As the battle against Covid-19 progresses in the United States with positive results following an ample supply of vaccines, many governmental bodies are starting to relax restrictions. With the updated recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allowing fully vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks in public and the easing of group interactions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is also easing visitor restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals. So that fully vaccinated individuals no longer have to wear a face covering in USCIS offices. While this applies to many offices nationwide, this in no way relates to embassy or consulate policies worldwide. In fact, with so increased problems, the opening of many embassies is not expected anytime soon.
The ongoing problems with Covid-19 continues to create major problems for immigrants hoping to enter the U.S. for business or for permanent residency. In many cases, it is still not possible to move past the initial steps in the visa process since limited staff protocols are still in place around the world. Just getting staff members to review application requests is difficult, but few offices are even willing to have live appointments for anything other than emergency requests. Although we have been fortunate in having some clients make it past the initial review process, once the interviews are scheduled, many offices are cancelling those appointments and asking applicants to go online and find future appointments and request rescheduling.
A question we get from many people is what process is best for getting their spouses or fiancés into the US quickly and safely given the inconsistent practices from immigration services and the embassies. While much of this is still dependent on the conditions of the specific country, we have found that limiting the needed interactions with the immigration is best. For example, the green card process for a spouse can be done through a spouse visa process with an interview overseas with a final interview in the US that includes the spouse sponsor. Another method is having the applicant just move forward with the green card request in their country without their spouse participating in the interview.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, during the pandemic, we usually recommend that our clients just focus on the consulate process overseas since it is less expensive and accomplishes the main goal (legal permanent residency) quicker without multiple interviews. Although the immigrant spouse is required to attend the interview and other appointments without their spouse, the fewer required appointments with immigration, the better. We have found that this approach under the pandemic has reduced wait times by 4 to 6 months.
Fiancé visa requests are a little bit different since there is only one way to get a fiancé visa and an applicant has very little control with timing or interviews. What I recommend in these cases is to have the fiancé use an existing tourist visa to be able to come to the U.S. and live with their fiancé while waiting for the application to be processed and the interview to be scheduled. It is very important for the fiancé to understand that they will be required to return to their home country for the interview. There is no way to move that interview to the U.S. We have had people call us telling us they have heard about changing the process for interviews inside the US and are upset when we tell them that this is absolutely not possible.
Although people may try to get around this requirement by filing the process themselves, they are always very disappointed when they find out the truth and when they then have to re-file and spend much more trying to do the process over again. With the new president, people also mistakenly think that anything is possible. That is very far from the truth. Although President Biden is pro-immigrant, there are decades of very strict regulations and laws that control and intentionally limit people’s options in immigration matters.
Before you apply for an immigration process, especially during these difficult times, please speak to an experienced immigration attorney to help you limit the time and expense of successfully navigating this everchanging process. If you have any questions about your process or would like to figure out the best approach for bringing your loved one into the US, please contact our office for a consultation at 616-805-3435.