Consular missions around the world suspended routine visa services in March of 2020 to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19. Later, the Department of State announced a phased resumption of routine visa services, however some Consulates and Embassies resumed services faster than others. Since then, things have slowly but surely started to turn around.

To help improve visa processing, the State Department has said that worldwide visa operations are now recovering faster than expected. More U.S. foreign service personnel have been hired to reduce visa interview wait times at Consular posts worldwide. It is expected that this year, the Department of State will reach pre-pandemic processing levels. This is amazing news for immigrants that have been waiting for visa interview appointments for months, or even years.


How did COVID-19 impact Worldwide Visa Operations?


The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the agency’s ability to process visa applications in two major ways.

First, restrictions on travel to the United States, social distancing, and local quarantine restrictions made it difficult to accommodate large groups of people inside Consular facilities, such as waiting rooms. This of course reduced the number of people that could be scheduled for in-person visa appointments dramatically, causing a reduction in the number of visa applications that could be processed.

Secondly, due to the suspension of visa services worldwide, the State Department experienced a substantial decrease in funding which led to a declining workforce in 2020 and 2021. This dramatically impacted the number of applications that could be processed.

Continue reading

student-g436e437d9_1280

More immigration news is coming your way. This week important updates have been released for F-1 students seeking post-completion Optional Practical Training in certain STEM-related fields of study.


DHS Issues Advance Copy of STEM Designated Degree Program List for post-completion Optional Practical Training


If you are an international student studying in F-1 visa status in the United States, this update may be of interest to you. Today, January 20, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security released an advance copy of the Federal Notice, “Update to the Department of Homeland Security STEM Designated Degree Program List,” which is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, Friday, January 21, 2022.

With this notice, DHS has indicated that the agency will be adding 22 qualifying fields of study to the STEM Designated Degree Program List. This change is significant because DHS relies on the STEM Degree Program List to determine whether an F-1 international student has obtained a degree in a program of study that qualifies as a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degree, to seek employment in the United States following graduation.


What is post-completion OPT?


F-1 students that have earned a degree in a qualifying STEM field, are eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their studies. Those authorized for post-completion OPT can work part time (20 hours or less per week) or full time.

For those who participated in pre-completion OPT, USCIS reduces the amount of time that an individual is eligible to participate in post-completion OPT by deducting from the authorization period. For example, students you participated in 10 months of pre-completion OPT, would only be eligible for up to 2 months of post-completion OPT.


Who is impacted by this notice?


This notice impacts qualifying F-1 nonimmigrant students who seek a 24-month extension of post-completion OPT who have earned a degree in a STEM field of study as designated by the STEM list.


What are the 22 qualifying fields of study being added to the STEM list?


  • Bioenergy (03.0210). A program of study that focuses on the environmental and economic impact of using plants and microbes for the production of bio-based fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. Includes instruction in biochemical engineering, bioprocessing, bioseparations, conversion, feedstock, economics, environmental sustainability, hydrology, and natural resource management.

  • Forestry, General (03.0501). A program that generally prepares individuals to manage and develop forest areas for economic, recreational, and ecological purposes. Includes instruction in forest related sciences, mapping, statistics, harvesting and production technology, natural resources management and economics, wildlife sciences, administration, and public relations

  • Forest Resources Production and Management (03.0510). A program that focuses on the application of forestry principles to the production, harvesting, and processing of forest resources and that prepares individuals to perform associated technical and managerial functions. Includes instruction in forest production and utilization, industrial forestry, agroforestry, transplantation, timber harvesting, selection and identification of trees, processing technologies and systems, equipment operations and maintenance, and related management skills.

  • Human-Centered Technology Design (11.0105). A program that focuses on incorporating a human perspective into designing, researching, and creating technological interfaces. Includes instruction in design, human-computer interaction, learning, neuroscience, perception, product design, user centered design, and usability.

  • Cloud Computing (11.0902). A program that prepares individuals to design and implement enterprise software systems that rely on distributed computing and service-oriented architecture, including databases, web services, cloud computing, and mobile apps. Includes instruction in data management, distributed and cloud computing, enterprise software architecture, enterprise and cloud security, mobile systems and applications, server administration, and web development.

Continue reading

recruitment-g440add50f_1280

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

Continue reading

stamp-41655_1280

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! It is the start of a brand-new week and we are excited to bring you more updates in the world of immigration.

We are happy to report that the Department of State has released important information for nonimmigrant visa applicants who may qualify for an interview waiver. That’s right. Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants will now be eligible to obtain a renewal of their visas without being required to attend a Consulate interview.

Who may take advantage of Non-Immigrant Visa Interview Waivers?

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has consulted with the Department of Homeland Security, and temporarily expanded the ability of Consular officials to waive the in-person interview requirement, which is normally required of all individuals seeking nonimmigrant visas in the same visa classification – in other words renewal applicants.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, interview waivers were only available to those applicants whose nonimmigrant visa was set to expire within 24 months.

The Secretary has now temporarily extended the Interview Waiver eligibility to those whose visas are set to expire within 48 months. This new policy will be in effect until December 31, 2021.

According to the Department of State, “This change will allow consular officers to continue processing certain nonimmigrant visa applications, while limiting the number of applicants who must appear at a consular section, thereby reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to other applicants and consular staff.”

Continue reading