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Opinion

Embassies are reopening

IMMIGRATION CORNER - Michael J. Gurfinkel - The Philippine Star

In a previous article, I reported that on Feb. 24, 2021, President Biden revoked Trump’s immigration ban, which was set to expire at the end of March 2021. Because of that ban, most immigrant visa processing was suspended at US embassies around the world.

That caused a lot of confusion, heartbreak and sadness to so many families around the world, who played by and followed the rules, only to be told they would now have to wait. Some already had their visas issued, but the visa expired. Others were already interviewed and were just waiting for their visas to be delivered. Others were told to submit additional documents, which they immediately did, but their future was left up in the air.

Now that Trump’s immigration ban is no longer in effect, US embassies are opening up and will again start issuing immigrant visas. In this column, I will discuss the current status of how the US embassies are opening up, and I’m basing it primarily on the information from the US embassy in Manila. But the same policy and procedures for reopening are likely to be applied to all US embassies around the world.

Here are some of the key points to remember in connection with rescheduling interviews and visa issuance:

• Routine visa services continue to remain suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This might include applying for or renewing visitor visas and other such routine services. Routine visa services will resume “as soon as possible” but embassies cannot provide a specific date at this time. The embassy further notes it “cannot predict when the resumption of full visa services or a specific set of visa cases will resume.”

As for immigrant visas, whether family-based or employment-based, the following cases are being processed in “limited numbers:”

• The embassies continue to interview and issue visas for immediate relatives of US citizens. This includes primarily spouses and children under 21 years of age of US citizens. In fact, during the pandemic, the US embassy continued to issue visas for immediate relatives. I’ve had several cases at my office where visas were issued for spouses of US citizens during the past year.

• Cases where an applicant was previously interviewed but was instructed to submit additional documentation under section 221(g). This is like a request for evidence from the USCIS that asks for additional documents. It might have been something like a marriage contract or birth certificate and the person immediately submitted it. I would imagine these people would not need to be re-interviewed but instead, their immigrant visas can now be issued, if all the documentation has been submitted.

• K-1 and K-2 fiancé visas on a limited basis, if they are “expedite – approved mission-critical cases,” such as a K-2 children about to age out.

• Employment-based EB-3 cases for “health care positions,” on a case-to-case basis. This would include nurses and others in the medical field. It’s unclear if this could also include caregivers because they are considered “other workers” rather than EB-3, but we will monitor that situation.

Also, remember there is a requirement that anyone entering the US from abroad, including US citizens, must take the COVID-19 test a few days before arrival, to be admitted.

Obviously, this is not “great” news. It is merely good news. But I’m glad to see that the embassies are opening up again and are expanding the scope of immigrant visas they will issue. I know it can be frustrating and no specific date can be given, but as soon as there are developments about requirements and additional cases being accepted, we will keep you informed.

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WEBSITE: www.gurfinkel.com

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Four offices to serve you: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York: Toll free: 1-866-GURFINKEL (1-866-487-3465); Philippines: +632 8894-0258 or +632 8894-0239

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