Department of State Update:
In light of the severe backlogs in visa interview scheduling and in an effort to expedite visa issuance to qualified applicants, the U.S. Department of State (“DOS”) has extended the Interview Waiver Program for certain nonimmigrants (H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q) and their dependents through December 31, 2022. Consular officers may now waive the visa interview requirement for nonimmigrants with USCIS-approved petitions, provided they (1) have previously been issued a visa, have never had a visa denied, and are not otherwise ineligible; or (2) are a first-time applicant for a H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, or Q visa, and are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, who has previously traveled to the U.S. via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”), and are not otherwise ineligible.
The extension of the Interview Waiver Program also applies to previous guidance for F, M, and academic J visa applicants who (1) were previously issued a visa, have never been refused a visa, and are not otherwise ineligible for a waiver, or (2) are first-time F, M, or academic J visa applicants who are citizens or nationals of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, have previously traveled to the U.S. using ESTA, and are not otherwise ineligible. Contact your immigration counsel to determine whether you may be eligible for a visa interview waiver.
Department of Homeland Security News:
- On December 28th, 2021, President Biden formally revoked Presidential Proclamation 10315, which restricted and suspended travel from eight countries in Africa where the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was identified in significant numbers. The revocation came on the heels of the new studies and the determination from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) that those vaccinated against COVID-19 are protected from severe symptoms and hospitalizations. The revocation became effective Friday, December 31st, 2021. Individuals traveling internationally should continue to check their local U.S. embassy or consulate websites regularly to confirm the latest travel guidance and consular availability for services including visa issuance.
- Effective immediately, qualifying healthcare workers who have an expired Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) or a pending EAD application with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), subject to expiration in 30 days, may request expedited processing. To make an expedited request, eligible healthcare workers are asked to call the USCIS Contact Center at (800) 375-5283. Evidence of employment as a healthcare worker is required. To determine if you or your employees qualify to make a request for expedited processing, visit with your immigration legal counsel to address your specific circumstances.
- Due to the ongoing global pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has extended its deadlines for government responses, including Requests for Evidence (“RFEs”), Notices of Intent to Deny, Revoke, Rescind, and Terminate proceedings, and Motions to Reopen an N-400. The flexibility applies to the above requests and notices issued by USCIS between March 1, 2020 and March 26, 2022, and USCIS will consider responses received within 60 days after the indicated due date to be timely filed. Additionally, USCIS has extended its consideration of certain appeals, motions, and requests for a hearing if the required forms are filed within 90 calendar days (previously 60 calendar days) from the date of decision and if the decision date was made by USCIS between November 1, 2021 and March 26, 2022.