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What the Phased Resumption of Visa Services Could Mean to You

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on August 14, 2020

As of July, the State Department stated that it would begin resuming routine visa services at embassies and consulates. In response to the COVID pandemic, the State Department halted all routine visa services worldwide. The resumption of services will depend on the safety and health of each diplomatic mission; therefore, the resumption will not be uniform across the entire system.

The Visa Shutdown

The State Department halted all visa services in March. The embassies were only providing appointments for emergencies and visas for “mission-critical” individuals. The visa halt significantly affected the American immigration system. It halted the admittance of thousands of doctors and nurses, engineers, and other individuals – disrupting businesses in every state.

Service Resumption Process

According to the State Department, they will evaluate each post individually to determine if it is safe to return to routine visa services and under what conditions. The State Department did not commit to any specific dates for any specific embassy or consulate. They will begin processing visas for immigrants and nonimmigrants. In particular, students under F-1, M-1, and J-1 visas, and family members of U.S. citizens consistent with the executive orders and proclamations.

The State Department emphasized that the ability to open was dependent on local factors such as COVID-19 cases, medical infrastructure, travel restrictions, and emergency response capabilities. The embassies and consulates will also implement social distancing rules, space out waiting rooms, implement cleaning protocols, and install safety infrastructure wherever possible.

Individual Cases

Individuals whose visa hearings were canceled may seek to reschedule their hearings. However, the ability to get a new hearing depends on each specific location. The State Department advises applicants to check the embassy webpage of their specific country to determine if and when the embassy may resume visa reviews. Some consulates and embassies are automatically rescheduling appointments for canceled cases. The State Department also emphasized that individual missions are still subject to closure even after opening – it is all dependent on local conditions.

The State Department also referenced the Proclamation in which the President suspended entry for all immigrants who allegedly pose a risk to the labor market. The Proclamation halted green cards that affected individuals living abroad and looking to settle permanently in the United States. The biggest impact was on family members trying to bring their relatives to the U.S. Therefore, while visa services resume, it is constrained by the Proclamation.