Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick provides a breaking news update: The Department of State recently announced that the entry of immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants is in the National Interest, despite the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations, which have prevented those physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran from obtaining visas. In addition, the Secretary has carved out exceptions for other special types of nonimmigrants who have been physically presented in the affected countries.
What exactly does this mean for you? Keep on watching for all the details.
Immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants who were previously subject to Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 10041, may now breathe a sigh of relief. That is because on April 8, 2021, the Department of State, announced via its website that such Regional Presidential Proclamations will no longer restrict immigrant visa and fiancé(e) visa applicants from obtaining a visa to enter the United States.
The Secretary of State has now determined that the travel of immigrant and fiancé(e) visa applicants is in the National Interest and will approve exceptions for anyone wishing to travel to the United States, from countries which were previously banned from entering the United States due to the COVID-19 Regional Presidential Proclamations.
Prior to this announcement, all immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants, 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, were restricted from entering the United States to contain the prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Such restrictions are no more.
DOS has stated that, Immigrant Visa processing posts may now grant immigrant and fiancé(e) visas to applicants otherwise eligible, notwithstanding these proclamations.
What does the DOS recommend for affected applicants?
Immigrant and K fiancé visa applicants physically present in South Africa, Brazil, the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, should review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate which processes immigrant visas to verify which visa services are currently available. Visa services remain limited due to backlogs, ongoing quarantine restrictions, resources, and local country conditions,
Does this announcement mean that I will be able to receive a visa interview appointment soon?
Not necessarily. The majority of Embassies and Consulate have not resumed operations as normal and are only granting visa appointments for those with emergencies, those who have been granted expedited processing of their cases, and those who can demonstrate that they qualify for a National Interest Exception, where the alien’s entry is necessary to alleviate a U.S. Citizen’s burden of care, or where the alien will enter to perform work in an area of significant public benefit.
The Department of State has said that even at posts where immigrant visa processing is available, immigrant visa issuance will be prioritized in accordance with the Department’s guidance on the “phased” resumption of visa services.
This means that the resumption of routine visa services will occur in phases, and operational status will vary depending on local country conditions as well as resources.
Embassies and Consulates will only resume adjudicating routine visa cases when it is safe to do so, and adequate resources are available. As local conditions improve, each mission will provide additional services, culminating eventually in a complete resumption of routine visa services.
No specific date has been provided as to when each mission will resume specific visa services.
Who else has been granted a National Interest Exception to enter despite the regional COVID-19 Presidential Proclamations affecting those physically present within the Schengen Area, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Iran?
In addition to immigrant visa and fiancé(e) visa applicants, National Interest Exceptions under these proclamations may be approved by the Secretary for the following categories of travel:
Travelers in these categories who wish to visit the United States and have a valid visa in the appropriate class, or who are seeking to apply for a visa, and believe they may qualify for a National Interest Exception should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling.
- Travel by an au pair to provide care for a minor U.S. citizen, LPR, or nonimmigrant in lawful status when the au pair possesses special skills required for a child with particular needs (e.g., medical, special education, or sign language).
- Travel by an au pair that prevents a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or other nonimmigrant in lawful status from becoming a public health charge or ward of the state or of a medical or other public funded institution.
- Travel by an au pair to provide childcare services for a child whose parents are involved with the provision of medical care to individuals who have contracted COVID-19 or medical research at United States facilities to help the United States combat COVID-19.
- Travel for an exchange program conducted pursuant to an MOU, Statement of Intent, or other valid agreement or arrangement between a foreign government and any federal, state, or local government entity in the United States that is designed to promote U.S. national interests if the agreement or arrangement with the foreign government was in effect prior to June 24, 2020.
- Travel by Interns and Trainees on U.S. government agency-sponsored programs (those with a program number beginning with “G-3” on Form DS-2019): An exchange visitor participating in an exchange visitor program in which he or she will be hosted by a U.S. government agency and the program supports the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.
- Travel by Specialized Teachers in Accredited Educational Institutions with a program number beginning with “G-5” on Form DS-2019: An exchange visitor participating in an exchange program in which he or she will teach full-time, including a substantial portion that is in person, in a publicly or privately operated primary or secondary accredited educational institution where the applicant demonstrates ability to make a specialized contribution to the education of students in the United States. A “specialized teacher” applicant must demonstrate native or near-native foreign language proficiency and the ability to teach his/her assigned subject(s) in that language.
- Travel in support of critical foreign policy objectives: This only includes exchange visitors participating in a small number of exchange programs that fulfill critical and time sensitive foreign policy objectives.
National Interest Exceptions for Pilots and Air Crew Traveling for Training and Aircraft Pickup, Delivery, or Maintenance
Finally, the Secretary of State has determined that travel by pilots and aircrew for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance is in the national interest for purposes of granting exceptions under the geographic Presidential Proclamations.
This includes individuals who are traveling to the United States for training or aircraft pickup, delivery, or maintenance on B-1/B-2, B-1, or M-1 visas, or Visa Waiver Program authorizations.
Certain M-2 dependents may also be covered by the National Interest exception when the principal’s necessary training is four weeks or more.
In accordance with its determination the Department of State has said that, “Access by qualified pilots and other essential air crew to aircraft maintenance, as well as simulator training, continuing education such as proficiency checks, and other vital safety certification courses offered in the United States, is an important component of safe skies.”
For this reason, DOS intends to continue issuing visas to eligible applicants for such travelers, on the basis of national interest exceptions, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions.
How will Pilots and Air Crew from the affected regions qualify?
Visa applicants will be considered for an exception at the time of interview. Travelers who already hold valid visas or Visa Waiver Program authorization and believe they meet the exception criteria should follow the procedures set forth on the Embassy/Consulate website where their visa was processed or nearest their residence for consideration for an exception under the geographic Presidential Proclamations.
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- 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
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