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News

September 2, 2021
US Department of State adopts a new 4-tiered approach to fix Immigrant Visa Backlog

✅The US Department of State Announces a new Four-Tiered Approach for Immigrant Visa Prioritization at Consulates and Embassies Worldwide to begin fixing the growing backlog of US Immigrant Visa cases across the world.

One of the problems that immigrants faced due to the Covid epidemic is that many of their immigrant visa cases in different stages of the process got stuck at the stage of consular interviews and many have not moved since 2020. 

🇺🇸First, it is important to explain that Immigrant visas are visas for people immigrating to US, to come to US to live permanently and to get green cards. These do not include Nonimmigrant visas such as tourist visas, student visas or temporary work visas.  Immigrant visas are for family unifications, employment petitions for green cards, adoptions and even Diversity Lottery green card winners.

To reduce the immigrant visa backlog, DOS  announced on August 31, 2021 — after a meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association – their plan to immediately begin using a new four-tiered approach, designed to triage the processing of immigrant visa applications according to prioritization standards set by U.S. Congress.  

Department of State acknowledged that the backlog of Immigrant visas concerns people and families, these are not just numbers. These are people’s lives. 

☝DOS promised to schedule interviews in each of the new 4 tiers every month and to begin expanding and resuming operations at their consular posts. 

The agency said that the US consular posts will also move nonimmigrant visas, but will give special attention to and priority Immigrant visa cases to allow families to reunite. 

However, the numbers and types of visa cases that each embassy will be   to process will continue to depend on local country conditions, including restrictions on travel inside each specific country.

📑In addition, the US consular posts have to comply with US government Covid mandated guidelines of health and safety in federal offices, and to follow safety protocols including staggering interviews, preventing congregation of too many people at the same time at the offices of the posts, social distancing, and other safety measures, which have forced posts to significantly reduce the number of applicants that consular sections can schedule for interview appointments in a single day.

Routine visa services and passport services for US citizens and Green Card holders are also resuming, which too affects interviewing for Immigrant visas.

📝Department of State wrote:

The health and safety of our personnel, U.S. citizens seeking assistance abroad, individuals seeking immigration benefits, and local populations is paramount.  Posts that process both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas are prioritizing immigrant visa applications while still providing some nonimmigrant visa services.  However, the volume and type of visa cases each post will process continues to depend on local conditions, including restrictions on movement and gathering imposed by host country governments.  In addition, consistent with U.S. government guidance on safety in the federal workplace, U.S. embassies and consulates have implemented social distancing and other safety measures, which have reduced the number of applicants consular sections are able to process in a single day.  Consular sections will resume providing all routine visa services as it is safe to do so in that particular location.

The petitioners and applicants in the immigrant visa process are more than just numbers.  We acknowledge the stress and hardships they have borne due to reduced operating capacity as a result of COVID and necessary measures taken to protect health and safety or to comply with local requirements, as well as COVID-related limitations on their travel or visa issuance.  We also recognize the importance of each immigrant visa category.  However, during the pandemic the Department has been forced to make difficult decisions regarding how our consular sections should prioritize immigrant visa applications as they operate at limited capacity and as they work through a backlog of immigrant visa cases once they resume full operating capacity.  The guiding principle on which we have based immigrant visa prioritization is that family reunification is a clear priority of the U.S. Government’s immigration policy, a priority is expressed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).  Specifically, the Department’s prioritization relied on clear direction from Congress that the Department must adopt a policy of prioritizing immediate relative visa applicants and K-1 fiancées of U.S. citizens, followed by family preference immigrant visa applicants.  

🗂Consistent with those objectives, U.S. embassies and consulates across the world will now be using a tiered approach to triage immigrant visa applications based on the category of immigrant visa as they resume and expand processing.  While our consular sections, where possible, are scheduling some appointments within all four priority tiers every month, the following lists the main categories of immigrant visas in priority order:

▶Tier One:  Immediate relative intercountry adoption visas, age-out cases (cases where the applicant will soon no longer qualify due to their age), certain Special Immigrant Visas (SQ and SI for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working with the U.S. government), and emergency cases as determined on a case-by-case basis.

▶Tier Two:  Immediate relative visas (parents, spouses and kids under 21 of US citizens); K-1 fiancé(e) visas; and returning resident visas

▶Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas (children over 21 of US citizens and green card holders, spouses of GC holders, married children of US Citizens, siblings of US citizens); and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad

▶Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity lottery  visas

📩Department of State also will be prioritizing scheduling emergency cases on a case-by-case basis and requests to expedite, which may be emailed to NVCExpedite@state.gov. In addition. DOS will prioritize as EMERGENCIES the Immigrant visa cases of certain healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, researchers) who will work in US at a facility engaged in pandemic response to help US battle with Covid.

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