• 04 August 2020
Reinstatement of Standard Visa Services at U.S. Embassies and Consulates

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the US Department of State postponed most basic visa services at all embassies in March of 2020. As situations in various countries have begun to change, however, embassies and consulates have been directed to reinstate those cancelled services in a series of phases.

It should be noted that these services will recommence on a per-location basis and will synchronize with the State Department’s “Diplomacy Strong” plan. This is a detailed set of standards and policies designed to return the global staff to department embassies as safely as possible.

Both embassies and consulates have retained their emergency services since the start of the shutdown. As these phases are implemented, they will continue to offer critical visa services as effectively as possible. That said, as conditions start to improve from location to location, many postponed services will start to come back online. Eventually, the Department of State hopes to have all posts operating at full capacity around the world once again.

Of course, the Department of State cannot yet offer any detailed information on which post will be reinstating what services when. With so many variables at work, it would be impossible to estimate when any one location will be in a position to get back to their pre-COVID-19 operations.

Available services

For details about anyone post’s operational status and available services, it’s a good idea to simply visit that consulate or embassy’s unique website.

It is also worth noting that all overseas embassies are still providing a wide range of services to US Citizens. On top of this, the current restrictions in place do not relate to any travelers entering the country under the Visa Waiver Program. For more information, you can check each location’s website or click the following link.

All visa applicants who feel they have reason to enter the US immediately should requires an emergency appointment at their nearest embassy location. This can be accomplished by visiting each location’s website as well.

What metrics are being used to govern when routine services are reinstated?

The Department of State and local envoys are keeping a close eye on the situation in each area. The main criteria being used to evaluate what visa services can and will be reinstated are the amount of positive COVID-19 cases in city, country or state, any restrictions put in place by local administration, the reliability of local healthcare infrastructure, and the locale’s ability to mount an emergency response.

What U.S. visa services will embassies and consulates be reinstating first?

Aside from the high-priority visa services that various posts have continued to offer throughout the epidemic, locations will also be considering both standard immigrant and non-immigrant visa cases. These include students (F-1, M-1, and certain J-1) and some relatives of US citizens who are not excluded under PP 10014, etc. Currently, we expect each embassy’s local situation to play a major part in what services are reinstated (and when). Furthermore, all posts have been told to only reinstate services when it is deemed safe by department heads.

Are any specific steps being taken to protect visa customers from COVID-19?

Obviously, the safety and wellbeing of our clients and workers is of the utmost importance to us. Moreover, it will remain our first priority as we begin to reinstate visa services. Policies that we’re putting in place to ensure maximum safety from the virus include forced social and physical distancing in all open areas, the scheduling of fewer meetings and consultations within a certain time period, the frequent sanitizing of all common areas and frequently-touched surfaces, and a strict adherence to any guidelines set forth by local health authorities.

I need to go to the US for X. Does my situation qualify as an emergency?

Any an all emergency entry visas need to first be assessed during a consultation with one of our local staff members. You can request an emergency visa appointment by navigating to the website of a particular consulate or embassy.

Will the various Presidential Proclamations remain in effect during the reinstatement of visa services.

The President of the US has issued five proclamations during the COVID-19 epidemic. These are known as PP9984, 9992, 9993, 9996, and 10041 and relate to geographical locations from which individuals can no longer enter the US. There are also two Labor Market Proclamations (PP 10014 and 10052) which further restrict the entry of specific types of visitors. As of now, these proclamations will stay in effect, applying to any non-US citizen attempting to gain entry to the country.

Are Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees that expired while services are suspended still valid?

MRVs will remain valid and can be used to schedule a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased, providing it is less than 365 days after the purchase was made.

Please contact our Immigration Attorneys at the ACS Law Firm for more information regarding the U.S. visas services during the Coronavirus.