Department of State Announces Phased Reopening of Visa Processing at U.S. Consulates
Beginning on March 20, 2020, U.S. consular posts worldwide suspended normal consular services, including routine visa services. Immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services remain restricted to emergencies and those deemed mission critical. Consular Affairs has clearly articulated that its first priority is U.S. citizen services.
On July 14, the Department of State issued an official announcement reiterating that DOS will resume routine visa services on a post-by-post basis, but is unable to provide a specific date for when each mission will resume specific visa services, or when each mission will return to processing at pre-COVID levels. Given that the severity of the pandemic varies by location and changes over time, it is reasonable to expect that consular re-openings will occur in a phased manner based on many factors. Services offered by the various posts as they reopen are also likely to vary.
Numerous presidential proclamations issued since January 2020 implement restrictions on entry to the U.S. based on public health and economic considerations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include health-related restrictions on China (January 31, 2020), Iran (February 29, 2020), the Schengen Area (March 11, 2020), Ireland and the UK (March 14, 2020), and Brazil (May 24, 2020). Proclamations limiting entry based on economic considerations related to the pandemic include a 60-day restriction on immigrant entries (April 22, 2020), which was extended to December 31, 2020 in a proclamation that similarly restricts entries on H-1B, H-2B, L-1 and certain J-1 (au pair, camp counselor, intern, summer work travel, teacher and trainee programs) nonimmigrant visas through the end of the calendar year (June 22, as amended on June 29, 2020).