Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, and Happy New Year! We are excited to have you back. We hope you had a wonderful holiday break with your family and are ready to jump back into the latest in immigration news in the new year. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares the latest update regarding the operational status of U.S. Consulates and Embassies worldwide during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Want to know more? Just keep on watching.
First let’s start with some good news. In October of last year, the Biden administration took some major steps toward opening the United States to international travelers, lifting many of the COVID-19 related geographic travel bans that were put in place by the Trump administration to reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19. To provide relief to visa holders, President Biden later signed a Proclamation allowing fully vaccinated international travelers to enter the United States beginning November 8, 2021, regardless of their country of origin. At the same time the Proclamation, revoked the previous geographic travel bans including Proclamation 9984, Proclamation 9992, Proclamation 10143, and Proclamation 10199 for those fully vaccinated.
Unfortunately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates have been slow to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many posts still limiting operational capacity based on country conditions and local regulations. Services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels and there is simply no semblance of normalcy at the Consular level. This has been extremely frustrating for visa applicants who have been waiting in the massive visa backlogs for an interview. According to Department of State statistics, approximately 90% of Consular posts continue to be subject to pandemic related restrictions with some partially open and others providing very limited services.
Because most Embassies and Consulates are not fully operational, many applicants currently in the United States that have filed and received approvals for work visa related petitions with USCIS such as H-1B, O-1, E-2 petition-related approvals, etc. have not been able to leave the United States to return to their home country for visa stamping. This has caused even greater frustration among applicants who are essentially “trapped” in the United States due to their inability to obtain an appointment for visa stamping. That is because applicants encounter greater risks when they choose to leave the United States, due to the uncertain and indefinite amount of time they could be waiting for a visa stamping appointment to become available while overseas. An even greater fear is the risk that the applicant may lose his or her job while waiting for an appointment that may not come for a very long time.