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Answering your FAQs: When will Embassies and Consulates Re-Open?

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick answers one of your frequently asked questions: When will US Embassies and Consulates re-open? Stay tuned to find out more.


Overview

First things first, as many of you know on March 20, 2020 the Department of State announced the temporary suspension of routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide in response to the global pandemic. Since then, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have cancelled all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments, and only provided emergency and mission critical visa services. The DOS did not provide an estimated timeframe of when routine visa services would resume stating “we are unable to provide a specific date at this time.”

In addition, beginning January 31, 2020, the President began issuing several presidential proclamations suspending the entry into the United States of certain foreign nationals to limit the spread of the Coronavirus. The entry of foreign nationals who were physically present in the People’s Republic of China, Iran, Brazil, Ireland, or the Schengen countries within the 14 days preceding entry or attempted entry into the United States is suspended until further notice. The Schengen countries 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.

That means that these individuals will not be issued a U.S. visa or allowed to enter the United States for as long as the presidential proclamations remain in place, even when U.S. Embassies and Consulates resume visa services for the public.

For a complete list of these presidential proclamations restricting travel please click here.


April 22nd Proclamation

In addition, the entry of individuals subject to the April 22nd presidential proclamation will remain suspended until December 31, 2020. As you know, on April 22nd the President signed, “Proclamation Suspending the Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak,” which temporarily suspends the immigration of aliens who were outside of the U.S., and do not otherwise have a valid immigrant visa or other official travel document, as of the effective date of the proclamation. The order included a long list of exemptions (those not subject to the proclamation) including green card holders, spouses of US Citizens, medical professionals, EB-5 investors, and more. Among those affected unfortunately are spouse of permanent residents, parents and siblings of U.S. Citizens, and diversity visa lottery winners.

On June 22nd the President extended this proclamation until the end of the year and added new restrictions suspending the entry of H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrants residing abroad.

Therefore, individuals subject to the April 22nd and June 22nd proclamation will not be able to obtain U.S. visa until the proclamation terminates on December 31, 2020.

Please click here for information about the April 22nd proclamation.


When will Consulates Reopen?

The Department of State recently responded to various inquiries on its twitter page @TravelGov letting applicants know that US Embassies and Consulates may begin the phased resumption of routine visa services on July 15th depending on local country conditions. The State Department recommended that applicants monitor their local embassy/consulate’s website for further information regarding the status of visa services.

We further recommend for applicants to contact their Embassies and Consulates directly by phone or email for updates on when their particular office will reopen. It is important to note that while many Embassies and Consulates will start to reopen in phases, offices located in countries that have been hard hit by the Coronavirus are likely to resume services more steadily.


Will certain appointments be prioritized?

Yes. Those who appointments were cancelled will be prioritized for visa rescheduling, especially those who are spouses or fiancés of US Citizens, and medical professionals seeking visas to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus.


Can I submit an expedite request?

Yes, if you are unaffected by the presidential proclamations still in place, you may submit an expedite request to receive an emergency visa appointment. We have seen that many Embassies and Consulates (including the US Consulate in Vienna, London) have accepted expedite requests for a variety of reasons including family separation, even before Embassies and Consulates began to resume visa services for the general public. Expedite requests can be made through the NVC website’s Public Inquiry Form here. You do not need to have an exceptional need. We highly recommend exploring this channel if your Embassy or Consulate does not resume routine visa services on a timely basis due to country conditions of COVID-19.


Where can I find information from my Embassy or Consulate?

Please click here for a complete list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates including their contact information. We recommend navigating to the “news,” section for updates.


Questions?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding these updates please contact us at jacob@h1b.biz or text or call 619-569-1768 for a private consultation.

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