Ask the Consul – December, 2020

Question:

How soon will visa operations return to normal at the Embassy? What is the latest guidance on applying for a visa and will I be able to get an interview soon?

 

Answer:

The U.S. Embassy Consular Section continues to limit non-immigrant visa services according to host country and U.S. Department of State guidelines with respect to managing the pandemic and ensuring the safety of applicants and embassy staff alike.

That being said, your experience at the U. S. Embassy will be a bit different the next time you schedule an appointment for both a non-immigrant and immigrant visa. Because of COVID-related budget cuts, effective December 23, the U.S. Embassy will no longer be able to provide the same level of greeter services for appointments, nor provide free document delivery services through DHL. The latter applies to both immigrant visa document-handling, non-immigrant interview waiver submissions, post-interview follow-up document requests, and passport return if your visas are approved.

What will remain the same: Non-immigrant visa applicants still must complete the DS-160 consular application form, register online in order to pay the application fee at Scotiabank, submit the application fee payment at Scotiabank, and then either schedule an appointment online or send the application in if interview waiver applies. Immigrant visa applicants will have to complete the DS-260, pay their fees online, and come to the U.S. Embassy at their appointed time. Remember that currently the U.S. Embassy is only processing non-immigrant emergency applications and categories of immigrant visas exempt from presidential proclamations of the current administration.

What will change: Older applicants will remember that the U.S. Embassy used to require approved applicants to purchase return envelopes if their visas were approved. A form of this will again be necessary, and applicants, depending on whether they are immigrant or non-immigrant, and interview-waived or interview-required, will be given specific instructions at the time of application and interview. Details will also be published on the U.S. Embassy website soon.

Remember that due to the requirement for social distancing, applicants should arrive no more than 10 minutes prior to their interview, maintain appropriate distance from other applicants and be seated according to established chair spacing. A mask is required for entry, and no cellphones, electronics, liquids, and bags will be allowed in the waiting area. We are unable to store these items, so please secure them elsewhere prior to arrival.

Additional family members will not be allowed into the waiting area. If you have a medical issue and require assistance from a family member or caregiver, a written request must be submitted by email to consularpos@state.gov for authorization at least four days prior to the appointment.

Applicants who recently held (or currently hold) a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa may qualify for an interview waiver. This process allows eligible applicants to submit their passports without appearing at the U.S. Embassy for an in-person interview.

After submitting the application, the online system will determine if someone qualifies for the interview waiver. Until December 31, applicants whose visas expired within the previous 24 months are eligible to submit their applications. Beginning January 2021, interview waiver criteria will revert to a 12-month expiration period. Visa application fees are still valid through December 2021. We encourage applicants to visit the Information and Appointment Website https://ais.usvisa-info.com/ for updates on resumption of in person visa services. Please send an email to consularpos@state.gov if you have a specific question or require clarification at least two days prior to your interview.