The Backlog in Visa Applications and What You Can Do

What You Can Do About the Backlog in Visa Applications

visa backlog

Have you seen the backlog in visa applications that Covid-19 has brought? The waiting line has exploded, but like everything in life, if you have a solid plan and the right information, you will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s what I’m going to discuss in this article.


How is the situation for backlog visas?

With a lot of government offices closed for a long period of time, the pandemic managed to practically shut down all immigration processes from abroad — be it application for citizenship, permanent resident status, conditional resident status, immigrant visas, or non immigrant visas. . The numbers show us that immigrant visa issuances dropped to 23% of pre-pandemic levels, and nonimmigrant visa issuances dropped to 17% of pre-pandemic levels. 

And while in the US, thanks to vaccination, things are slowly coming back to normal, the situation is not so positive in some other countries, where visa operations are still severely affected and hurting families of U.S. citizens and residents. At this moment, consular interview appointments are scarce or in some cases completely unavailable. 

To have a clearer idea of how the visa applications backlog is at the moment, think about this: 

  • Before the pandemic, the number of immigrant visas issued averaged about 39,000 a month. During the pandemic, that number dropped to an average of about 9,000 a month. That’s a huge drop.
  • The immigrant visa backlog at the National Visa Center (NVC) has increased by 800% during the pandemic. In 2019, an average of 60,866 immigrants were waiting for interviews each month. 
  • As of May 2021, the NVC is holding on to 481,965 documentarily complete visa applications that are pending the scheduling of an interview. Worldwide, only 22,576 immigrant visa interviews were scheduled for May 2021.


How is visa processing prioritized?

So, those were the bad news. Nobody likes to hear them but we need to know where we are, so we can know how to move forward. 

Now, what is happening at the moment is that all consular posts are providing emergency and mission-critical visa services. But full operations will resume on a post-by-post basis, based on COVID-19 numbers, lockdowns, travel restrictions, quarantine regulations, medical infrastructure, emergency response capabilities, and all the necessary measures to try to reduce the spread of Covid 19. 

Currently, immigrant visas are being prioritized over nonimmigrant visas. Generally, family-based applications are prioritized over employment-based applications.


Four Tiers of Visa Application Priority

The State Department recently divided the immigrant visa categories into four tiers of priority:

  1. Adoption visas, age-out cases, and certain special immigrant visas for Afghan and Iraqi nationals working for the U.S. government. 
  2. Immediate relative, fiancé(e), and returning resident visas.
  3. Family preference and special immigrant visas for certain employees of the U.S. government abroad. 
  4. All other immigrant visas, including employment-based and diversity visa petitions.


What strategies can you take to get your visa?

Knowing all of this, there are a few strategies that can be taken to get your Visa:


You can request an interview waiver for nonimmigrant visa renewal.

The DHS has temporarily expanded the ability to waive the in-person interview requirement for individuals applying for a nonimmigrant visa in the same classification. Previously, only those applicants whose nonimmigrant visas expired within 24 months were eligible for an interview waiver.  The Secretary has temporarily extended the expiration period to 48 months.


Request a visa waiver at the port of entry on Form I-193.

This allows an alien who is a legal resident of the United States to reenter the United States without the alien’s passport and/or visa.


Apply for an extension of stay in the U.S.

In this case, what happens is that certain nonimmigrants present in the United States admitted for a specified period of time, or their petitioners, may request an extension of their admission period in order to continue to engage in those activities permitted under the nonimmigrant classification in which they were admitted.


Is there a way to clear the visa backlog?

What it’s really needed to truly reopen the United States to immigrants, is to expand the interview waiver and visa waiver options or provide another alternative to speed up visa issuances abroad. 

Only then will the U.S. effectively clear the visa application backlog, allowing families to be reunited, and getting things back to normal. 

If you need help with your immigration case, call our office to speak with an experienced immigration attorney in New Jersey. We can help you file your green card application, prepare your affidavit of support and other required documents, assist you in applying for citizenship, and dealing with the complicated green card and visa requirements USCIS requires. If we can’t help you, we won’t take your money. 

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