Ask the Consul – November, 2020

Question: My family is eager to visit relatives in the United States. once the borders are open. We have paid the application fee at Scotiabank and are wondering when interviews will resume or whether there is another option?

Answer: The past eight months have been very challenging, as we have adjusted to life with COVID-19 restrictions, including physical distancing to the inability to travel for leisure and business. Many Trinbagonians are eager to reconnect with relatives in the United States when borders eventually re-open.

U.S. Department of State policy dictates that under COVID-19 restrictions, all embassies must focus resources primarily on providing American Citizen Services until embassies can return to normal operations. Therefore, current Trinidad and Tobago restrictions on cross-border travel and crowd size mean the embassy must limit consular operations. That being said, immigrant visa processing, the Department’s next highest priority, will resume soon with limited appointments scheduled to maximize host-government guidelines on social distancing. Non-immigrant visa interviews will still be scheduled on an emergency basis only. This means that if your travel is an emergency, you may still apply, which means you must fill out your application, pay the visa application fee, schedule the first-available appointment (even if it is after your date of travel), and then request an expedite through the visa appointment system. Be sure to thoroughly explain the reason for your expedited appointment request.

Many applicants have paid the visa application processing fee and are still waiting to schedule a visa appointment. The validity of your payment (known as the MRV fee) has been extended until December 31, 2021, to allow applicants who were unable to schedule a visa appointment due to the suspension of routine consular operations the opportunity to schedule their visa appointment with the current fee.

Applicants who recently held (or currently hold) a valid U.S. non-immigrant visa also may qualify for an interview waiver. This process allows eligible applicants to submit their passports via DHL, without appearing at the Embassy for an in-person interview. After you submit your application, the online system will determine if you qualify for the interview waiver.

Previously, only applicants whose non-immigrant visa were expired within the previous 12 months were eligible for an interview waiver. However, this has been temporarily extended to a period of 24 months. This policy is in effect until December 31, 2020.

Please do not send original documents, except your passport and the passport with the most recent visa, since only the passports will be returned. Applications are generally processed in 15-20 working days. Please note, if after review of the application an interview or additional information is required, we will reach out with instructions.

If you are not eligible for Interview Waiver, you will be directed to the appointment system.

Routine in-person interviews are still suspended until further notice due to COVID-19.

We encourage applicants to visit the Information and Appointment Website: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/ for updates on services. Email inquiries can be sent to consularpos@state.gov

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