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.
What exactly were the COVID-19 Proclamations about?
In order to stop the rise of Coronavirus cases around the world, the Trump administration issued a series of Proclamations, which temporarily 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.
Specifically, the Schengen visa ban, known as “Proclamation 9993,” temporarily suspended the entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants from 26 European countries including: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Until now, due to the issuance of these COVID-19 Proclamations, U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide were not issuing any visas for immigrant and fiancé(e) visa beneficiaries who were physically present in any of the affected geographic regions.
Does this new announcement mean I can now receive an appointment for a visa interview at my local Embassy or Consulate?
Not so fast. The majority of Embassies and Consulates are not operating at full capacity and have entered a “phased” resumption of visa services, meaning that each Consulate or Embassy will assess local country conditions, as well as resources, and safety considerations, to determine available capacity to schedule applicants for visa interviews. As it stands, the majority of Embassies and Consulates worldwide are only scheduling emergency appointments, reviewing expedite requests, National Interest Exception requests, and providing emergency services for U.S. Citizens.
The National Visa Center has also stated that it is closely monitoring data being released by each Embassy and Consular post, to determine each post’s operational capacity and the availability of visa appointments. For posts that remain unable to schedule visa interviews, cases will be warehoused at the National Visa Center until further notice. For posts that have limited appointment availability, immigrant visa cases will be prioritized in the order of documentary qualification from the NVC.
The Department of State reports that, “After meeting demand for services for U.S. citizens, embassies and consulates will continue to prioritize immediate family members of U.S. citizens including intercountry adoptions and spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, as well as fiancé(e)’s of U.S. citizens, and certain Special Immigrant Visa applications, in accordance with the phased resumption of visa services guidance.”
Substantial delays and visa backlogs for both immigrant visa and fiancé(e) visas are still expected despite today’s announcement.
What should you do now that this announcement has been made?
The Department of State has recommended that immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants, physically present in the affected countries, review the website of their nearest Embassy or Consulate, which processes immigrant visas, to verify which services are currently available, given that the volume and type of visa cases each post is able to process, depends on local conditions and resources.
At posts where immigrant visa processing is available, immigrant visas will be prioritized in accordance with the Department’s guidance on the phased resumption of visa services.
This “phased” resumption of visa services means that Embassies and Consulates will resume routine visa services, only when it is safe to do so, and adequate resources are available.
As local conditions improve, it is expected that missions will begin providing additional services, and eventually transition to a complete resumption of routine visa services.
Is there any other way to get a faster visa appointment?
Only those who satisfy the National Interest Exception criteria and/or the Expedite criteria can obtain a faster visa appointment.
What are the National Interest Exception Criteria?
The U.S. Citizen petitioner may request a National Interest Exception for his or her spouse or fiancé if any of the following can be demonstrated:
(1) The applicant is traveling as a public health or healthcare professional or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to continue ongoing research in an area with substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or disease research); OR
(2) The applicant’s entry is necessary to provide care for a U.S. citizen, including alleviating the burden of care from a medical or other institution, or to prevent a U.S. citizen from becoming a public charge or ward of the state or the ward of a medical or other institution; OR
(3) The applicant will join an active military member petitioner in the U.S.
What are the Expedite Criteria?
To request expedited processing of a fiancé(e) or immigrant visa the U.S. Citizen petitioner must demonstrate that he or she fulfills any of the following expedite criteria:
- 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 file the benefit request or the expedite request in a reasonable time frame, or respond to any requests for additional evidence in a reasonably timely manner;
- Urgent humanitarian reasons(life or death emergency such as terminal disease of the US petitioner or immigrant);
- Compelling U.S. government interests (such as urgent cases for the Department of Defense or DHS, or other public safety or national security interest);
Those who qualify for the National Interest Exception, expedited processing, or both should make their request by email at NVCExpedite@state.gov. It is recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney to determine your eligibility and submit an expedite request on your behalf. Our office continues to successfully expedite the cases of dozens of applicants under these criteria.
For even more information about the resumption of visa services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad please click here.
Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- DOS Update for COVID-19 Regional Proclamations
- COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations
- DOS Visa Services Operating Status Update
- Blog Post Your Question and Answer Guide to Immigrant Visa Processing, Status of Embassies and Consulates Reopening, and Much More
- List of Embassies and Consulates
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
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