Resuming Visa Processing: How Smart Management Decisions Can Improve Processing
Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) August 25, 2021 – As vaccination rates increase both within the United States and worldwide, and new infection and death rates decrease, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) faces the formidable challenge of how to resume effective visa processing abroad to reduce the massive backlog of immigrant visa cases, which have built up while consulates have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), on June 29, 2021, issued a policy brief proposing a 10-point plan for re-opening America and re-establishing the United States as a welcoming nation. AILA recommended ways for the DOS to reduce processing delays, eliminate backlogs and improve efficiency. The association called for the Biden Administration to terminate travel restrictions that were enforced to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“There are several straightforward steps that DOS can take. As AILA has suggested, DOS can resume nonimmigrant visa re-validation within the U.S. and require stateside biometrics to be done by applicants at a USCIS Application Support Center. This would free up some consular officers to handle the immigrant visa backlog,” commented Stewart Rabinowitz of the Dallas and Frisco law firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “DOS could extend the validity of recently expired nonimmigrant visas of foreign nationals stuck abroad during the pandemic but who have valid underlying petition approval notices, or valid I-20s or DS-2019s. Finally, DOS could implement virtual immigrant visa interviews with a prior submission of original documents to the consular section. Just these three provisions for qualifying cases could make a significant dent in the backlog without compromising the integrity of the visa process nor the security of the U.S.”
The State Department’s visa backlog has continued to skyrocket during the pandemic amid U.S. COVID-19 protocols and limited staffing. AILA described the visa processing delays as “crisis-level.”
AILA said its recommendations aim to ease the government’s overload while protecting the integrity of the immigration system and ensuring it functions efficiently. Some or all of the three changes listed above will benefit DOS and applicants going forward as COVID-19 continues to affect DOS operations regardless of how long the pandemic lasts.