Due to the visa backlog and other delays caused by the pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) temporarily canceled the immigration interview requirement for residency in some cases.
The widespread visa backlog in the issuance of immigration documents at U.S. consulates and embassies around the world, caused largely by restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, led DHS to make temporary changes to the protocols for obtaining an immigration visa. In particular, the requirement of the immigration interview and the oath in person, also known as a consular interview, will be temporarily waived.
It is estimated that around 50,000 applicants will be affected by this new provision, which will be in effect until December 13, 2023. This measure is designed to help “address the problem of applicants who are unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic and who must meet specific time-limited criteria” to obtain their immigrant visa.
Meeting in person allows consular officials to ensure that a visa application is credible, while also allowing applicants to correct any mistakes in their application. However, conducting an immigration interview for residency in all cases “would put significant pressure on consular resources,” particularly when applicants’ eligibility has already been approved.
The State Department also temporarily suspended routine visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates. Resumption has been slow due to security guidelines, leading to further delays. The new measure is expected to help fight the visa backlog and “allocate scarce resources to areas where personal appearances and interviews of visa applicants are relatively more beneficial,” State Department said.
How is the admission process once I already have my immigrant visa?
Once an immigrant visa is issued, visa holders have up to a maximum of six months to travel to the United States and apply for admission. If admitted by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official, the immigrant becomes a lawful permanent resident of the United States. But the national emergency declared by former President Trump regarding the COVID-19 outbreak generated several provisions that effectively suspended the entry of non-citizens and halted most immigration procedures.
Who is exempted from the immigration interview for residency?
According to DHS, immigrant visa applicants do not have to appear in person before a consular officer for an interview, application execution, and oath if they meet the following criteria:
- The immigrant visa was issued as of August 4, 2019.
- The immigrant did not travel to the United States with the immigrant visa.
- The applicant seeks and remains qualified for an immigrant visa in the same classification as the expired immigrant visa or in certain automatic category conversions.
- There are no changing circumstances that can affect the applicant’s eligibility for the visa.
The Department estimates that there are nearly 49,000 people who were issued immigrant visas between August 4, 2019 and September 30, 2021 and have not yet applied for admission to the country. In more than 11,000 cases, their US visas expired before applying for admission.
How do I obtain an immigration interview exemption?
The agency stated Monday that qualifying applicants should contact the consular office that issued their previous visa to inquire about their eligibility.
“Applicants may be required to submit new DS-260 applications, provide required updated documents, submit medical examinations, and pay application processing fees.”
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