Visa holders need to be extremely cautious about leaving the country, says immigration lawyer and AILA board member Greg Siskind. “Don’t travel,” he says, “unless you’re prepared to be working remotely for a year.”
The advice may sound dire, but it’s clearly necessary. The Biden administration may have eased some travel restrictions for vaccinated individuals coming to the US, but consulates abroad are still running far slower than they used to. While visa holders can get work authorization from home, renewing a visa requires leaving the country until it’s approved.
But limited appointment availability means getting approval is a long process.
As a result, foreign workers and students have found themselves forced to stay in the US out of fear that they won’t be admitted back in. The State Department stopped offering most routine visa services in 2020, and consulates have been running below full capacity ever since. The backlog for visa appointments is massive—nearly half a million eligible visa holders are still waiting.
Still, the State Department refuses to allow visa applicants to have virtual appointments—they’re required to report in person to the consulate.
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