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Certain U.S. Consulates Resuming Limited Visa Services Beginning July 15th

15 Jul

Nearly four months after U.S. consular posts around the world shut down routine visa services due to COVID-19, the U.S. State Department announced via Twitter on July 13 that beginning on July 15, certain U.S. consulates may begin the phased resumption of routine visa services. U.S. consulates will not reopen in unison, but rather each consulate’s reopening will be based on the specific local conditions within each jurisdiction, and it will be these individualized conditions that will dictate the timing and manner of the resumption of visa services. 

Some U.S. consulates have reported they will initially begin the resumption of services by offering limited visa appointments to only F, M, and J visa applicants in anticipation of the upcoming school year.  This announcement, read in conjunction with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s rescission on July 14 of its guidance requiring attendance of in-person classes even when accredited schools go to online learning during a pandemic, indicates that consular officers may resume issuing F-1 and M-1 visas as long as the foreign national qualifies for the student visa. The foreign national must intend to enter the United States for the sole purpose of pursuing a full course of study at an approved institution and intend to attend classes in-person (or cannot attend classes online in their home country) at an approved institution. The  DOS guidance requiring refusal of F-1 and M-1 visas when an approved institution goes to online learning during the pandemic has been removed. 

However, even as U.S. consulates slowly resume visa services, they will be limited in the visa services they are able to offer due to recent Presidential Proclamations and travel bans. As a reminder, below are some travel and visa restrictions: 

  • The Presidential Proclamation issued on June 22, 2020 not only extended Presidential Proclamation 10014 issued on April 22 suspending the entry of most immigrants to the United States, it also suspended the entry of certain nonimmigrants to the United States, specifically H-1B, H-2B, certain J visas (intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program), L visas, and any foreign nationals accompanying or following to join such individuals through at least the end of this calendar year. 
  • In addition, individuals who have been physically present in China, Iran, the European Schengen area, the U.K., the Republic of Ireland, or Brazil during the previous 14 days before traveling to the U.S. may not enter the U.S. outside of very specific exceptions. 

In order to navigate the changing U.S. immigration landscape, including the re-openings of U.S.  consulates, new or modified Presidential Proclamations, travel bans, and rules governing international students and scholars, etc., it is strongly recommended to thoroughly review the travel situation and any pandemic concerns and discuss  contemplated international travel plans with an immigration attorney prior to any planned travel. 

Foster will continue to monitor changes related to consular post reopening’s and will make additional updates available via our firm’s website at www.fosterglobal.com