The Road Ahead: Processing U.S. Visas Amidst A Global Pandemic

Updated: Jan 14



Background


In April 2020, the White House implemented Presidential Proclamation 10014 (P.P. 10014). It sought to halt the entrance of immigrants who could present a risk to the United States labor market during the economic recovery associated with the Novel Coronavirus outbreak.


In order to safeguard the health and safety of their staff, U.S. Embassies and Consulates across the globe shuttered and ceased visa processing.


State Department employees were recalled to the U.S., and it took some time before they were redeployed to the U.S. posts abroad.


While many of the posts have made substantial headway in resuming normal visa operations, there are far more posts that are barely engaging in any visa processing. The State Department has developed a framework to guide the reopening of its diplomatic posts abroad titled "Diplomacy Strong".


In essence, the framework provides for the full resumption of U.S. visa processing operations at diplomatic posts in three stages. These will be described in greater detail below.


Presidential Proclamations


Before examining the phases, it is important to note that the following cases are not subject to P.P. 10014: healthcare professionals and their derivatives, medical researchers combating COVID-19, EB-5 investors, immediate family-based immigrants, special immigrants and members of U.S Armed Forces and their families. Additionally, non-immigrant visa renewals for those who possessed a valid visa on April, 23 2020 can also be processed.


In June 2020, P.P. 10052 was signed to extend P.P. 10014. P.P. 10052 suspends the entry of other foreign nationals who present a risk to the U.S. labor market during economic recovery.


The Department of State notes that the suspension applies to applicants for "H-1B, H-2B, and L-1 visas; J-1 visa applicants participating in the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs; and any spouses or children of covered applicants applying for H-4, L-2, or J-2 visas." See: National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations (10014 & 10052)


The Phased Resumption of Visa Processing


Phase 0-1:


Emergency or mission-critical cases, including:

  • Immigrant visas for spouses of U.S. Citizens (IR/CR1s);

  • Certain family members of U.S. citizens (IR/CR2s);

  • Immigrant visas for inter-country adoption of orphaned children by U.S. Citizens (IR/IH3s & IR/IH4s);

  • Special immigrant visas (SQ and SI SIVs);

  • Certain employment-based healthcare professionals;

  • Cases involving applicants who may age out;

  • Other emergencies or mission-critical purposes of travel determined on a case-by-case basis by post management; and

  • 221(g) cases that do not require another personal appearance by the applicant, where previous refusal to overcome (and are excluded under P.P. 10014).

(When your petition is refused under section 221(g), it means that essential information is missing from an application or that it requires additional administrative processing).


Phase 2:


Continue to process cases excluded from P.P. 10014 and mission-critical cases, prioritizing immediate relative cases.

  • Begin scheduling for Phase 3

Phase 3:


May schedule all Immigrant Visa cases, prioritizing those excluded by P.P. 10014 in the following order:

  • Appointments cancelled due to suspension

  • Adoptions, age outs, humanitarian cases, special immigrant visas (SIVs), following-to-join asylee and refugee spouse and children ( V92/V93s), returning permanent residents (SB-1s)

  • Family-based immigrant visas (IRs/CRs)

  • Ks (P.P. 10014 and P.P. 10052 do not apply to K visas)

  • Family Preference (FP)/Employment Preference (EP)/ Diversity Visa (DV) cases excepted by P.P. 10014

Source: American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)


Track Your Wait Time


If you have a visa application that is pending with a particular post, you should consult the post's website. By knowing the exact phase to which your post has been assigned, you would have a better understanding of how much longer you can expect to wait before the processing of your application has been completed.


See each U.S. Embassy or Consulate's website for information regarding operating status and which services it is currently offering.


We assist countless foreign nationals and we will be happy to personally assist you with your application as well. Send us an E-mail or call us at (888)354-6257. For reasons on why you should consult an immigration attorney whenever you have an immigration issue, see our page titled: Reasons Why it is Vital to Use an Immigration Lawyer.

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