In March 2020, the U.S. Department of State announced suspension of routine visa services in light of the global pandemic. On July 14, the agency announced the phased resumption of routine visa services. According to the announcement, this is being done as resources allow, and therefore visa appointment availability will vary from one consular post to the next.

Applicants are advised to check the website of the consular post at which they seek a visa to determine current visa appointment availability. There may also be a lag in visa appointment availability due to pent up demand.

Applicants for the Visa Waiver Program/ ESTA are not impacted by consular closures as those applications are filed online with U.S. Customs and Border Protection rather than the Department of State. It should be noted, however, that several Presidential Proclamations and border restrictions remain in place that could impact visa issuance and/or travel to the United States, in addition to limited visa services.

Some individuals may be granted exceptions from these restrictions. Notably, H-2 visa applicants who are vital to the United States’ food supply will continue to be granted visas.

USCIS Furloughs Temporarily Postponed

As previously reported, USCIS sent furlough notices to the majority of its workforce earlier this month, and intended to furlough them at the beginning of August absent an infusion of Congressional funding.

However, last week, USCIS reported that it will now be ending the year with a budget surplus rather than the substantial shortfall previously projected. The agency has therefore postponed its furlough plans at least until at least August 31, 2020.

Our Immigration Law Practice Group includes immigration attorneys that work across New York state in our Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse offices. Our immigration lawyers focus on strategies – including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals – to ensure that employers are able to hire, transfer, and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.