Welcome To America: An Immigrant’s Story: Immigrant Shooting survivor: U-Visa Process, Duration and Cost QUESTION 1 Mark: Let’s jump right…
US Embassy Openings, Visa Application, the Citizenship Act, and the Reconciliation Bill
Updates on US Immigration
What is going on with the consulates and embassies? They are slow, right?
Many aren’t even open and those that are open seem to be slower than usual.
We know in January 2020 there were 75,000 visa applications with the National Visa Center (NVC) that were waiting for interviews. In February 2021, there were over 475,000 visa applications waiting for interviews.
On March 1, 2021, Julie M. Stufft, the Acting Deputy Assistant for Visa Services, held a press briefing. In that briefing, she said, “The State Department is committed to do everything we can to resolve the backlogs and complete the visa process as efficiently as possible within the process designed to secure our nation’s borders.” Ms. Stufft acknowledged that COVID has reduced DOS staff and slowed visa issuance.
In light of these challenges, Ms. Stufft stated that the Department of State (DOS) is taking these key steps to address the situation:
- The Government is prioritizing the processing of immigrant visas, full stop, at every post.
- Posts abroad are seeking creative ways to increase the number of immigrant visa appointments that it can offer safely. For example, Ms. Stufft stated that one embassy has outfitted alternative spaces within the embassy complex to create physical distance – physically distanced workspaces to process more applications. Other embassies and consulates are cross-training personnel who may typically work on other types of visas so that they can process immigrant visas as well.
Ms. Stufft further stated, “Our priority in the visa office and at the State Department is reducing the backlog while ensuring the safety of our staff and applicants and protecting national security.”
With that being said, there wasn’t any guarantee as to when all the consulates and embassies would be open. Each one is opening on their own schedule. So, really, Ms. Stufft didn’t seem to tell us much more than what we all already know. The processing time is very long, the lines are super long, and we are all frustrated and discouraged by what is happening.
For now, visa applicants can expect long wait times until the backlog has been addressed.
Visa Applications During the Muslim Ban
Let’s talk about people who applied for visas during the Muslim ban and what their options are now.
We know that President Biden lifted the ban against visas being issued from countries that were predominantly Muslim on his first day in office.
The Department of State recently addressed this situation. A spokesperson for the DOS, Ned Price, said, “Applicants who were refused a US visa prior to January 20, 2020, can now submit a new application and pay a new application fee. Those denied a visa on or after the same date may ask for the decision on their application to be reconsidered. There’s no need to resubmit an application or pay extra fees.”
Processing your visa application can be overwhelming and confusing, but help is available. Connect with an experienced New Jersey immigration attorney who can help you prepare the necessary immigration documents for your application.
US Citizenship Act
I want to give you a very brief update on the Citizenship Act. I’ve mentioned several times that it was submitted to Congress by Congressman Menendez.
An informal polling of Congress has shown that there are not enough votes to pass this bill yet. This isn’t a surprise, as it would be an uphill battle. With that being said, Representative Nadler, who is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that he sees the bill being reviewed and marked up starting in April. That’s good, that means it isn’t being outright rejected or not moved forward.
Remember, this will be a long process. President Biden has said that even if the whole thing can’t be passed, he hopes that parts of it will be passed. As it moves through committees and Congress, we’ll keep you updated.
Reconciliation happens in the Senate when a tax and spending bill is passed through Congress. This only requires a simple majority (in this case 51 votes), instead of the 60 votes required for most legislation in the Senate. Several Democrats have said they will include provisions of the Citizenship Act – like getting legal status for TPS workers and DACA recipients – on reconciliation bills in order to get them passed with the 51 votes needed.
Keep in mind, there are usually only two reconciliation bills passed by Congress yearly, so this isn’t something that will allow for a lot of changes. Even if part of the bill includes immigration reform, and the reconciliation bill is voted through, those parts can be removed later in the voting process (as has happened in the past) if they aren’t found to have a big impact on the budget.
So even including them isn’t a guarantee that any immigration provisions will be passed. As I mentioned, there is a provision that allows for any extraneous measures that don’t truly impact the budget to be removed and/or not voted on, unless they have the 60 votes they would typically need. However, it may work so we’ll keep an eye on that for you as things move forward.
Planning to Get a Visa? Our New Jersey Immigration Attorneys Can Help
The process of applying for a visa and getting a green card can have many steps and can be very confusing. Our immigration attorneys in New Jersey can assist you in your application to become a permanent resident of the United States.
Connect with our New Jersey immigration lawyers at Andres Mejer Law for a free consultation about your case.