Update: U.S. Embassies and Consulates Slowly Begin to Resume Visa Services

Update: U.S. Embassies and Consulates Slowly Begin to Resume Visa Services

 

On July 14, the U.S. Department of State announced a phased, post-by-post resumption of routine visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates beginning July 15 [1]. Most routine visa services had been suspended for 117 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Details of the specific dates and services to be resumed remain vague as each consular post will assess its local COVID-19 conditions in making these decisions. The DOS announcement does, however, indicate that the phasing in of routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa services may include travelers with urgent travel needs, students (F-1, M-1, and certain J-1), and some family members of U.S. citizens.

 

Note that even as some visa services resume, consulates are still limited in the services they are able to provide due to Presidential Proclamations and travel bans. In particular, the proclamation issued on June 22 suspended the entry of most immigrants to the United States through at least the end of the year. It also suspended entry of employment-based nonimmigrants in H-1B, H-2B, and L visa categories through the end of 2020. [2] However, students traveling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas do not need to seek national interest exceptions to travel. [3] The Department of State also continues to grant National Interest Exceptions for qualified travelers seeking to enter the United States for purposes related to humanitarian travel, public health response, and national security.

 

Also, note that U.S. travel bans continue to forbid the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and certain countries in Europe within the previous 14 days [4].

 

Because the situation will continue to be fluid as consulates consider how and when to re-open, we advise foreign nationals seeking consular visa services to check the DOS website for your specific consular post at https://www.usembassy.gov/. Appointments may be limited and delays should be expected. Gee & Zhang continues to closely monitor and analyze these rapid developments, and we encourage foreign nationals to consult with our attorneys before undertaking any international travel.

 

[1] https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/phased-resumption-routine-visa-services.html

[2] https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/

[3] https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/national-interest-exceptions-from-certain-travelers-from-the-schengen-area-uk-and-ireland.html

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/from-other-countries.html Affected countries in the European Schengen Area include 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.