The U.S. State Department (DOS) announced it is continuing to take new steps for foreign nationals seeking entry into the U.S. by reducing visa wait times. DOS also expanded support for visa processing services, and it hopes to extend its current interview waiver policy into 2023.
In a recent meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), State Department leaders identified the following considerations and measures the agency is reviewing:
- COVID-19 and the related financial impact
- Expansion of support for visa processing
- Extension of the interview waiver (IW) policy
- Availability of in-country visa renewals
- Reduction of visa wait times and processing times
According to the agency, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the State Department in numerous ways, including revenue generation. Travel decreased during the pandemic due to travel restrictions which, in turn, led to a loss in fees for the State Department and other agencies. The State Department made some financial cuts to compensate for the loss, including reducing its staff size and letting vacant positions go unfilled. As the pandemic has subsided, the State Department has been slowly regaining its staff, and it expects to have a full staff again by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2023.
Visa processing support has also been expanded. The State Department indicates it has improved its ability to process visas from other posts, with a particular emphasis on helping with interview waiver (IW) applications. Through its ability to increase support for visa processing, the State Department indicates it can free up more time and resources to allow consular posts to adjudicate applications for in-person interviews and reduce backlogs across multiple visa categories.
Along with the measures above, the State Department will likely extend its IW policy that was established during the COVID-19 pandemic. The IW was set to expire at the end of 2021, but it was extended through 2022. Now the State Department, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is working to extend the policy again into 2023. The IW policy was previously extended due to the “unusual or emergent circumstances” created by the pandemic. Along with possibly extending the IW policy, the State Department is working to decrease processing times and visa wait times by adjudicating IW cases with support from other posts and prioritizing applications when possible.
The State Department indicates it is also welcoming more third-country nationals (TCNs) at consulates worldwide and will update the Visa Wait Times on the websites of its consular posts regularly. IW Wait Times will be added to the websites, as well.
In addition to the above measures, the State Department is also exploring additional visa renewals from within the U.S. The agency confirms that permitting visa renewals stateside will facilitate visa renewals for individuals who are already in the country. According to the agency, this will also help to reduce wait times and reduce backlogs if implemented.
Lastly, the State Department has experienced some additional delays in administrative processing. To reduce processing times, the State Department announced it is looking into various solutions to resolve this identified challenge.
Note: The information above was excerpted, with permission, from “AILA Hot Topics Roundtable with DOS Leadership” (Oct. 2, 2022), AILA Doc. No. 22102851.
Envoy is pleased to provide you this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Anne Walsh, who is a Partner at Global Immigration Associates (GIA), one of the two independent U.S. law firms Envoy exclusively works with on the Envoy Platform (the "U.S. Law Firms").
Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an attorney at one of the two U.S. Law Firms working with the Envoy Platform or another qualified professional. On non-U.S. immigration issues, consult an Envoy global immigration service provider or another qualified representative.