UPDATE – Thursday March 20 – Department of State Officially Announces the Suspension of ALL Routine Visa Appointments WORLDWIDE

Effective today, Friday March 20, the US Department of State is suspending routine visa services at all embassies and consulates worldwide. All routine (non-emergency) visa appointments will be cancelled until normal operations resume.  If applicants whose appointments are cancelled have already paid the MRV application fee, that fee will remain valid for a future appointment within one year.

UPDATE – Thursday March 19 – Department of State Officially Announces the Suspension of Routine Visa Appointments in “Most Countries”.

Late Wednesday, the US Department of State announced it is now “suspending routine visa services in most countries worldwide.” The official announcement is available at the travel. state.gov website.

Key elements of the announcement:

  • Services to U.S. citizens continue to be available.
  • Visa appointments in some countries will remain available.
    • Check the website of the specific embassy or consulate you intend to visit for country-specific information. All embassy and consular websites can be accessed via the US Embassy website (click the country to get to individual embassy and consulate websites).

Original Post – Wednesday March 18

In response to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, immigration agencies in the US and abroad are closing their offices to the public and cancelling appointments.

USCIS Closures

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has closed all of its offices to the public as of today, March 18. This closure is expected to last until at least April 1.

In-person interviews scheduled at USCIS field offices will be automatically rescheduled.  These include interviews for adjustment of status to permanent residence (“green cards”), interviews and exams for naturalization (citizenship), interviews for asylum, and other benefits.  Individuals who were scheduled to appear for an interview or appointment during the shutdown will receive instructions and new appointment notices once normal operations resume.  There is no need to proactively request that appointments be rescheduled.

The same applies to biometrics appointments scheduled at Application Support Centers (ASCs).  Many applications require biometrics, including adjustment of status, reentry permits, some work permits, and other benefits.  These appointments are suspended effective March 18 and will be automatically rescheduled once normal operations resume.

USCIS has said that emergency services are available for limited situations, but has provided no clear guidance on what constitutes an “emergency.”  Affected individuals should consult with immigration counsel for emergency procedures.  USCIS has also specifically said there will be no penalty for missed appointments.

More information on USCIS’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak is available here.

Consular Closures

The US Department of State is similarly closing US embassies and consulates around the world to the public.  Consulates are remaining open only for emergency services to US citizens who are present in those countries or for emergency visa situations.  Emergency contact information is generally provided at each consulate website.

At the time of writing (Wednesday, March 18 at 2:30 pm EDT), members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) had gathered information on US consular activities in approximately 127 countries.  In all of these countries, visa appointments have been heavily affected:

  • Appointments for nonimmigrant visas (tourist, H-1B, L-1, O-1, etc.) have been cancelled, suspended, or limited in at least 83 countries (about 65%); and
  • Appointments for immigrant visas (for permanent residents) have been cancelled, suspended, reduced, or limited in 65 countries (about 50%).

Foreign nationals whose appointments have been cancelled can expect to receive instructions and guidance on rescheduling from the consulate where they applied, once normal operations resume.

This information is changing rapidly.  For the latest information, check the website of the specific embassy or consulate where have applied or intend to apply.  All embassy and consular websites can be accessed via the US Embassy website, available here (click on the country to get to the individual embassy and consulate websites).

Most embassies and consulates also have Twitter feeds that often carry updated information, sometimes before websites are updated.  These feeds can also be found by accessing the individual embassy or consulate website.  Here is a recent example from the official Twitter feed of the US Embassy in Berlin:

If you have questions concerning USCIS and visa appointments during the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact one of our attorneys.