The COVID-19 outbreak has temporarily suspended travel across the globe. This means that many people who were supposed to work in or visit another country this year are having to cancel these plans. The United States is one of many countries that has suspended all visa and work permit applications for the time being. So, if you are someone who recently submitted an application to live or work in the U.S., you probably aren’t sure what to do at this point.
Immigration lawyer Jean Danhong Chen from San Jose, California, specializes exclusively in the area of U. S. Immigration and Naturalization law. As members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) for over 17 years, their comprehensive knowledge of immigration law and quick response time to their clients have earned them the confidence of numerous companies and individuals throughout the country. Jean Danhong Chen provides her insight into how the coronavirus pandemic has affected work permits and tourist visa applications in the United States.
Suspension of Visa Services
According to Jean Danhong Chen, applying for a work permit or tourist visa to the United States right now is no easy task. That is because as of March 20, 2020, the United States has halted visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world. The services that are closed include all immigrant and non-immigrant visa appointments that had been scheduled previously. The Department of State did reassure travelers that their visa services would resume as soon as it was safe; however, no specific date was provided.
In the meantime, no new applications are being processed. Further, for the time being, the U.S. State Department has no plans to conduct visa application interviews via video conference. Thus, it really is likely there will be no new work permit or tourist visa applications processed until the COVID-19 outbreak is under control and travel restrictions are lifted around the globe.
Fees for Visa Appointments
As those who had already begun their application process know, the United States charges a service fee for each visa appointment. Jean Danhong Chen notes that despite appointments being canceled, the government has no plans to refund these fees for the time being. However, the visa fee will remain valid for one year from the date of the appointment. This means that you should be able to reschedule your appointment without paying a fee once visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates resume.
Visa Appointment Priority
The Department of State has not confirmed whether priority will be given to those with an eligibility deadline fast approaching when services resume. However, they have maintained that all appointments canceled due to the pandemic will be rescheduled. Further, Jean Danhong Chen asserts that visa services are broken down based on whether you are applying for travel, tourism, or student/exchange visa. Thus, even if there are longer interview wait times for student/exchange visas, this won’t impact the wait times in the business or tourism services as they are managed separately.
Jean Danhong Chen on the Reopening of Visa Services
With so much uncertainty around the world right now, it is hard to predict when U.S. immigration services will return to normal, warns Jean Danhong Chen. Although there is no specific date or even month when people from outside the United States will be able to apply for visas and work permits once again, Chen advises everyone to keep up to date with the latest U.S. Department of State news. They frequently post updates on their website, so be sure to check this regularly.
Further, Chen recommends taking this time to get all your necessary documents in order so that when services do a resume, you will be ready. For example, for non-immigrant visa applications like tourist visas, you will want to have filled out Form DS-160 (otherwise known as the non-immigrant visa application form). You will also need to upload a photo of yourself that clearly meets the requirements set out by the State Department. In preparation for your future appointment, you will also need to ensure you have a valid passport and your application fee payment receipt.