Update: How Embassies & Consulates Are Prioritizing Visa Applications

The Department of State recently released a notice clarifying how they’re prioritizing visa applications. They wrote that, in general, they will prioritize immigrant visa applications over nonimmigrant visas while providing some nonimmigrant services; however, the number and type of visas handled by each consulate will depend on local conditions. Social distancing and other COVID safety measures have lowered the number of applications the consulate can process in a single day, so applications will move more slowly across the board. As host governments lift restrictions and as COVID numbers go down, consulates will resume routine visa services.

The guiding principle for their visa policies, the State Department said, is “family reunification.” That means the Department is prioritizing, in order, visa applications for immediate relatives, fiancées of U.S. citizens, and family preference immigrant visa applications. Embassies and consulates will use a tiered approach based on immigrant visa categories to determine which applications will be processed on a given day.

Those tiers include the following:

  • Tier One: Immediate family adoption visas, age-out cases (where the applicant will soon disqualify due to age), specific Special Immigrant Visas, and emergency cases on a case-by- case basis.
  • Tier Two: Immediate relative visas, fiancé(e) visas, and returning resident visas
  • Tier Three: Family preference immigrant visas and SE Special Immigrant Visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad
  • Tier Four: All other immigrant visas, including employment preference and diversity visas

Applicants should still expect a significant backlog of all categories of immigrant visas, the Department said. A Tier One application is not guaranteed to be processed quickly, but it will be processed more quickly than other tiers. For people with applications that fall under the third and fourth tiers, don’t worry—the prioritization plan will require consulates to process a minimum monthly number of applications in those tiers as well. They warned however that for categories like the diversity visa, they would likely not hit the maximum number of visas allowed by law for 2021.

Consulate Guidance for Emergency Cases

Due to the rise in Delta variant cases, the State Department has instructed its embassies to prioritize visas for healthcare professionals working in pandemic response facilities on a case-by-case basis. If you or a loved one is preparing a visa application as a healthcare professional, speak with The Law Offices of Lloyd E. Bennett Esq., P.C. as soon as possible to ensure your application is handled as quickly and effectively as possible.

If you have questions about your visa application, our New Jersey immigration lawyers are happy to help. Call (800) 909-8129 for a confidential consultation today.

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